Social media marketing, sometimes called web marketing, is the utilisation of various web and online media platforms and sites to promote a business or service. Although the terms internet marketing and e-marketing are widely accepted in academic circles, social media marketing has become increasingly popular for researchers and practitioners alike. For business owners, it can be a relatively inexpensive way of advertising their product or services to a wide global audience. In some ways it overlaps with the definition of internet marketing as it also involves some form of search engine optimization (SEO).
However, unlike SEO, social media marketing does not necessarily aim to attain top search engine ranking results. Rather, it seeks to engage an audience. This audience may be made up of professionals, consumers and employees. The aim of the campaign is to make the audience identify with the business and interact with it or be familiar with its offerings. Hence, the campaign must employ the appropriate methods of engaging the audience and provide the right content that allows for this.
Social media can be accessed by everyone, no matter what their age or geographical location. Therefore, the potential audience is huge and very marketable. This allows marketers to reach out to a specific demographic group within or beyond their marketing areas and reach out to them. Social media allows for the measurement of engagement or audience response to a brand or product. These responses are valuable indicators of the effectiveness of a social media marketing strategy and can prove to be quite instrumental in the achievement of objectives.
A successful social media marketing strategy will measure performance against goals. Goals could be sales volume, number of followers or retweets, subscribers to a blog or message board, or a combination of any of these. Measurement of success provides a framework for assessing progress or areas for future focus. Goals can also define when to re-tweet or re-like a message, or whether the message was forwarded.
The success of a social media marketing strategy will be dependent on how it attracts followers and encourages them to engage with the product or service offered. Whether followers are encouraged to leave comments, share links to products and services, or call the company’s phone number with a comment or review, is secondary to attracting new followers. This is why it may be more useful to focus efforts on one platform at a time. For example, if a Twitter campaign requires users to “follow” another, it is unlikely that the user will be motivated to “re-tweet” or re-like a message unless they believe there is a possibility of some gain as a result of their action.
Identifying a target audience is crucial to a social media marketing campaign. The demographic will be most important for SEO and paid advertising purposes. If a brand’s demographic is primarily younger than 45, then optimizing its social media marketing efforts may not yield the best results. This is because users who are younger than this group typically use Facebook and Twitter more as a social networking outlet and less as a way to purchase products or connect with businesses. Therefore, connecting with these audiences through the traditional methods may be the most effective strategy.
Another important thing to consider when planning a social media marketing strategy is the type of content that should be shared or promoted. If the target audience is mainly comprised of more mature users, it may be more productive to focus content on educational topics or advice. However, if the focus is on younger audiences who are more likely to be interested in purchasing a particular product or subscribing to a particular service, then the platform must be used to provide the necessary information to achieve the goal of outreach.
Social media can be a valuable tool for promoting business growth and reaching target audiences, but to increase brand awareness and profitability it must be used in conjunction with other Internet marketing strategies. A comprehensive plan must be developed to utilize the available platforms and services to maximize the impact and potential benefits. When used properly, social media marketing can greatly increase brand awareness, customer loyalty and sales.