Businesses today refuse to join the revolutionary shift social media has created in marketing. It is either a notion set aside, left abandoned, or refused. Social media marketing is still undervalued in a technology-driven society. As more and more people use social media today, its increase in popularity has affected all aspects of people's lives. Businesses refuse to utilize this effect social media has on people to expand and attract new consumers. If businesses do not invest time and money in this strategy, there will be no progression and competition will rise. In order to understand the capabilities of using social media marketing, the many benefits of social media marketing must be known and understood. Through creating relationships with and within consumers, potent communication, faster spread of brand awareness/loyalty, and user-generated content advertising, a business can obtain an effective implementation of the marketing strategy.
Social media is a place where people share their lives and interests. It is common for users to share and create relationships based on their interests in a brand online. This flourishment of relationships can be seen in virtual brand communities or VBCs. Casaló, Favián, and Guinalíu (2008) found when a member is trusting of the virtual brand communities that they are part of, it increases their amount of participation, and consumers who have a positive participation experience are more loyal to the brand. Fue Zeng, an Associate Professor of Marketing at Wuhan University, in her academic journal, "Social Factors in User Perceptions and Responses to Advertising in Social Network Communities", found that community members within a strong social group were more likely to have group intentions to accept advertising in online communities (2). As seen by these findings, when consumers become part of a community or group online, the effects are not only a strong relationship among them facilitated by the interest of a brand, however, it helps increase loyalty and awareness to the brand.
Social media also expedites a fast and effective way to communicate rather than the face to face communication. Sisira Neti, an assistant professor at the Department of Business Management at Lal Bahadur College, in her journal “Social Media and its Role in Marketing”, finds that businesses easily share their identity and products to people who might not otherwise know about them or the service that businesses have to offer (9). The use of social media makes businesses feel “real” to consumers (9). If they want people to follow them they do not need to just talk about the latest product news but share their personality with them. This type of communication that exists between consumer and business creates a beneficial relationship much needed to create not only a “repeat-buyers but customer loyalty.” Susan Janett, a Social Media Strategist at Warm Thoughts Communications, in her article, How to Build Your Business Bigger and Stronger through Social Media, demonstrates social media as a marketing tool is well-established. She claims that social media facilitates conversations between different people, gathering different perspectives generating various recommendations (9). Different people that hold different notions, opinions, lives, and tastes can easily share an experience with a brand in a fast manner on social media. Recommendations and customers are created as soon as a customer share their review online. Clearly, the prominence of fast and effective communication benefits businesses. Furthermore, businesses also learn who are their target audience and it is easy to reach out and keep them interested, engaged, and within their sights. It can be seen how social media is a vital communication tool that improves customer retention and helps businesses not only expand but get to know their customers better in order to establish a favorable attitude and a devoted customer.
As clearly seen by the findings discussed so far, customers play an important role in making social media function as a marketing tool. Customers are influential and important facilitators when it comes to the awareness of a brand. Individuals share, advertise, inform about a brand on social media. This is called user-generated content which describes “the sum of all ways in which people make use of social media, usually applied to describe the various forms of media content that are publicly available and created by end users” (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010, 61). User-generated content derives from the same customers that become loyal to the business and commence to produce “social currency” and that helps in defining a brand and affects its performance. In “Understanding Consumer Conversations Around Ads in a Web 2.0 World”, studies are focused on Consumer Generated Advertising (CGA), a form of user-generated content, which refers to specific instances where consumers create the brand, focused messages with the purpose of informing, persuading, or reminding others (Campbell et al. 2011). With this information, it can be seen how customers become co-producers of the value of a business and can expand valuable awareness. Loyal customers become a part of unpaid advertising and marketing efforts on behalf of a business. When a consumer posts ads on their page of a certain brand they add value by exposing it to their followers. These followers become informed and can be persuaded to become new customers. This chain can grow even stronger with the power of sharing and tags of the same ad. And all of this is created with just a post from a loyal customer sharing the brand's ads.
Social media is everywhere today and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Businesses are being forced to join in due to a recurring increase in its popularity and competitiveness. Its benefits are evident and there is no reason for businesses not to appreciate them. There are still those who consider it to be a “fad”, and yes that would be correct in its primordial years where the users corresponded to a small percentage of the world population. However, according to Forbes, Facebook today has 2 billion monthly users and continues to grow. Users utilize these social media platforms not solely to interact but for many other activities that submerge into the world of business. It is an effective marketing tool that with the help of its consumers, it achieves to create relationships based on brand, better communication, brand awareness/loyalty, and advertising. With these benefits, business is guaranteed growth and success in today's digital world.
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