What do Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and LinkedIn have in common apart from providing a platform to interact with individuals, building relationships and building professional networks? Substantially, all these have re-defined the word ‘Marketing’ to what we used to interpret as ‘word of mouth’ service. Till a few years back, no one would have thought that these media emerge as most popular points for the marketers transforming the way to communicate their potential and ‘probable’ customers. However, the increased penetration of technology via mobiles, Smart phones and now tablets with increased internet access, has allowed companies to personally interact with their target audience instilling a feeling of allegiance.
So what exactly is Social Media Marketing (SMM) and why through social media? According to online definition ‘It refers to a process of acquiring attention individuals and gaining more traffic to the product/company by employing the usage of any medium which can include text, image, audio and video’. For the second part of the question, social media allows companies to promote their products on them which serves a relatively less expensive branding media than paper, gets iterated again and again, resonating from one individual to other which results into the users to share with their social networks. It is thought that Google+ and then Facebook are the ones who have pioneered the popularity of SMM which then bulged out to almost entire social media facet around the globe. Talking about the numbers, from a study titled Social Media Surge by the 2012 Fortune 500, divulges that big companies are espousing Social Medias in an extensive manner as compared to small business houses. In 2012, Facebook saw an increase of 8 percent over 2011 in embracing of major firms which includes global big names like Addidas, Woodland etc. Study also reveals that 62 percent of the big corporate names are using YouTube. Even the buyer-to-buyer (B2B) businesses have established the reasons to adopt SMM into their segment. In addition, a study conducted by ‘KnowledgeStorm’ of B2B technology decision makers, brings out that 69 percent of B2B finds social network media useful when it come to business networking and development. The impetus that drives these companies to harness the available potential is the huge user base (Facebook over a billion users and Twitter over 250 million users) which has massively influenced their staggering growth. The companies are able to leverage their ‘constant engagement’ through these social media and become the underlying reason of a successful SMM. By this, these companies maintains a constant connect with their followers (customers) providing them to express their concerned opinion. In the process of this engagement, the customers behave as a part of the marketing department permitting other individuals to review those opinions.
As a promoter, the companies look to enlarge their ROI and through SMM they are now able to realize their goals. SMM takes a few steps ahead of what a traditional marketing offered. This new phenomenon is creating website traffic; brand awareness; communication and interaction with potential buyers; and finally winning over the sales. However, SMM techniques differ from media to media in promotion and differentiation maintaining constant connection with respective users of media. Unlike Google+ which is integrated with its Google search engine that involve targeted advertising methods such as Google Adwords, Facebook engages a click strategy that allows the users to ‘Like’ the link resulting into increase in the fan counts of brands and Twitter on the other hand allows the organizations to elevate their brands completely at individual level. And most of this promotion happens in real time which means the products and companies maintain that constant engagement by keeping the individuals reminding about the update as no one wants to lose that pie in market.
Although, SMM provides a less expensive platform to companies for brand promotion however the increasing applicability into competitive business world, the value derived by the advertisers is immense. An average amount spent by these companies’ amounts to 25 percent of the allocated share of total marketing expenditure. Social networks, therefore, are eyeing this as an alternate life-line in troubled waters. Coming to benefits gained from SMM, firstly, reach with new segment of customers becomes easy as the individuals connected to other user in their networks, will recognize the content from trusted source. Secondly, improvement in the products can be made through open communication with users at public platform. Thirdly, it is a most cost effective and influential marketing method in comparison with others. Lastly, SMM helps in building strong ties with customers building a sense of loyalty. But beware; there a flip side with SMM. Firstly, since an advertiser has to engage constantly with the social media, it demands a high amount of their time in publishing the innovative ideas of product repeatedly. And secondly, the investments will bear its fruit in a long term as trust and loyalty with brands builds with time.
Without any doubt, SMM brings a lot of benefits to the company but if a company is foraying into launching a promotion campaign through social media, it should be prepared of the caveats coming along with. Maintaining the required equilibrium with a robust plan will set the momentum for the strong foundation of SMM strategy.
The article is authored by Himanshu sharma.