The crucial question the marketing world faces in today’s shifting media landscape is how to make best use of the plethora of social media channels that have taken off in recent times.

With more than one billion internet users actively participating and interacting with this media landscape it’s clear that a new model of marketing is beginning to take shape: one which marketers must quickly adapt to.

Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Del.icio.us, Digg and Twitter are just some of the many social networking sites where consumers actively interact with your brand. Strong communities have grown up around these sites for brands as they provide consumers with the opportunity to touch and affect the brand. They are places where consumers can make comments and post photos or videos: all this can make or break a brand or product launch.

For marketers this represents a fundamental shift with the emphasis very much on conversations and interactions. Traditional marketing strategy tells us that the message must be sent out before we launch the product. But the new model says that if you’re not talking to your customers you’re ignoring them.

Consumers are exposed to information overload with an endless number of commercial messages everyday. There’s too much of everything, everywhere. Which is why the first, and most important, part of today’s marketing is to interact and get close to your customers.

To do this brands have to make sure that their online offering is compelling enough for users to give up their time to interact with what you’re offering. This means that how you will utilise social media must be planned in to your campaign from the outset. Right through the process you need to decide how your concept will work in these channels. Get this right and it’s been proven that people are willing to get involved with your brand.

The Cadbury’s eyebrow ad is a perfect example of this: in a world where people have more stuff than they know what to do with this has truly captured people’s attention. It has been watched over four million times online, has prompted 70 video responses on YouTube and is all over the blogosphere. It is truly social in that it presents online users with the ability to interact with it, to remix it and to parody it. And because of this it has been immensely successful.

Social media is proving to be such a huge success because they allow people to express their views, to engage and to have a voice. And if you want your brand to be a success then you need to make sure you’re engaged with social media.