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The Social Spider: Giving Your Brand Lots of Legs

Guest Blogger

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Digital marketing is a far cry from where it was seven, five, or even two years ago. And it continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Sure, there’s lots of hype and excitement around social media and what it can do for brands tactically. But looking at the big picture, has the emergence of social media really affected overarching digital strategy?

This isn’t an article about all the statistics around how social media is exploding. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen those statistics. It’s about understanding the implications of this explosion on the overall online marketing mix.

Up until very recently, pharma’s typical approach to online marketing was: build a website or two, and then spend a lot of money to drive people to those sites, and hopefully convince consumers or even health care professionals to register into a database. The sites might be a mix of branded, unbranded, and educational sites. And clients often asked us, “Why do we need all these sites? Isn’t one enough?”

With the influx of social media, we’re counseling our clients to have a social media presence — in a strategic and regulatory responsible manner, of course. Where it makes sense, we’re helping our clients launch YouTube channels, build patient communities, foster online partnerships, and create Facebook pages and iPhone applications, to name a few.

Not surprisingly, many of our clients are now asking: “Why do we need to create a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and all this other stuff? Aren’t our existing online properties enough?”

In a word: No.

At least, not anymore. The reach of social media cannot be ignored. YouTube is now the second largest search engine, and third largest website overall according to Alexa. And get this: Facebook is now sending more traffic than Google to some sites. It goes without saying that Twitter has experienced phenomenal growth in the U.S. in the past year; comScore reports a growth of more than 1,000%, from fewer than a million users in Feb. 2008 to four million in Feb. 2009.

Okay, so I couldn’t resist throwing in some statistics after all. But what do these statistics represent? An opportunity to give your brand more legs. With apologies to arachnophobes, I call this the “Social Spider.”

Embracing the Social Spider means expanding your Web presence. Think about the Web as, well, a spider Web, and your online presence as the legs of a large spider. You need to have a presence in way more than one or two places (have you ever heard of a one or two-legged spider?). In a more traditional sense, it’s an opportunity to have a store on every virtual corner. It means you might have more than a handful of branded and unbranded Web properties, some over which you have only limited control.

At it’s core, our infinitely-legged Social Spider is about being in the time and place where your customers are asking questions and seeking information about your brand. How cool is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good product.com website. Product sites are still the most important central location to house all pertinent information — including benefits AND risks - about your product. But it’s definitely not the only place people go to learn about your brand. And today many customers are learning about your product from other sources - peers, videos, health sites - perhaps without ever visiting your product site.

Simply hosting a static product.com website and expecting people to interact with it on their own is not only bad strategy, it’s a bit arrogant. Brands need to be where their customers are, and more and more, their customers of all ages are interacting with social media. You need to make a concerted effort to build your brand’s “spider legs."

The days of building one product Web site and using search and banners to drive to it are ending, if not over. If you’re not exploring all of the Social Spider avenues to reach your customers, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to weave your brand's Web in a very powerful way.

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