It’s easy to pay attention to the fast growth markets for social media – the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, China and a few more. Its like being in that growth company that keeps opening stores. Let's just focus on the markets that are going great guns. Let's "open stores" where it is easiest. What about the established markets where people are already connected and where Facebook is 'old hat?'
Coming back from Portugal and Brussels – both trudging along in their own ways under the weight of “austerity” – plenty of business people were asking whether social media has relevance in a time of stress and crisis. Often in times of crisis, business pulls back on marketing and relies generally on accepted practices. You know, the stuff you were always told that works and won't get you fired.
4 reasons social matters in a tight economy like Europe
Here are four reasons why I think social media will grow in Europe even now when the region struggles to gain the financial stability it needs.
1. Some of the big social success stories were born out of crisis
Dell, Ford, and BP each committed to using social media at a time of crisis not when things were going great. Ford, specifically, faced a global financial crisis that suppressed car sales pretty much everywhere. In 2008/9. Each of these brands could have pulled their head into the shell waiting for the smoke to clear. They didn’t. The got busy. They knew they needed a new way of doing things.
2. Integrated social media is more efficient
Just look at the Integrated Social Media Sales Impact Study we did last year. Combining social media to the marcom mix can drive up consumption and sales for categories like quick service restaurants (QSRs). If you are a C-suite leader for a company doing business in Europe, I would think you would be deeply concerned with getting more out of the budgets you do have as you work to drive sales back up.
3. People’s behavior is changing
About 70% of Portugal is connected to the internet. Of those north of 90% are active on social media. Mobile penetration exceeds 100%. Belgium is similar. Almost 82% of the populaion is online. Almost half the population is on Facebook. People are changing how they form opinions and purchase decisions and it won't go back to the way it was before the financial crisis. If business wants to build enduring, profitable relationships with customers, they are going to have to shift to socially-enabled customer service, customer advocacy programs and building more value for customers through digital channels. What Forrester calls the “always connected customer” has become the new reality and we must understand what that means not hide from it.
4. The competition is weightlifting during the crisis
Not everyone’s business is down. I spoke to one of the biggest food companies in Brussels, mobile service providers in both Brussels and Portugal, and several banks. Sales were up. Usage was growing. Innovation was introducing new competition. During any crisis – even a large financial one – not everyone is hurt the same way. Some businesses continue or flourish. The pressure of innovating in the face of competition never really recedes. The smart money is on those companies who know they are playing the long game and know they have to work just as hard now as in flush times to engage, satisfy and delight their customers.