A marketing revolution: Social Media and the Cloud

Cloud services have played a key part in marketing for a lot longer than you might think; with services like Gmail and Hotmail being cloud-based even established practices like direct email marketing are reliant on cloud offerings.

Recently though, the way cloud computing has revolutionised the way services are offered online has particularly helped marketing departments. To find out how, we have to go back a few years and consider the importance of the rise of social media.

Twitter, Facebook and Photobucket are just a few services used by millions on a daily basis that are cloud-based. We only need to look back to the recent riots across England to see the power of social media, for good and bad - it played a part in arranging the clean-ups that followed as well as the riots themselves.

The exponential rise in the use of social media and networking sites means that for marketers there is a wealth of information on the internet about their customers, competitors and industry which is incredibly valuable. These most frequently take the form of tweets, blogs and conversations on social networking sites, all of which are facilitated by cloud technology.

Cloud based social media sites have changed the way marketers work in more ways than one. While they used to glean their information about their customers from different types of market research and focus groups, they can now scour the social web to find out what their customers are saying about them, their products, competitors and specific campaigns. The information out there is pure, unadulterated conversation not like that which would be the result of a brand - orientated focus group or person questioned in the street.

Marketers need to find these conversations and analyse them to get a good picture of the market, but since there are billions of conversations going on ever day on millions of blogs and social networking sites, they need a way to gather this information and make sense of it. How many people are talking about their brand? Are they saying positive or negative things? What do they think of a new product that's being launched? Is there a tag line which people use all the time and has huge popularity?

And here another cloud-based service comes to the rescue - social media monitoring tools, as a service. These are on-demand software available to marketers which don't need the involvement of the in-house IT team. The in-house tech guys are usually focused on other activities to ensure the day to day running of the business, and software, training and support for the marketing department isn't really their remit.

So cloud-based services like Radian 6, Meltwater Buzz, Scoutlabs, the unfortunately named Viral Heat and more provide marketers with real time, on demand access to the conversations going on about their brand of product on the social web, and they are delivered directly to them via the internet for a manageable fee. There are no software installations required, and little difficulty is created for the in-house IT team.

On-demand cloud-based software like this is key because marketing needs to react in as close to real time as possible to a constantly changing market. There's a huge amount of information on the internet about their customers, and marketers need access to this. Cloud-based SaaS can provide marketers with this information with relative ease. Peaks in activity are critical, and with cloud services spikes in data and server usage are easily handled so the critical data is passed onto the company, rather than crashing PCs or overloading their servers and arriving late.

Once marketers have this information, they often use cloud-based CRM solutions and pug-ins to communicate with their customers online, and run and monitor marketing campaigns on the web. The Old Spice guy campaign is an example of a hugely successful social media push - it gained almost exclusively positive responses and gained them thousands of new Twitter followers, thousands of Youtube views and hugely increased awareness and positive opinion of the brand. Cloud services have drastically altered the way marketers gain information about their customers, and also provided them with new tools to lever the increasing use of online media to their advantage.

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