Social Media Launch Pad | Adweek
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Social Media Launch Pad

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“They’d condense all of the dollars into a very concentrated, three-to-five month [advertising] window, and then they’d let the dealers take over” after that, VanDyke said, referring to the typical way of launching new models. VanDyke said a flaw in that strategy is that “you’re talking to significantly less than 5 percent of your target audience.” In the case of Fiesta 2011, social media was the best way to drive awareness of the vehicle among the right brand targets and then have them create content that was self-proliferating, he said.
 
Using social media as a beta launch has other advantages besides building buzz. Using analytics tools, marketers can also identify product flaws or potentially overlooked demographics who warm to the product. In some cases, marketers turn to text-mining firms like Clarabridge to parse such data. Sid Banerjee, CEO and founder of Clarabridge, which counts Walmart and United Airlines among its clients, said the company often helps its retail customers gauge the reaction for new products on shelves by monitoring social media discussions. Clarabridge has also worked with an unnamed videogame maker who quickly added support for one of the three major consoles after blog chatter within 24 hours of the product’s release showed consumers were looking for it.

Despite the popularity of social media as a launching pad, though, not everyone believes it will replace traditional test marketing in geographic locations. Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer, is skeptical. “I absolutely believe the kind of feedback people are getting for free from social media is extremely valuable, but could it replace test marketing of a product? That, I’m not so sure about,” she said.

For starters, advertisers have to consider the types of audiences they’re looking to reach. Using Facebook to market a cutting-edge razor to technologically savvy and grooming-obsessed males might be a good idea, but the same approach might not work so well in the case of those pitching dentures, for instance, said Mark Feldman, COO of NetProspex, which publishes a directory of business-to-business sales and marketing contacts. “The most important thing is, you have to look at [your consumer],” he said.

Likewise, while Ford, P&G and PepsiCo have embraced social media to launch products, others, including Frito-Lay and Reckitt Benckiser, say they are on the fence. Regarding social media, Reckitt rep Caroline Hey said the company is still in a “learning mode” right now.