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Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to market a product or service. Most of these social platforms have their own built-in analytics, where companies can track the progress, success, and engagement of ad campaigns. Companies address several stakeholders through social media marketing including (potential) customers, (potential) employees, journalists, bloggers, and the general public. On a strategic level, social media marketing includes the management of the implementation, governance, scope (e.g. more active or passive use) and the establishment of a firm’s desired social media culture. This requires marketers to incorporate user-generated content (earned media rather than paid media) into their strategic approach
Social networking websites
Social networking websites allow individuals and businesses to interact with one another and build relationships and communities online. When companies join these social channels, consumers can interact with them directly. That interaction can be more personal to users than traditional methods of outbound marketing and advertising. Social networking sites act as word of mouth or more accurately, e-word of mouth. The Internet’s ability to reach billions across the globe has given online word of mouth a powerful voice and far reach. The ability to rapidly change buying patterns and product or service acquisition and activity to a growing number of consumers is defined as an influence network. Social networking sites and blogs allow followers to “retweet” or “repost” comments made by others about a product being promoted, which occurs quite frequently on some social media sites. By repeating the message, the user’s connections are able to see the message, therefore reaching more people. Because the information about the product is being put out there and is getting repeated, more traffic is brought to the product/company.
Social networking websites are based on building virtual communities, that allow consumers to express their needs, wants and values, online. Social media marketing then connects these consumers and audiences to businesses that share the same needs, wants, and values. Through social networking sites, companies can keep in touch with individual followers. This personal interaction can instill a feeling of loyalty into followers and potential customers. Also, by choosing whom to follow on these sites, products can reach a very narrow target audience. Social networking sites also include much information about what products and services prospective clients might be interested in. Through the use of new semantic analysis technologies, marketers can detect buying signals, such as content shared by people and questions posted online. An understanding of buying signals can help sales people target relevant prospects and marketers run micro-targeted campaigns.
To integrate social networks into their marketing strategies, companies have to develop a marketing model. In a marketing model (SNeM2S) based on social networks is provided. The model includes the following steps:
- Selection of the potential social networks to use;
- Setting out a financial plan (regarding hiring social media brand managers or consultants);
- Designing or modifying organizational structures to manage the social network in the companies’ market (this may involve adding a social media unit to an existing marketing branch or creating a new social media branch);
- Selection of target market(s);
- Selection of the products, services, brand(s) or company messages which will be promoted;
- Performance measures for the social media strategy such as evaluation, data analytics, etc
In 2014, over 80% of business executives identified social media as an integral part of their business. Business retailers have seen 133% increases in their revenues from social media marketing.
Just under half the world’s population is currently on the Internet. Roughly 75% of those people are on social media and ¾ of those folks have social media accounts on their mobile phones. So device targeting for social media is most important.
There are two basic strategies for engaging the social media as marketing tools:
Social media can be a useful source of market information and a way to hear customer perspectives. Blogs, content communities, and forums are platforms where individuals share their reviews and recommendations of brands, products, and services. Businesses are able to tap and analyze the customer voices and feedback generated in social media for marketing purposes; in this sense the social media is a relatively inexpensive source of market intelligence which can be used by marketers and managers to track and respond to consumer-identified problems and detect market opportunities. For example, the Internet erupted with videos and pictures of iPhone 6 “bend test” which showed that the coveted phone could be bent by hand pressure. The so-called “bend gate” controversy created confusion amongst customers who had waited months for the launch of the latest rendition of the iPhone. However, Apple promptly issued a statement saying that the problem was extremely rare and that the company had taken several steps to make the mobile device’s case stronger and robust. Unlike traditional market research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and data mining which are time-consuming and costly, and which take weeks or even months to analyze, marketers can use social media to obtain ‘live’ or “real time” information about consumer behavior and viewpoints on a company’s brand or products. This can be useful in the highly dynamic, competitive fast-paced and global marketplace of the 2010s.
