By PATRICK MORRELL, Three Ships Media

Editor’s note: Patrick Morrell oversees the internal client content generation team as well as the Three Ships Media firm marketing and brand development efforts. helps innovative clients navigate the emerging media. The firm creates customized interactive media platforms that generate leads, engage customers, and build brands.

RALEIGH, N.C. – I came across two distinct articles that combine to bolster the notion that a company is far better served allocating spend for social media marketing than for traditional forms of advertising and engagement.

1. eMarketer, March 16, 2010. This blog shares marketing data compiled by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate, data which demonstrates that "social friends and followers feel more inclined to purchase from the brands they are fans of. More than one-half of Facebook fans said they are more likely to make a purchase for at least a few of the brands they are fans of, and 67% of Twitter followers reported the same." And not only do direct fans appear more likely to purchase goods and services from the companies they follow, but 60% of that demographic indicated that their "fandom" has encouraged them to recommend those goods and services to their offline friend network.

2. eMarketer, April 14, 2010. That offline word-of-mouth referral trend that the first posts highlights above, also exists online. As more recent data reveals, more than 67% of Facebook users said a Facebook fan referral "would increase their chances of purchasing a product or visiting a retailer" (data via Morpace). And as Facebook now enjoys more than 400M users, with that number growing expontentially, such is a word-of-mouth referral trend that brick-and-mortar operations cannot ignore.

3. TBIResearch, April 15, 2010. For those still married to the concept of display and reach advertising, it appears that Facebook has become their chosen destination. "Facebook is able to sell ad packages that rival those of the portals because it receives premium rates in return for the targeting it provides (double-digit CPMs in many cases). In addition, the social network site is rapidly approaching the portals in terms of audience size… it won’t be long before Facebook commands an audience the same size as companies like Yahoo, MSN, and AOL in the US." We’ve made the argument many times that social engagement is far more beneficial across the long-term than interruptive advertising. But when monoliths like Starbucks and Cadbury’s begin shifting ad dollars as aggressively as they are now, it only speaks to the potential benefit a multi-tiered outreach strategy can have in social media.

How can you capitalize? First, formulate a strategy, allocate the necessary budgetary and manpower resources, and dive in. Not having a Facebook page in Q2 of 2010 is the equivalent to not having a Web site in 1999. Your customers expect it, whether you feel you are ready or not. Then, spur this type of engagement. Encourage activity through promotions and conversation and incentive referrals to your exisiting followers. Keep pace with your audience and engage with them how they want. As these trends show, they’ll reward your bottom line for it

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