Women will respond to social media's call to action

Social media has become the new normal, changing the way we connect, conduct our business, and even manage our daily routines. Online communities have become the new world we live in - blogs and message boards have now become the centerpieces of our "online" lives.

Not too long ago, before social media's surge, the Filofax served as your Twitter account page and personal organizer - hosting a smorgasbord of a woman's thoughts and messages. Post-its were the original avatars, holding up notes that were trusted to keep things running smoothly, capturing everything from to-do lists to coupons.

Now our reminders come in the shape of pop-up Outlook calendar reminders, eVites, and the latest sales "flyer" delivered directly to our inbox. With the pervasiveness of social media, our thoughts are no longer on that Filofax, but now live online through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and other communities. The social sphere online has the magical ability of connecting us with our network of friends - be it a social network, a blog, or message board.

In this social realm, we're able to post information and instantly receive feedback from our friends and other like-minded individuals - discussing a product or brand we love or hate, and, in seconds, significantly influencing the minds and actions of those who share our views and interests. This exchange creates both communications challenges and opportunities for brand marketers.

Research shows that women control 85% of America's purchasing decisions. We also know that for marketers, it is complicated to reach these women, who lead very different and dynamic lives, in meaningful ways. What is required is a thoughtful and strategic approach to getting the brand messages out, influencing, and activating.

Recently, iVillage conducted a study in conjunction with SheSpeaks and Booz & Co. to shed light on women's shopping behavior. Seventy-seven percent of women spend anywhere from six to 60 minutes preparing for a shopping trip and researching purchases prior to setting foot in a store. With three in every four women serving as active social media users, much of their firsthand research is highly influenced by what they are reading online, in particular, word-of-mouth recommendations and expert advice and content.

Whether it's content written by experts, a blog post by her favorite mommy blogger, a rave review of a new running shoe on a message board, or her friend's status update about a sale at their favorite store, a woman's decisions on spending are now being influenced in a matter of seconds by a multitude of online sources. In the midst of these "communications," however, a call to action, one that results in the purchase, is too often missing.

A call to action is where social media can have a significant positive impact on purchase intent and the bottom line. For example, when there is a positive blog about your brand, offer the blogger a coupon code to share with their community. You can also employ message boards by posting a link to the blog entry with an up-front question to generate discussion or repost a bit.ly URL shortener to Facebook and Twitter, sending people to the message board to prompt greater dialogue.

The core to iVillage's success in women's social media is that we strive to become an integral part of her daily routine, staying connected every step of the way. We partake in an open dialogue and find out what's important to her. We created a listening platform that allows us to tune in, categorize, and make sense of all these rich conversations. We use these insights to prioritize and shape our product development and are now opening the platform to our partners for their own marketing innovations.

Tapping the power of social media enables us to more directly and effectively reach today's women. By communicating to women through multiple social media channels, you can help ensure all your bases are covered and that you are able to build brand awareness and loyalty and produce an ROI by prompting purchase.

Jodi Kahn is EVP of NBC's iVillage. She oversees ad sales, technology, research, and marketing. Kahn's past stints include top roles at Time, Inc. and Reader's Digest.

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