Social media can be used not only as public relations and direct marketing tools but also as communication channels targeting very specific audiences with social media influencers and social media personalities and as effective customer engagement tools. Technologies predating social media, such as broadcast TV and newspapers can also provide advertisers with a fairly targeted audience, given that an ad placed during a sports game broadcast or in the sports section of a newspaper is likely to be read by sports fans. However, social media websites can target niche markets even more precisely. Using digital tools such as Google Adsense, advertisers can target their ads to very specific demographics, such as people who are interested in social entrepreneurship, political activism associated with a particular political party, or video gaming. Google Adsense does this by looking for keywords in social media user’s online posts and comments. It would be hard for a TV station or paper-based newspaper to provide ads that are this targeted (though not impossible, as can be seen with “special issue” sections on niche issues, which newspapers can use to sell targeted ads).
Facebook and LinkedIn are leading social media platforms where users can hyper-target their ads. Hypertargeting not only uses public profile information but also information users submit but hide from others. There are several examples of firms initiating some form of online dialog with the public to foster relations with customers. According to Constantinides, Lorenzo and Gómez Borja (2008) “Business executives like Jonathan Swartz, President and CEO of Sun Microsystems, Steve Jobs CEO of Apple Computers, and McDonalds Vice President Bob Langert post regularly in their CEO blogs, encouraging customers to interact and freely express their feelings, ideas, suggestions, or remarks about their postings, the company or its products”. Using customer influencers (for example popular bloggers) can be a very efficient and cost-effective method to launch new products or services Narendra Modi current prime minister of India ranks only second after President Barack Obama in a number of fans on his official Facebook page at 21.8 million and counting. Modi employed social media platforms to circumvent traditional media channels to reach out to the young and urban population of India which is estimated to be 200 million.
In the context of the social web, engagement means that customers and stakeholders, such as consumer advocacy groups and groups that criticize companies (e.g., lobby groups or advocacy organizations) are active participants rather than passive viewers. Social media use in a business or political context allows all consumers/citizens to express and share an opinion about a company’s products, services or business practices, or a government’s actioins. Each participating customer or non-customer (or citizen) who is participating online via social media becomes part of the marketing department (or a challenge to the marketing effort), as other customers read their positive or negative comments or reviews. Getting consumers and potential consumers (or citizens) to be engaged online is fundamental to successful social media marketing. With the advent of social media marketing, it has become increasingly important to gain customer interest in products and services, which can eventually be translated into buying behavior (or voting or donating behavior in a political context). New online marketing concepts of engagement and loyalty have emerged which aim to build customer participation and brand reputation.
Engagement in social media for the purpose of a social media strategy is divided into two parts. The first is proactive, regular posting of new online content (digital photos, digital videos, text) and conversations, as well as the sharing of content and information from others via weblinks. The second part is reactive conversations with social media users responding to those who reach out to your social media profiles through commenting or messaging Traditional media such as TV news shows are limited to one-way interaction with customers or ‘push and tell’ where only specific information is given to the customer with few or limited mechanisms to obtain customer feedback. Traditional media such as paper newspapers, of course, do give readers the option of sending a letter to the editor, but this is a relatively slow process, as the editorial board has to review the letter and decide if it is appropriate for publication. On the other hand, social media is participative and open, as participants are able to instantly share their views on brands, products, and services. Traditional media gave control of message to the marketer, whereas social media shifts the balance to the consumer (or citizen).
PURPOSES AND TACTICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING:
One of the main purposes of employing social media in marketing is as a communications tool that makes the companies accessible to those interested in their product and makes them visible to those who have no knowledge of their products. These companies use social media to create buzz, and learn from and target customers. It’s the only form of marketing that can finger consumers at each and every stage of the consumer decision journey. Marketing through social media has other benefits as well. Of the top 10 factors that correlate with a strong Google organic search, seven are social media dependent. This means that if brands are less or non-active on social media, they tend to show up less on Google searches. While platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ have a larger amount of monthly users, the visual media sharing based mobile platforms, however, garner a higher interaction rate in comparison and have registered the fastest growth and have changed the ways in which consumers engage with brand content. Instagram has an interaction rate of 1.46% with an average of 130 million users monthly as opposed to Twitter which has a .03% interaction rate with an average of 210 million monthly users. Unlike traditional media that are often cost-prohibitive to many companies, a social media strategy does not require astronomical budgeting.
