By Christian Milburn, Client Services Manager, Epiphany Solutions Ltd

With Facebook announcing last Wednesday that it had hit the monumental milestone of 500M users worldwide, it is no wonder that the biggest and brightest companies out there are looking for innovative ways to utilise Social Media networks within wider Community Engagement strategies to enhance their digital marketing offering. And with one in three Britons (that’s 28 million of us!) creating an average of 90 pieces of content a month, social networks are an extremely powerful medium — surely a perfect platform for customers to interact with your brand?! But is it that simple?

With many of us Facebookers being very sensitive about our privacy settings, marketing strategies have to allow us to interact with a service without being too intrusive. For example, Amazon.com has integrated Facebook Connect into their e-commerce site to allow users to connect their Facebook page to their Amazon account. This means that Amazon’s recommendations can be much more personalised, based on your likes and dislikes stated on your Facebook page. And it will do all of this without messaging your Facebook friends, or sharing your Amazon account history. If you choose, you can link to other Facebook friends in Amazon, seeing what they like or when their birthday is for example.

Now, with an estimated 1000 tweets a second, Twitter is fast becoming Facebook’s biggest rival, with some of the biggest ‘Tweeters’ having a massive influence over their followers. Targeting these key influencers is vital to any social marketing and community engagement strategy. Research firm Gartner found 74% of us rely on the opinions of key influencers in our purchasing decisions. Gartner’s Research Director, Nick Ingelbrecht says “Companies attempting to use social networks in their marketing should develop relationships with key customers over a period of time and progressively refine the social network profiles of those individuals. In this way, the most suitable individuals can be targeted with the right information, products and promotions in the most cost-effective way." Having polled 4000 consumers in 10 major global markets, these opinions can’t be ignored and more importantly, they show just how important social media is within a well thought out community engagement strategy.

So, given that we spend a huge proportion of our online time on Social Networks (Facebook’s own statistics putting it at 500 Billion minutes a month!) and that these networks are such a massive influence on our purchasing decisions, you can understand why here at Epiphany we spend a lot of time working with our clients on their ongoing Community Engagement strategies. Doing it right not only allows them to tap into one of the most underutilised aspects of the marketing process, it also strengthens their ongoing investment in Search Engine Optimisation. Genius!

Find out more about Epiphany Solutions Ltd at www.epiphanysolutions.co.uk