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Going social quickly

Embracing a cloud-based social media business model will help companies in all their marketing strategies.

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Today, the use of social media in the business world is almost ubiquitous. Companies have adopted social media tools and have quickly learnt about optimising social networking behavioural patterns to boost the effectiveness of their corporate communications strategies.

Through the use of social media, including Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and others, companies are becoming better equipped to engage with external audiences such as customers and potential customers, suppliers, business partners and other stakeholders.

In his book, Sirens of Titan, published in 1959, author Kurt Vonnegut refers to a cloud-like computing infrastructure of the future that "does all the heavy thinking for everybody".

Perhaps this is true for today's corporate 'heavy-hitters'. They use cloud-based infrastructures to help fine-tune their marketing and advertising messages and support innovative sales strategies to gain the most out of the one-on-one interaction that characterises LinkedIn, the immediacy that's associated with Twitter, the visual impact linked to YouTube, and the content-sharing abilities of Facebook.

Going viral

Cloud computing continues to be the catalyst for the introduction of new marketing initiatives. For example, specialists have latched on to the benefits of 'viral marketing', which uses social networks to increase brand awareness and achieve a host of other objectives.

The emergence of viral marketing follows the popularisation in the 1990s of the study of memetics - a Darwinian approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer.

Today, spreading in much the same way as a computer virus, a message can be delivered over the Internet or on mobile networks in the form of a video clip, an interactive Flash-based incentive as well as advergrams, e-books, brandable software, images, text messages and e-mail messages.

The social media tools needed to maximise the impact of viral messages rely on mobile computing technologies for their effectiveness. Perhaps it's no coincidence that many of the most popular social media protagonists lead the way when it comes to mobile computing advances.

For example, marketers have identified a niche that is increasing in terms of numbers every day. This is the community with high 'social networking potential'. On being presented with a potentially viral message, 'SNPs' are most likely to spread it within their online communities in the shortest time possible, using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Marketing company guru Bob Gerstley was among the first to write about identifying people with high SNP, and employed SNP algorithms in quantitative marketing research in the mid 2000s.

Prominent people

In 2004, the concept of the 'alpha user' was coined. Alpha users are the most influential 'hubs' in social media networks. Today, alpha users are said to be targeted most accurately with unique marketing messages via their mobile devices.

Cloud computing continues to be the catalyst for the introduction of new marketing initiatives.

Market research companies search out alpha users to facilitate the testing of new products and services before expanding their reach to selected segments of the corporate user base, and ultimately, the market as a whole.

While corporate marketing staff members continue to refine their messaging, social media is finding favour in other departments, bringing new levels of functionality and efficiencies to a plethora of users, many of whom use cloud-based e-mail services such as Gmail to communicate.

Apart from the convenience, there is a cost implication too. According to research group Forrester, cloud-based e-mail is always cheaper for companies with less than 15 000 users.

Similarly, a growing number of organisations use file-sharing services to help their employees access files remotely from smartphones and tablets, ensuring that all members of a workgroup - often operating from geographically dispersed locations or on the move - work off the latest versions of pertinent documents.

Recently, dozens of vendors have appeared in the marketplace with cloud-based document sharing or file sharing-in-the-cloud products to meet the needs of individuals and larger organisations.

Complementing these systems, file-syncing-in-the-cloud platforms now help employees to access and then collate files from myriad devices ranging from at-home desktops to smartphones and tablets.

Cloud-based data storage facilities are commonly used as secure data repositories and to facilitate the sharing of archived content among friends and colleagues. Based on highly virtualised infrastructures, they have the benefits of agility, elasticity and multi-tenancy.

The cloud allows users to scale their activities seamlessly according to workload and activity levels, simply adding new products and updated services as required. And it drives many social media sites, accessed by many millions of people every day, to send messages, store photographs and data, upload videos and collaborate on a variety of tasks and projects.

Martin May

Regional director (Africa) of Extreme Networks.

Martin May is the regional director (Africa) of Extreme Networks. The author of the book: “Everything you need to know about networking”, he is a leading authority on infrastructure security using NAC, IDS/IPS and other network-based technologies. With experience gained in Russia, Germany, UK, the US and various parts of Africa, he is directly involved with system design and implementation at enterprise level. His emphasis is on the evolution in network architectures brought about by the concept of cloud computing. May hosts regular workshops assisting South African dealers and resellers to understand the implications, complications, opportunities and international trends surrounding the cloud. A proponent of social networking for business, he is active on Facebook and makes extensive use of YouTube.

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