Five Reasons Why Social Media Needs Marketing Users

Tom JohansmeyerTom Johansmeyer is the Senior Content Director at enter:marketing. He also blogs for Cigar Reader, of which he is co-founder, Gadling, and Luxist.
Recent changes at Facebook and Twitter suggest that the two social media platforms are beginning to favor marketing professionals more than they did in the past. For purists, of course, who believe that social media tools should be the domain of personal connections, this isn’t being seen as a positive development. For the platforms themselves, however, enhanced marketing tools – either out now or announced and forthcoming – are the key to their longevity.

Between f8 and Chirp, there was no shortage of corporate blog posts and press releases announcing strategic changes, new features and plans for the future. In both cases, there was a clear trend toward bolstering the businesses, and the implications were that social media marketers would soon get the tools they need to increase visibility and advance their messages.

Over the past few months, fan pages on Facebook gave way to “liking,” and word has leaked that Twitter has a handful of companies beta testing commercial accounts. It’s clear that new features are falling into the social media marketing space – and there’s a good reason for it. The implicit partnership that emerges between social media platforms and third-party marketers, intentional or not, solves some significant problems for social media companies hungry for growth along all important metrics, including revenue.

Here are five reasons why social media companies need to make it easier for marketers to engage their audiences via their platforms:

More room to grow

Both Facebook and Twitter are growing rapidly, and hopes of continued aggressive new user growth have to be taken with a grain of salt. Facebook is about to announce 500 million, with Twitter above 100 million. In order to counteract a possible slowdown in registrations, both companies need to find ways to generate more traffic from existing users (obvious) and see if they can find new users where fewer and fewer exist. Opening up the platforms to commercial/corporate users addresses the latter concern, as every business becomes a potential user, along with the individuals in that business.

Since companies have more at stake when investing in a social media presence, they can be expected to generate more content and interact more – translating to more traffic and more revenue for the social media platform providers.

Smart corporate use stimulates activity

As consumers connect with brands – B2C or B2B – expect them to react. Since corporate users will need to plan their content and action carefully to see a return on their social media investments, it seems likely that they will be able to engage their fans/friends/followers. With this arrangement, Facebook and Twitter have effectively offloaded part of the responsibility for driving use of their platforms to users who implicitly have an interest in doing this work for them.

Third-party marketers can become platform-dependent

Since corporate users shouldn’t put all their marketing eggs in the social media basket, they can become more dependent upon Facebook and Twitter for their social media marketing needs. After all, they’re also working with print, broadcast, direct, event and other marketing tools. Social media pure-play companies, like Zynga, need to find ways to mitigate platform dependence risk if they want to attain liquidity events. As a result, these marketing users pose no threat to Facebook and Twitter and are more likely to play ball when it comes to terms of serve and feature changes.

More feature enhancements are possible

Instead of having to come up with new features that appeal to individuals, another channel for innovation opens by supporting corporate use. Facebook and Twitter can use both individual and marketing enhancements to generate buzz and stimulate use of their platforms while minimizing platform disruption for each constituency.

Further, off-platform innovation is not only encouraged, it comes at no expense to Facebook or Twitter. Applications used within these environments or to connect to them are developed by companies that want to increase their engagement with users. This only fuels adoption and interaction increases.

It all comes down to the exit strategy

If Facebook and Twitter are looking for liquidity events in 2011 (either by IPO or acquisition), the implications of third-party marketing use will help position them for success. The new channel for new user growth, increases in interaction and the no-cost outsourcing of content development and user engagement all support revenue growth for Facebook and Twitter, which it will need when courting investors or buyers.

Though many personal users, especially early adopters, may lament this apparent shift, it bodes well for the longevity of companies once thought to be devoid of business models. The use of social media platforms by marketers helps keep them free for individuals. If marketers were charged for access, they would want more reach into the platform, including prime placement, deeper analytics and access to the types of information that would make existing privacy woes even more severe. Under the existing model, marketers need to use the platforms to engage their targets, through behaviors that support the environments – from community management to revenue generation.

Social media is being made easier for marketers … but that’s okay. In the end, it benefits everybody.