From a business perspective, social media are primarily suitable for making and maintaining contacts, recruiting ‘friends’ and, if possible, developing new products and services together with customers. Companies that succeed in doing so benefit in terms of greater societal appreciation, that is, a positive corporate image. Social media are certainly unsuitable for hard selling. ‘Social’ means ‘together’. Companies should work together with their target groups, listen to them and (this is especially important) respond to them. They should create a community to which people (customers) want to belong. They should listen, respond and exchange interesting information, and together with the target group think of improvements for existing products and services and develop new ones. Keep the target group interested, continue to be interesting and relevant to them, and keep listening to them. When they use social media, companies should take account of the specific characteristics of the sites and the various target groups, which can differ according to the type of social media. In short, they should learn about the Internet strategies of current leaders on the Internet.
They should also read Marketing 3.0 by marketing guru Philip Kotler, which shows that today's customers are more than just consumers. According to Kotler, customers choose certain companies and products on the basis of their deeper needs – such as to be part of a community and have the opportunity to participate and be creative – and idealism. Traditional marketing models and principles no longer connect with these deeper needs. According to Kotler, marketing must shift from being product-oriented and consumer-oriented to people-oriented. This people-oriented approach must also be at the center of the use of social media by companies and other institutions. It is also advisable to read the book that is compulsory material for many communication programs, namely The Social Media Bible, Second Edition by Lon Safko, as well as Likeable Social media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (and Other Social Networks) by Dave Kerpen.
A good example of social marketing – that is, when a company or brand shows that it is socially and societally committed and attracts extra fans this way – is the campaign of shoe brand Tom Shoes in the US. This brand promises: ‘With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair to a child in need. One for One’. This campaign has given the company's shoe a spectacular boost, not in the least because friends on Facebook encourage each other to buy shoes from them.