Social media marketing is the use of social media, such as community sites, video sharing sites, and blogs among others in marketing a business or a product. Through social media, marketers find an avenue to communicate with customers, peers, as well as potential consumers. Popular websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as Flickr which have over five million people visiting them everyday are regarded as important in social media marketing (Muller, 2012). This paper discusses the reasons that have led to the increase in use of social media by most entrepreneurs in marketing their products and businesses. The paper also outlines the benefits and demerits that characterize the use of social media marketing and finally speculates the future trend of this mode of marketing.
Most businesses have been attracted to the use of these websites in promotion of business since they command a huge and steady number of visitors every day. For instance, Facebook which is one of the biggest social networking sites has over five hundred million active subscribers. Several subscribers log in on a daily basis and any business that is visible on the site would be best assured that their posts would be seen by millions of people daily. Building social media marketing often provides the entrepreneurs with an opportunity to interact with consumers. It offers a chance to tap into conversations, acquire more information of how people generally perceive the services as well as products. This enables the companies to promote the products and also makes it possible for them to change something according to the customers’ preferences (Muller, 2012).
Social media marketing has several benefits to the entrepreneurs who embrace it. The millions and millions of people spend substantial amount of time on social media. This enables the entrepreneurs to reach several consumers in a short span of time. Social media marketing is cost effective as compared to the conventional marketing options. Signing up a page is just free, the costs accrue in the time spent and the amount which may be spent in strategic planning, but these pay off in the long run due to the good returns of social marketing commands. Use of conventional marketing strategies costs thousands of dollars and do not guarantee a large audience as social media does. Social sites can be used as an effective and efficient market research. This is possible as most people freely express their opinion about social sites. This can help business management to obtain first hand feedback as well as fast feedback. The obtained information would be critical as it helps correct any shortcoming in order to suit the consumers. Social sites enable one to keep keen watch on competition. One can easily access information about the progress of the competitors in the market and be able to come up with new strategies to suit the stiff competition (Pride et al, 2012).
Although social media has been embraced by many marketers, this mode of marketing has some pitfalls as well. Social media does not display a clear image as compared to print and television marketing. In order to keep the momentum and the attention that is desirable, social media has to be part of the marketer’s daily life. It really costs much time as one has to keep updating statuses, accepting new requests, reading and replying to new comments. It may be detrimental if customers are leaving questions and no response is posted in good time. Setting up a page or profile for marketing may be quite easy. However, it may be quite challenging to set goals and monitor the gain from social media marketing if the marketers lack skills to enable them put in place the all-inclusive strategy. Entrepreneurs may be forced to resort to social media consultants, opt to hire an employee to handle social media specifically or invest in undertaking training on social media. While getting feedback from customers is important, getting feedback through social media may sometimes be risky as the posts are often public. For instance, a customer who had bad experience with brand belonging to a particular company may choose to share the same on the company’s social profile network. Business owners must therefore be ready to manage such negative feedbacks before they ruin the image of the organization (Pride et al, 2012).
Companies such as Pepsi, Wal-Mart Corporation and Eastman Kodak are among those that are using social media marketing to their advantage. Pepsi has been keen on employing social media, more than Facebook and Twitter, in marketing its products and this has helped the company in penetrating the market. Marketing through social media has enabled Pepsi to market in different culture contexts which made it possible for the company to gain more customer insight by using conventional marketing methods. It is through social media marketing that Pepsi has been able to interact with its consumers and know exactly what they prefer. For instance, Pepsi has a Facebook page which is neatly managed in order to interact with consumers. Although other social sites, such as YouTube, may have looser connections, they attract users in a unique manner. Pepsi often analyzes these platforms and picks a market strategy which corresponds to the company’s brand image as well as vision (Simon et al, 2011).
Wal-Mart Corporation is the largest retailer worldwide. The corporation has more than 6200 stores with its sales amounting to $374 billion annually. It has a website which covers Specific Product Information. The corporation’s online Web store has information about over 500,000 products. Wal-Mart has invested over 150 million dollars in its web design as well as implementations which provide their customers and potential consumers with a usable site. It makes it possible for the customers to view the items available with photos of the merchandise, warranties among others. This also enables the corporation to penetrate into social network with contents which are more powerful (Evans, 2012). On the other hand, Eastman Kodak Company has also used social media marketing to its advantage. The company uses Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn blogs in order to connect to and engage consumers. Recently, the company used social media to draw the attention of potential buyers to the company’s newest pocket video camera. In order to develop an effective social media plan, Kodak has released as Social Media Tips Booklet which share best practices (Topper, 2009).
With the number of people who use social media, increasing on a daily basis, social media marketing is becoming exceedingly important, and is expected to get more in the next decade. Most businesses will have to embrace techniques of blogging as well as other article marketing methods so as to remain relevant. In order to understand how the products are faring on, marketers will have to move beyond just asking questions and be able to understand consumer influences, motivations as well as purchasing activities. Passive approaches are being crafted which will employ technology in behavior observation by tracking online surfing, videotaping in-person shopping and monitoring social media conversation. As activities on social sites increase, entrepreneurs will have to work even harder to produce quality images in their postings in order to attract more viewers (Szoka et al, 2010).
Currently, social networking is very successful and the sheer number of individuals that visit the sites regularly has made it quite attractive and important for businesses to engage in social media marketing. However, marketers have to work earnestly to compete for the attention of subscribers to social sites in order to have successful marketing.