Depressingly, it's nearly fifteen years since I finished primary school. Back then, there was no such thing as Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg hadn't become a multi billionaire as one of technology’s great success stories, mobile phones were unattractive bricks, apps didn't roll off the tongue in regular conversation and the idea of high speed Internet was still in its infancy (although in my part of the world, it still is).
Instead, myself and thousands of other kids would plead with our parents to buy something based on what was shown off on the TV or in bragged about by some other kid in the playground. Looking back on it, I can see why bringing up children can be tricky.
Things have changed though. PPI claims, bookmakers, ambulance chasers and payday loans now dominate ad breaks; whilst communication has evolved thanks to Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G, smart phones, and of course social networks.
Subsequently, businesses can no longer sit on the fence and expect a trickle of sales from a dull brochure or advert in the corner of the local newspaper. They have to go digital. At a minimum, companies should attract the huge communities that have developed thanks to the success of Twitter, Instagram and many other hashtag friendly social media sites. Varied and regular content and links which encourage potential customers to buy instantly and can be tracked using a variety of analytical tools.
But if you want a better chance of success and have the brand to match, why not get a bit creative.
Share your photos and videos, message potential customers and/or create a targeted paid campaign. All of these only take a few minutes to set up.
You could even get your company noticed by linking one of your products and a very recent event, such as the paper plane which flew from the top of Wembley (Connected by EE, urgh...) and hit the Peruvian footballer in the back of the head. But it's something you have to get right. An incorrect move could result in money being wasted targeting the wrong people, or worse, negative PR!
Social media acts as a platform of unlimited access and sharing. Competitions involving sharing a brand’s content acts as the most simplistic form of advertising. Gaming apps will clog your play-time with advert upon advert unless you purchase the full version; there is just no escaping it.
Amazon is a company that had expanded it’s product by creating Amazon Prime, a way of streaming videos instantly. By doing this, people will watch content on Amazon Prime, share recommendations with friends, which could lead consumers onto the main Amazon buying website. We are most likely becoming influenced in our purchases by more than what we may first expect.
However, social media hasn’t, to a large extent, really changed the way we buy products but how we perceive them. Friends snapping pictures of their new Nike trainers and sharing them on Instagram makes you instantly think, “Hey, maybe I need a pair of them?”. Peers influence us in many ways and social media allows products to be paraded in our view on a regular basis.
Scroll down your Facebook newsfeed and the right-hand side will be filled with adverts. These adverts may not impact you instantly, but they are constantly lingering as your eyes scan a feed for interesting content. It could almost act like a form of subliminal messaging.
In summary, social media has allowed organisations to show that they are active and moving forward, something that TV adverts and booklets don't. Through a variety of content and, in particular, viral campaigns, it has also given companies an extra opportunity to sell and target those who are most likely to be interested.