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Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service. Although the terms e-marketing and digital marketing are still dominant in academia, social media marketing is becoming more popular for both practitioners and researchers. Most social media platforms have built-in data analytics tools, which enable companies to track the progress, success, and engagement of ad campaigns. Companies address a range of stakeholders through social media marketing, including current and potential customers, current and potential employees, journalists, bloggers, and the general public. On a strategic level, social media marketing includes the management of a marketing campaign, governance, setting the scope (e.g. more active or passive use) and the establishment of a firm's desired social media "culture" and "tone."

When using social media marketing, firms can allow customers and Internet users to post user-generated content (e.g., online comments, product reviews, etc.), also known as "earned media," rather than use marketer-prepared advertising copy.

Social media marketing involves the use of social networks, consumer's online brand-related activities (COBRA) and electronic word of mouth (eWOM) to successfully advertise online. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter provide advertisers with information about the likes and dislikes of their consumers. This technique is crucial, as it provides the businesses with a "target audience". With social networks, information relevant to the user's likes is available to businesses; who then advertise accordingly. Activities such as uploading a picture of your "new Converse sneakers to Facebook" is an example of a COBRA. Electronic recommendations and appraisals are a convenient manner to have a product promoted via "consumer-to-consumer interactions. An example of eWOM would be an online hotel review; the hotel company can have two possible outcomes based on their service. A good service would result in a positive review which gets the hotel free advertising via social media. However, a poor service will result in a negative consumer review which can potentially harm the company's reputation.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, MySpace etc. have all influenced the buzz of word of mouth marketing. In 1999, Misner said that word-of mouth marketing is, "the world's most effective, yet least understood marketing strategy" (Trusov, Bucklin, & Pauwels, 2009, p. 3). Through the influence of opinion leaders, the increased online "buzz" of "word-of-mouth" marketing that a product, service or companies are experiencing is due to the rise in use of social media and smartphones. Businesses and marketers have noticed that, "a persons behaviour is influenced by many small groups" (Kotler, Burton, Deans, Brown, & Armstrong, 2013, p. 189). These small groups rotate around social networking accounts that are run by influential people (opinion leaders or "thought leaders") who have followers of groups. The types of groups (followers) are called: reference groups (people who know each other either face-to-face or have an indirect influence on a persons attitude or behaviour); membership groups (a person has a direct influence on a person's attitude or behaviour); and aspirational groups (groups which an individual wishes to belong to).

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F.A.Q about SMM

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is the new trend for online businesses and a new angle on the role of word-of-mouth marketing. By harnessing the growing popularity and usage of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, social media marketing can be used to develop networks and business leads through the sharing of information and contacts. However, it’s also a difficult medium to make work effectively, since social media sites are used differently to other types of website – such as search engines or online shopping sites – so that companies need to commit time and have a clearly planned strategy in place for using these tools.

Which are the most popular social media sites?

Social media websites are usually defined by their ability for interaction, so that users can add comments and reviews, or interact in the form of an online community. The original social media sites were discussion forums and community sites, and these were then followed by blogs for online content publication and discussion. Social bookmarking sites (such as Delicious) and news publication sites (such as Digg) have enjoyed periods of popularity, but the enormous growth in the use of social networking sites in the last few years has been focused around Facebook, Twitter and, for the business community, LinkedIn.

What are the advantages of social media for businesses?

The best strategy for social media is to build an audience of people that are receptive to purchasing your products and services – locally and globally – in a quick and highly effective way. By communicating with this audience it can ensure that your business remains ‘front of mind’ and creates a channel for new business leads. Social media also facilitates rapid feedback for businesses to improve their products and services and some companies are using this as listening platforms to monitor the conversations about their brands. They realise that a personal touch brings benefits, so that customer service and interaction with businesses is becoming social.

What are the disadvantages of social media for businesses?

Social media marketing can be time-consuming and it can sometimes be hard to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the effort that needs to be put into it. Any social media marketing campaign requires a clear strategy from the outset, an allocated resource to manage it, and a policy for every eventuality. There are numerous stories of large companies that have mishandled the social media platform and created a PR disaster, but there are also many companies that are now using this medium extremely effectively as a communication and marketing channel. Whatever approach your business takes, social media can’t be ignored and the importance of monitoring and managing your online reputation is now an essential element of an overall marketing approach.

What are the core elements of a social media marketing strategy?

As noted above, the importance of having a clear strategy from the outset can’t be over-emphasised – who is your target market, what do you want to achieve, and how are you going to do it. Building a network is the first stage, and a relevant community is more important than a high number of followers for the sake of it. You need to develop an integrated marketing approach to attract followers and to sustain these with relevant content – such as news, advice, product updates or offers. Participating in social media is also a two-way conversation and so you need to monitor comments and discussions and to respond appropriately. It’s also important to know the different tools available, how people use them, and what are the various options available to get the most from your marketing efforts.

How can Facebook be used effectively?

Facebook helps businesses to develop relationships with their customers and raise the visibility of their company by helping it to connect and grow. It’s more effective for building quality relationships with potential customers rather than generating immediate sales and this can be done by setting up a business page and/or by creating groups. Good, or interesting, news travels fast, so it can be an extremely effective medium for spreading the word and improving the ‘buzz’ about a business if you can get the “word-of-mouth” process to work. Facebook advertising is also available which can be used to target users by location and interests, and is charged on a Cost-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Thousand basis.