From hashtag activated vending machines to predicting future outcomes via social buzz, the future of social media is guaranteed.

Social media marketing is evolving and we are seeing how it is now becoming a necessity to integrate social media activity into all areas of businesses, from internal communications to HR.

With buy-in at board level, and an increase in opportunity for social commerce, a future where ‘world of mouth’ recommendations will soon dominate buyer behaviour as well as brand activity is certain.

It is now more important than ever for marketing teams to amalgamate social media into their marketing strategy. Recently, the digital world watched as Mars launched their MarsTweetShop campaign whereby a hashtag activated vending machine was placed in university campuses across the UK. The vending machine was triggered by students tweeting a specific hashtag which on receiving the tweet, the vending machine would dispense a sweet treat along with information on Mars career opportunities.

This type of campaign is a prime example of using social media in an innovative way to tap into tomorrow’s leaders and managers. This is a business at the forefront of recruiting top talent via social media, engaging with graduates, creating brand ambassadors and generating online buzz.

The smile-activated vending machine was another marketing campaign developed by Unilever, which caused a great deal of noise in the social media arena. The vending machine used facial recognition technology, which was integrated with 3G and Facebook, creating an ‘innovative brand experience that blends the worlds of interaction, experience, advertising and retail’.

There is potential for this type of technology to be linked up more directly to social media in the future, boosting real time sharing of feelings, opinions and thoughts. Could social media users download apps which track their mood at certain times, tweeting these directly whilst on the move, irrespective of their location?

These are very exciting developments for the world of social media, however it isn’t necessary for all businesses to spend a large sum of money on marketing campaigns of this size. If a company has trusted employees who are savvy in the ways of social media, it can be a considerable investment to train them extensively so that they have internal experts who can turn their hand to any new social media marketing tool.

There is no other more trusted form of marketing than word of mouth and social media provides the platform for people to do this quickly and with minimal effort. Essentially free and a great way to engage with current and potential customers, by having a presence on a number of social media platforms, businesses can become part of the online conversation and emerge themselves in current industry discussions, developments and service feedback.

When starting out on social media, it is advisable to assign the role of posting and tweeting to one or a specified number of people so that social media activity doesn’t become a free for all. By having allocated people operating the company’s social media accounts, businesses can implement a social media strategy, based on the organisation’s specific goals and objectives.

Social media is forcing businesses to become progressively transparent. It is also providing organisations with a human face, making them more approachable and local than ever before.

Due to this increased transparency, it is extremely important for businesses to implement a company social media policy, designed to protect both the company and the individual/s responsible for the company’s social media presence. Things to consider could include post content, the level of professionalism required and how to deal with negative posts.

With regards to this, to remain credible and to protect your brand’s reputation, negative comments must be dealt with in an appropriate manner. When the complaint is based on a genuine issue, the company must be seen to respond in a manner that is polite, fair and professional. It is always best to acknowledge the comment and it may be appropriate to request that the person gives more detail of their problem in a private message or in an email.

It is usually strongly advised by most social media experts not to delete negative comments on any platform, but instead be seen to respond to these publicly. Genuinely abusive comments are an exception and should be deleted.

To conclude, social media is more exciting than ever. New platforms are constantly emerging with innovative and exciting ways to communicate with your peers and some experts are even of the opinion that social media may replace email in years to come. Although it is a cost-effective and time-saving marketing tool, businesses still need to be savvy in the ways that they are using it. Define a marketing strategy and follow it closely as this will allow you to truly reap the rewards of social media and its online community.

Katie King

Katie King


Katie King is Managing Director of digital PR at Zoodikers.