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Today, more and more organizations are beginning to adopt social media in their marketing strategies. Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies alike have experienced tremendous success from the incorporation of social media into their marketing strategies. Businesses, both large and small, are jumping on the social media bandwagon and are using the communication modality to promote products and services and for good reason. More than 2 billion people (i.e., potential consumers) worldwide use social media today. Social media for many organizations represent a low cost marketing solution that enables marketers to reach consumers on a large scale with their marketing messages. This is important for marketing professionals, since increased competition in the marketplace and rough economic times have placed immense pressure on today’s marketer to produce high yielding results with less than desired marketing budgets.
Social media includes social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, media sharing tools such as YouTube, blogs, and other electronic Internet-based communications that allows sharing of information. Social media marketing can simply be defined as the use of social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, blogs, and etc.) to market brands, products, and service offerings to targeted consumers. The “social” in social media refers to online communities where individuals communicate freely among one another and share and exchange ideas and information. This sharing or exchange of information is what should be important to marketers.
Social media marketing represents an opportunity for marketers to capitalize on what is referred to as electronic word of mouth (eWOM). Through social media, consumers are marketing products and services for organizations when they share their opinions through comments and give product reviews, recommendations, and feedback. The key is to create loyal consumers that will spread positive word of mouth about your products and services.
As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in what I like to refer to as the social media hype. Companies are spending millions on social media, so why not invest your time effort, and resources in it? Social media seems easy enough to use, right? Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can become an expert. As a marketer, you may be thinking, hey, I’m already familiar with social media. I have several social media accounts myself. It’s easy. You just create a Facebook page and watch the numbers go up. Wrong. Don’t expect to create a page or blog and then have overnight success. Like all things, social media marketing takes time and effort. Content is important. The content contained in social media should be information rich and relevant, that is, it should contain the information needed by consumers to help them make a choice. Without the appropriate content, your social media marketing efforts will undoubtedly fail.
Know who’s using what social media platforms and for what purposes. Contrary to what many may think social media is not all created equal. Social media serves different purposes. It is the job of the marketer to discover how a particular platform might help him/ her meet his/ her marketing objective. Facebook, for example, is used for the sharing of photos, stories, and life events among loved ones and friends and to form connections. LinkedIn serves as a platform for business professionals and allows you to professionally network. YouTube allows you to share videos. Twitter allows users to share messages and follow others. All of these social media can be potentially used by organizations to help advance their marketing efforts but only if they invest the time in them and have a plan.
The types of social media used by an organization also depend on the type of business and its targeted audience. Choose only the social media that will best help advance promotional efforts for your business. It is also important to understand how your particular target audience uses social media. Social media has spanned across all demographics today but still differences exist in regards to usage among groups. For example, according to a recent Pew Research study, individuals with higher incomes were more likely to use social media than those with lower incomes. Also, younger populations even though there has been growth in social media use among older populations, still use social media the most. There are also noted differences with respect to gender, ethnicity, education level, and geographic location. Know your target audience.
Many companies’ social media strategies fail because they are not appropriately measuring its success. Common metrics that are often used by organizations when measuring the success of social media have included page visits, clicks, and number of followers, posts, and shares. Too many times companies have focused on certain types of metrics such as the number of followers or the number of times the site has been visited and have neglected to pay attention to anything else. Although these metrics are important, companies need to realize that these metrics are just one part of the much bigger picture. With number of followers and page clicks, the focus seems to be only on quantity and not so much the quality. Understandably when marketers see numbers rising from the number of page clicks and etc., they will often prematurely conclude that their marketing efforts through social media are working. What marketers should be asking themselves are, how many of these individuals will actually stick around for the long haul? Customer reviews, recommendations, and comments need to be a top priority for marketers as well.
Social media metrics, depending on the type, have been used to measure levels of awareness, engagement, and performance. Keep track. This is important information that will help you determine the effectiveness of your social media strategy. Also, it is important to remember that you should be systematically evaluating and reevaluating your social media.
Remember, technology is constantly changing. In just a few years the number of social media sites have increased dramatically. What was popular today may no longer be true tomorrow. Attitudes and preferences towards technology do change. It is therefore important to keep up with advancements in technology and changes in consumer attitudes.
Social media is most effective when used in conjunction with traditional forms of marketing. The purpose of social media marketing is not to replace any one form of marketing but to act as a complement, thereby increasing marketing potential to reach targeted markets with the advertising message. Social media should be viewed as another form or extension of marketing that when used with traditional forms such as television or print has the ability to increase your marketing efforts.
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