As the second annual Internet Week Europe draws to a close, it's fitting to reflect on what an extraordinary year 2011 was for Europe's Internet industry -- and in particular for social media -- and what it means for the future.
Europeans' online presence continued to expand rapidly during 2011. Facebook membership throughout Europe grew significantly this year; nearly half of the UK's population is now on Facebook, and the social network's German and Italian audiences both increased by more than 50%, respectively. In addition to their growing participation on Facebook, studies also suggest that Europeans are increasingly active in social media. In May of 2011, ComScore reported that social media accounted for 8% of total UK traffic to the Apple, Amazon and Tesco websites. For even the biggest European brands, the need for an effective social media strategy is seen as a key contributor to marketing success.
The rapid growth and emerging role of social media throughout Europe can be both exciting and bewildering for marketers. On one hand, marketing efforts now have the potential to be more powerful than ever due to the viral nature of social channels. On the other hand, the social media landscape is constantly evolving (due in large part to the ever-changing platforms of big industry players like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+), and staying up-to-speed on the technology can be challenging. To be successful, marketers must understand how to scale their use of social media to reach their online audience and make an impact for their brand.
One of the most effective ways to build and engage an online audience is to run a brand-relevant social marketing campaign. UK-based Yorkshire Tea is an example of a company that significantly grew its Facebook fan base with a month-long promotion designed to engage fans.
Yorkshire Tea enlisted the help of our Silicon Valley tech startup, Wildfire Interactive, which provides a turnkey social marketing platform that helps marketers grow, engage and monetise their audiences across the web. Using Wildfire's software, Yorkshire Tea ran a 30-day photo contest on its Facebook fan page that asked fans to submit photos of themselves enjoying a proper cup of tea. During the course of the promotion, Yorkshire Tea acquired 9,000 new Facebook fans, which represented a 25% increase in its fan base. By leveraging a technology partner and platform experienced in navigating the largest social networks, Yorkshire Tea achieved social media marketing success.
The growing popularity of social networks within the EU, and success stories like Yorkshire Tea's, point to the huge opportunity that social media provides to marketers. Before they start throwing money at the issue, however, it is critical that marketers understand the landscape. That they create a thoughtful strategy and have the tools that ensure they are prepared to scale their efforts - in order to grow, engage and monetize their targeted social media audience.