To this end, companies make use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to reach audiences much wider than through the use of traditional print/TV/radio advertisements alone at a fraction of the cost, as most social networking sites can be used at little or no cost (however, some websites charge companies for premium services). This has changed the ways that companies approach to interact with customers, as a substantial percentage of consumer interactions are now being carried out over online platforms with much higher visibility. Customers can now post reviews of products and services, rate customer service, and ask questions or voice concerns directly to companies through social media platforms. Thus social media marketing is also used by businesses in order to build relationships of trust with consumers. To this aim, companies may also hire personnel to specifically handle these social media interactions, who usually report under the title of Online community managers. Handling these interactions in a satisfactory manner can result in an increase of consumer trust. To both this aim and to fix the public’s perception of a company, 3 steps are taken in order to address consumer concerns, identifying the extent of the social chatter, engaging the influencers to help, and developing a proportional response.
Twitter allows companies to promote their products in short messages known as tweets limited to 140 characters which appear on followers’ Home timelines. Tweets can contain text, Hashtag, photo, video, Animated GIF, Emoji, or links to the product’s website and other social media profiles, etc. Twitter is also used by companies to provide customer service. Some companies make support available 24/7 and answer promptly, thus improving brand loyalty and appreciation.
Facebook pages are far more detailed than Twitter accounts. They allow a product to provide videos, photos, and longer descriptions, and testimonials as other followers can comment on the product pages for others to see. Facebook can link back to the product’s Twitter page as well as send out event reminders. As of May 2015, 93% of businesses marketers use Facebook to promote their brand. A study from 2011 attributed 84% of “engagement” or clicks to Likes that link back to Facebook advertising. By 2014, Facebook had restricted the content published from businesses’ and brands’ pages. Adjustments in Facebook algorithms have reduced the audience for non-paying business pages (that have at least 500,000 “Likes”) from 16% in 2012 down to 2% in February 2014.
Google+, in addition to providing pages and some features of Facebook, is also able to integrate with the Google search engine. Other Google products are also integrated, such as Google Adwords and Google Maps. With the development of Google Personalized Search and other location-based search services, Google+ allows for targeted advertising methods, navigation services, and other forms of location-based marketing and promotion. Google+ can also be beneficial for other digital marketing campaigns, as well as social media marketing. Google+ authorship was known to have a significant benefit on a website’s search engine optimization, before the relationship was removed by Google. Google+ is one of the fastest growing social media networks and can benefit almost any business.
LinkedIn, a professional business-related networking site, allows companies to create professional profiles for themselves as well as their business to network and meet others. Through the use of widgets, members can promote their various social networking activities, such as Twitter stream or blog entries of their product pages, onto their LinkedIn profile page. LinkedIn provides its members the opportunity to generate sales leads and business partners. Members can use “Company Pages” similar to Facebook pages to create an area that will allow business owners to promote their products or services and be able to interact with their customers. Due to spread of spam mail sent to job seeker, leading companies prefer to use LinkedIn for employee’s recruitment instead using different a job portal. Additionally, companies have voiced a preference for the amount of information that can be gleaned from a LinkedIn profile, versus a limited email.
Yelp consists of a comprehensive online index of business profiles. Businesses are searchable by location, similar to Yellow Pages. The website is operational in seven different countries, including the United States and Canada. Business account holders are allowed to create, share, and edit business profiles. They may post information such as the business location, contact information, pictures, and service information. The website further allows individuals to write, post reviews about businesses, and rate them on a five-point scale. Messaging and talk features are further made available for general members of the website, serving to guide thoughts and opinions.
Foursquare is a location-based social networking website, where users can check into locations via a Swarm app on their smartphones. Foursquare allows businesses to create a page or create a new/claim an existing venue.
In May 2014, Instagram had over 200 million users. The user engagement rate of Instagram was 15 times higher than of Facebook and 25 times higher than that of Twitter. According to Scott Galloway, the founder of L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, latest studies estimate that 93% of prestige brands have an active presence on Instagram and include it in their marketing mix. When it comes to brands and businesses, Instagram’s goal is to help companies to reach their respective audiences through captivating imagery in a rich, visual environment. Moreover, Instagram provides a platform where user and company can communicate publicly and directly, making itself an ideal platform for companies to connect with their current and potential customers.
