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Marketers ignore social media at their peril

LONDON - Social media is having a profound impact on the relationship between brands and the consumer, and marketers need to embrace this rather than shy away from it, according to David Pickering, managing director of Eclipse Marketing.

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A recent report on European online consumers found that around 60% of users take part in social networking activities, including interacting with online communities; reading or writing blogs and customer reviews; listening to podcasts; and setting up RSS feeds.

Pickering suggests that this rise in social media has shifted the control of information from big business into the hands of the consumer, who can make or break a brand by word of mouth.

He warns that all marketers need to establish a new dialogue and take advantage of social media to engage with consumers, because they now hold the power.

He said: "Instead of listening to advertisers, they increasingly refer to their peers in online communities when deciding what to buy. Social media is becoming the voice of the consumer."

According to Pickering, all companies need to sit up and pay attention, and follow the lead of Google in its acquisition of YouTube, Yahoo! in its purchase of Flickr, and News Corporation's acquirement of MySpace.

Pickering said: "Social networking is changing the way we publish, consume and share information. It is profoundly affecting the way we think -- or should think -- about marketing and public relations.

"Forums and blogs and other kinds of social networking are here to stay. We dismiss or underestimate them at our peril."

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