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Social Media as a Marketing Tool
A scan through many known brands and organizations – be they government-owned, public or private shows a common trend – they have built a prominent presence on various social media platforms and constantly engage users and subscribers using the same platforms. Social media, therefore, provides an alternative, modern platform where organizations and businesses link up with their clients and other people who have interest in their products. This implies that these firms engage their existing customer base and potential customers through the social media, which, therefore, triggers the inevitable indulgence into marketing. Gordon (2017) listed social media networks as web-based “blogs, microblogs, social gaming, photo-sharing platforms, chat app, social networks, business networks, and forums”. In this essay, I argue that social media has become marketing frontier and that the advantages of using this platform far outweigh the disadvantages. I further sustain the argument that social media has endless prospects for businesses of all sizes and types.
Marketing and Social Media
Rationale and Statistics on Social Media Usage Globally
Social Media in the Present Age/ Social Media Tools
According to Bashar, Ahmad and Wasiq (2012), businesses are being transformed from a transaction-based to interaction-based social relationship. For a common social media user, the process of marketing using social media is straightforward and as simple as composing and posting content on web pages. But Lanoue (2017) explains the difficulties that come with selecting a suitable strategy, which are all dictated by the tool selected for the job. For instance, Lanoue notes that user experience may determine which tool a marketer opts for: a less experienced person will likely go for the least complicated tool, but hope it will yield a good result anyway.
But what is the rationale for engaging in the complex evaluation of social media marketing tools? This is explained by the need to combine several marketing strategies that cannot be accomplished manually. In his article in the Entrepreneur, Patel (2016) listed Buffer, Social Clout, Feedly, Canva, Socedo and Edgar as the leading social media marketing tools. Among the important features that these tools have are the ability to periodically repost old content so that it is displayed to more users, share content across several social media platforms such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook, track engagement of content and determining which content best suites a particular demographic. Social media marketing tools also determine trends in a particular niche, design photos and graphics in a way most people would find difficult to do, and automatically undertake the tedious, repetitive tasks of a marketer to achieve an easier schedule that allows the marketer to concentrate on the less automatable tasks. With these strong features ingrained within the social media marketing tools, and with hundreds of millions using social media, social media has earned the elevated status of the favorite marketing channel for organizations and brands.
Social media is accessible mainly through free accounts – members and subscribers are normally not charged to open and run a social media page or account. This makes the service available to small and large firms and hence both categories have equal leverage. Similarly, some of the marketing tools for easing the task of marketing are availed free of charge, further promoting the position of smaller firms in enhancing reachability.
Statistics on Social media Usage Globally
The site www.statista.com is one of the websites dedicated to collecting, analyzing and presenting real-time and periodic data on access to social media sites.From a low count of about 970 million users in 2010, social media usage currently stands at about 2.5 billion and is projected to reach 3 billion by 2021 (see Figure 1 below).
Figure 1. Social media usage from 2010.
This data implies that with a global population of about 7 billion, organizations have the potential to directly reach close to one-third of the entire population through social media platforms. As shown in Figure 2 below, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform with relatively higher than 2 billion users, with China’s most popular platforms WeChat and QQ ranking fairly high globally.
Figure 2. Most popular social media platforms.
Figure 2 is indicative of platforms where marketers need to focus their efforts. For instance, with Facebook being the most popular social media platform globally, it remains the easiest and most popular avenue to market products due to its large usage. However, it is important to note that some platforms have limited usage in specific geographic locations: therefore, a marketer needs to choose the right platform when targeting users in specific regions.
Strengths/ What Works
The advantages of social media marketing make a strong case for the adoption of this approach to traditional advertising. The Blue Fountain Media (2016) states that social media increases brand awareness, and hence exposure to a wider potential customer base. It is imperative to note that this exposure comes at the lowest or no cost to the marketer. DeMers (2014) observed that marketing using social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is significantly cheaper than placing adverts on mainstream media. Furthermore, social media marketing allows for the achievement of richer customer experience and improved customer insights (Blue Fountain Media, 2016; DeMers, 2014). When the administrators of an organization post content on social media pages, customers get to interact with the organization on the post, with the administrators responding to queries and directing users and subscribers as needed. Similarly, they handle criticism and engage the subscribers on their unique desires and insights that eventually shape the design of newer and improved products. This way, the existing customer base and potential customers help to shape the quality of future products, making the venture more fulfilling for those using social media.
The Blue Fountain Media (2016) avers that the main reasons of advertising and creating personalized interactions between the representatives of an organization and customers are to create brand loyalty and hence improve return on investment (ROI). Social media marketing helps to achieve both objectives by personalizing responses to customers’ inquiries and increasing reach to potential customers with minimal expense (Blue Fountain Media, 2016; Demers, 2014).The improved ROI is driven by a low marketing budget that ensures greater reach to potential customers.
According to DeMers (2014), every social media post or comment is a chance to create brand awareness to new customers and cement the confidence of existing ones.The nature and quality of communication between social media users and an organization help to inspire confidence among users, hence driving brand authority (Blue Fountain Media, 2016). Baruah (2012) noted that sharing of positive information on a brand makes it an authority on its own. This underscores why organizations bear the mandate to make online interactions as positive as possible because they serve as points of reference for future inquirers. With websites needing search engine optimization (SEO) as a basic requirement for improved visibility, social media content helps improve search engine rankings and hence drive more traffic towards online sales centers or marketing campaigns. This makes it easier to maintain fair brand visibility among hundreds of competitors. To sum up these advantages of social media marketing, Van der Bank C. and Van der Bank M. (2015) noted that the overall advantage is improved brand competitiveness.
Considering the fact that social media users are constantly exploring content based on their specific needs, social media marketing demands regular interaction and hence a constant presence on the social media pages. This is particularly stressful where the marketer does not have a support system; therefore one does most of the tasks alone or has little knowledge to apply tools that ease their work (Nadaraja &Yazdanifard, 2013). The retention of social media content over time could harm the intended brand authority if it is perceived to demonstrate the brand negatively (Hajli, 2013).
This essay provided an evaluation of the state of social media globally and how this has reinforced its position as a marketing tool. With over one-third of the global population engaged on social media, it has become the new frontier for reaching out to new customers and keeping contact with the existing ones. This has positively promoted the position of unique and popular brands as customers from different countries access products while the firm incurs minimal marketing costs.
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Bashar, A., Ahmad, I. &Wasiq, M. (2012). Effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool: An empirical study. International Journal of Marketing, Financial Services & Management Research. 1(11): 88-99.
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Patel, N. (2016). 6 new social media marketing tools the experts use. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/277510 (accessed 25th Jan. 2018).
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