YouTube is another popular avenue; advertisements are done in a way to suit the target audience. The type of language used in the commercials and the ideas used to promote the product reflect the audience’s style and taste. Also, the ads on this platform are usually in sync with the content of the video requested, this is another advantage YouTube brings for advertisers. Certain ads are presented with certain videos since the content is relevant. Promotional opportunities such as sponsoring a video is also possible on YouTube, “for example, a user who searches for a YouTube video on dog training may be presented with a sponsored video from a dog toy company in results along with other videos.” YouTube also enable publishers to earn money through its YouTube Partner Program. Companies can pay YouTube for a special “channel” which promotes the companies products or services.
Social bookmarking sites:
Websites such as Delicious, Digg, Slashdot, Diigo, Stumbleupon, and Reddit are popular social bookmarking sites used in social media promotion. Each of these sites is dedicated to the collection, curation, and organization of links to other websites that users deem to be of good quality. This process is “crowdsourced”, allowing amateur social media network members to sort and prioritize links by relevance and general category. Due to the large user bases of these websites, any link from one of them to another, the smaller website may in a flash crowd, a sudden surge of interest in the target website. In addition to user-generated promotion, these sites also offer advertisements within individual user communities and categories. Because ads can be placed in designated communities with a very specific target audience and demographic, they have far greater potential for traffic generation than ads selected simply through cookie and browser history. Additionally, some of these websites have also implemented measures to make ads more relevant to users by allowing users to vote on which ones will be shown on pages they frequent. The ability to redirect large volumes of web traffic and target specific, relevant audiences makes social bookmarking sites a valuable asset for social media marketers.
Platforms like LinkedIn create an environment for companies and clients to connect online. Companies that recognize the need for information, originality/ and accessibility employ blogs to make their products popular and unique/ and ultimately reach out to consumers who are privy to social media. Studies from 2009 show that consumers view coverage in the media or from bloggers as being more neutral and credible than print advertisements, which are not thought of as free or independent. Blogs allow a product or company to provide longer descriptions of products or services, can include testimonials and can link to and from other social network and blog pages. Blogs can be updated frequently and are promotional techniques for keeping customers, and also for acquiring followers and subscribers who can then be directed to social network pages. Online communities can enable a business to reach the clients of other businesses using the platform. To allow firms to measure their standing in the corporate world, sites enable employees to place evaluations of their companies. Some businesses opt out of integrating social media platforms into their traditional marketing regimen. There are also specific corporate standards that apply when interacting online. To maintain an advantage in a business-consumer relationship, businesses have to be aware of four key assets that consumers maintain: information, involvement, community, and control.
Dating and friendship website Tumblr first launched ad products on May 29, 2012. Rather than relying on simple banner ads, Tumblr requires advertisers to create a Tumblr blog so the content of those blogs can be featured on the site. In one year, four native ad formats were created on web and mobile, and had more than 100 brands advertising on Tumblr with 500 cumulative sponsored posts.
Web site reports
This involves tracking the volume of visits, leads, and customers to a website from the individual social channel. Google Analytics is a free tool that shows the behavior and other information, such as demographics and device type used, of website visitors from social networks. This and other commercial offers can aid marketers in choosing the most effective social networks and social media marketing activities.
Return on investment data
The end goal of any marketing effort is to generate sales. Although social media is a useful marketing tool, it is often difficult to quantify to what extent it is contributing to profit. ROI can be measured by comparing marketing analytic value to contact database or CRM and connect marketing efforts directly to sales activity.
Customer response rates
Several customers are turning towards social media to express their appreciation or frustration with brands, product or services. Therefore, marketers can measure the frequency of which customers are discussing their brand and judge how effective their SMM strategies are. In recent studies, 72% of people surveyed expressed that they expected a response to their complaints on Twitter within an hour.
Reach and virality
Popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks can provide marketers with a hard number of how large their audience is nevertheless a large audience may not always translate into a large sales volumes. Therefore, an effective SMM cannot be measured by a large audience but rather by vigorous audience activity such as social shares, retweets etc.