If we had to define social media marketing - the simplest way to put it is - the practise and industry of marketing on social media. But let’s dig a level deeper and define social media - a term that’s really become a part & parcel of daily lives of people across the globe. Social media is a collective term for websites & applications that focus on communication, community-based input, content-sharing & collaboration. Social media is used by people to interact with friends, family and various communities.
During a recent survey, it was found that over 80% consumers rely on social media, especially influencer content for buying decisions. Thus, leading to marketers across industries driving the evolution of social media marketing [SMM] from a stand-alone tool to a multipronged source of market intelligence on an increasingly important - and ever-growing audience.
In a span of 18 years - from 2004 (when Myspace became the first social media site to reach 1 million users) to 2022, the exponential growth of interactive digital channels took social media to heights that definitely challenges the reach of television & radio right now. Since the beginning of 2022, 58% of the global population have been active on social media with 4.6 billion active users.
As the use of social media trends upward across the globe, marketing professionals are figuring & perfecting strategies to capture their own significant competitive advantages - to their target audiences quicker & in a more effective way than traditional marketing.
So, let’s define social media marketing (SMM) which falls under the broader category of digital marketing or e-marketing. SMM is the use of social media - platforms on which users build social networks & share information - to build a company’s brand name, increase sales, engage with target audiences & drive more traffic to their websites/applications or services. Another major advantage created over the years through social media marketing is - the purpose-built data analytics systems - that allow marketers to track the success of their marketing efforts, understand their audience demographics better and identify newer & more efficient ways to engage with audiences. Social media marketing also gives a ready platform to companies to not only engage with their existing audiences but also reach new ones.
Now that we’ve defined social media marketing and its various uses to marketers around the globe - let’s try and understand what makes social media marketing so powerful. We’ve identified three core marketing areas, mainly connection, interaction & customer data. These three core marketing areas make the power of social media marketing unparalleled to traditional marketing. Let’s delve deeper into these core marketing areas:
1. Connection: It is pretty clear that social media allows companies & business to connect and engage with customers in ways that were absolutely impossible previously. There is also an extraordinary range of platforms to connect with target audiences - from content platforms like YouTube, to social network sites like Facebook to micro-blogging sites like Twitter.
2. Interaction: The dynamic nature of the interactions that are able to take place on social media - whether it’s direct communication or a passive one - such as “likes” - enables businesses to leverage free advertising opportunities from - the coolest new marketing term - eWOM or electronic word of mouth - recommendations between existing & potential customers. This positive contagion effect from eWOM is one of the most valuable drivers of consumer decision-making today. Further, what’s crucial to these businesses is that these interactions on the social network are measurable, i.e. - they can measure their “social equity” - a term for the Return on Investment (RoI) from their social media marketing (SSM) campaigns.
3. Customer Data: A well-designed social media marketing (SMM) plan delivers another invaluable resource to boost, enhance and make way for marketing outcomes - that is through customer data. SMM tools (such as various analytics tools available on social media platforms for businesses) have the capacity - not only to extract customer data - but also turn this into actionable market analysis - by giving marketers the 3Vs of big data - volume, variety & velocity. It is found that they also use these tools to crowdsource new strategies & SMM plans.
Now that we have understood in-depth what social media marketing (SMM) is - let’s talk about how it works.
As social media use started gaining traction around the world - businesses found a more efficient way to drive & influence consumer behaviour. From promoting content that drives engagement - to extracting geographic, demographic & personal data that makes messaging resonate with users - that’s the power.
The first step is a SMM Action Plan - The more targeted your social media strategies are, the more effective the outcome will be. A sound SMM Action Plan must align SMM goals to business objectives and marketers must study their customer demographics first. It is also important to create a SMM Content Delivery Calendar & ensure relevant & best in-class content. Finally, it is important to track & adjust SMM plans as the campaigns progress. Today, there are world-class social media market tools & analytics software’s that help strategies, plan, deliver & track SMM campaigns.
Shareable Content - which is another form of eWOM - has also played a vital role in how customers are engaging with new brands. This kind of word-of-mouth advertising not only reaches an otherwise inaccessible audience, but also carries the implicit endorsement of someone the recipient knows and trusts—which makes the creation of shareable content one of the most important ways that social media marketing drives growth. Other working strategies include viral marketing - a term now familiar across the market - and paid marketing.
Finally, the most important part for any business is tracking the metrics. It has been found that the most important metrics to track customers are: engagements (like, comments, shares and clicks), impressions, reach/virality which relates to the unique views, share of voice (reach in the online sphere), referrals & of course, conversions (or actual sales/visits - depending on the campaign objective).
Now that we know what SMM is and how one can use it to grow their business - let’s discuss the advantages & disadvantages that come with social media marketing (SMM). The advantage is pretty clear - with access to so much data on customers - tailor-made SMM campaigns that instantly reach audiences is definitely a boon to businesses across the world. But like any social media content - SMM content is also open to attack. For example, if a viral video stating that a company’s products or services are harmful in any way - goes out on social media - it needs to be addressed diplomatically & immediately. It is important to not attack consumers while proving the viral content is fake. But one must remember that even if the business is able to prove the claims false - it may leave an impacting scar on its reputation.
So, here’s the bottom line - social media marketing (SMM) is here to stay - and it will only grow stronger & more powerful as consumers move more & more interactions to these online platforms. It has the scope to help businesses reach audiences that were not possible before and attract new consumers through data & analytics.