Advertising is everywhere around us from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. Advertising is defined as, “a paid, mediated form of communication from an identifiable source, designed to persuade the receiver to take some action, now or in the future.” (Richards and Curran, 2002). The first thing most people do when they wake up is go on their phones and check their social media feeds, usually an application such as Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. Social media has become a vital part of people's daily life; with more than 3.03 billion users on social media, it is now one of the most influential platforms for advertising. Tuten and Solomon (2015) define social media advertising as, “the utilization of social media technologies, channels and software to create, communicate, deliver and exchange offerings that have value for an organization's stakeholders.” Using social media for advertising a company is able to stimulate sales, drive engagement, increase brand awareness and improve the brands image all while reducing marketing costs and providing a platform for consumers to post or share about the company (Ashley & Tuten, 2015). The aim of this essay is to critically analyze advertising as a marketing communications tool and specifically focus on social media advertising, this will be done using the 4 C's Framework (communication, credibility, costs, and control) and through a live client example, Seapigs.
Through interactive social media platforms, like Instagram, brands are able to engage with consumers and encourage user-participation using hashtags or competitions. Fashion brands ASOS and Urban Outfitters encourage consumers to upload a picture of themselves wearing their product with a hashtag on social media and feature consumers photos on their page. Not only does it strengthen consumer-brand relationship, but it stimulates organic engagement which leads to consumers own followers seeing the product too. According to research (Morrison, 2016) 86% of consumers look at what other people are saying about the brand before making their purchase, they are also more likely to trust a consumer's own post about the brand than an advertisement produced by the company. Using the 4C's framework (see Appendix 1) we see that although advertising has a low ability to deliver a personal message it has a high ability to reach a large audience, this is clear when looking at the success of ASOS's hashtag “asseenonme” which currently has been tagged in over 900K posts on Instagram (see Appendix 2).
Looking at the 4C's framework advertising alone has low credibility given by the target audience, however when customers share the advertisement or comment about the company the credibility rises. When consumers see what other users are saying about the brand their brand perception and purchase intentions are influenced (Zhao & Shanyang, 2008). According to research by Dehgani and Tumer (2015), “social media acts as a credibility check.” The growth of Facebook brand groups
Another benefit of using social media for advertising is the cost compared to other forms, in particular print and broadcast media. Companies can establish a profile and post content for free on platforms, such as Facebook, and can increase brand awareness through sponsored posts to appear to a wider range of users, “two billion people use Facebook every month – so no matter what kind of audience you want to reach, you'll find them here” (Facebook, 2018). Sponsored posts can range in cost from $5 a week to $50,000 depending on the budget and target goal, compared to advertising in magazines such as Vogue which costs $84,000 to appear on the inside (Suggett, 2018).
In addition to cost advantage, companies have the ability to control the target audience through social media advertisements. Using Instagram, a company is able to create a range of advertisements from a single picture to a full campaign to target a specific audience, “make your ads reach the exact audience that you want using our precise targeting options” (Instagram, 2018). Companies can target users based on specific locations, user interests, demographics, and behaviors (Appendix 3). Instagram additionally helps create an automated target audience based on the company's location and demographics. Along with this, a company is also able to control when and how the advertisement is published due to the fact they have the application at their fingertips. Looking at the 4C's framework (Appendix 1) this is an advantage to using public relations as a marketing communications tool which has a low ability to target particular audiences and modify the distribution.
Looking at Seapig's use of social media for advertising through R. Felix et al. holistic framework (Appendix) it is clear they follow an explorer approach. R. Felix et al. (2017) define explorers as, “interested in an authentic social media marketing collaboration based on reciprocal interactions with many different stakeholders such as clients, employees, suppliers, and government agents.” Seapigs use social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, to increase brand awareness by encouraging user contribution and interaction with the company through surveys and polls (Appendix). As seen on appendix when brands ask users to contribute it stimulates organic engagement and a sense of recognition, which humans need in order to reach their full potential through self-actualization according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs (1954). As a result this leads to an increase in brand trust, and therefore users are more inclined to share the post with their friends and family to contribute to as well (see Appendix). Seapigs takes advantage of the interactive and collaborative aspect of social media, compared to the defender approach where companies have no social media presence and consumers have no communication with them.
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