“Technology has leveled the marketing playing field for brands. In the new world of marketing, customer evangelists are the key influence on what consumers buy." — Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, Creating Customer Evangelists (cited by Adweek).
Izea in one of several companies that seems to be moving right in step with the trend. Their newest social media marketing program, Social Spark, hopes to bridge the gap between blogger networks and brand advocates. You can catch a platform preview video here. The presentation is interesting enough that we've added Social Spark to our watch list.
Combined, all of this is adding up to an increased emphasis on integrated marketing and public relations. Companies are looking to support traditional advertising with aggressive website strategies and early ad pre-releases on the Internet in order to boost conversations and buzz about their message and brand.
For example, Nielsen BuzzMetrics applied a Brand Association Map (BAM), which plots how consumers naturally think and talk about brands across billions of unaided conversations online, last October. They found that over 33 million messages were posted to 457 automotive CGM sites from January 1 through September 10, 2007. These conversations revealed:
• Shoppers actively discuss current automotive dealer and manufacturer incentive programs available.
• Full-size trucks were referenced most often in relation to incentives during this period, fueled by the introduction of the Toyota Tundra.
• Consumers frequently reference Edmunds.com when seeking vehicle pricing and incentives, reflecting shared dealer experiences among peers.
A few days ago, I mentioned that companies are engaged in social media whether they realize it our not. In the Vehicle Transaction Price study release, Bill Stephenson, VP and Practice Lead, Automotive, for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a service of the Nielsen Company, punctuated this point:
“Shoppers are going online to learn what other buyers have paid for the car they are interested in. This trend is driving transparency among automakers and dealers because now, all of a sudden, shoppers are privy to the best deals that others received.”
This isn’t exclusive to the automotive industry. Consumers are seeking online information to influence their decisions on just about everything, including the President of the United States.
Remember last year when I mentioned the number of voters who consider the Internet their number one source for election coverage would double? It did. And then some.