In the current modern societies, Social Media channels are commonly used in order to connect people together throughout the world using the Internet. Whether it is through social networks, forums, blogs or media sharing websites, people can now have a conversation online, also called interactive dialogue, with anybody and on any subject, permitting them to share their experiences and valuable information.
Looking on a business perspective, it goes without saying that Social Media Marketing has offered a large variety of new opportunities for companies to promote their brand, products and services. Thanks to the personal autonomy and freedom that Internet offers, people are actively connecting with each other and talking about their experiences, sharing their opinions about products and services they have tested or even just heard about. However, it seems still unclear which real benefits Social Media Marketing has brought to businesses and which particular techniques were used to achieve this success.
The Impact of Social Media Marketing on Business
Social Media and Business Marketing
Nowadays, Social Media Marketing is widely used by businesses because it represents a cost-effective marketing solution. The Social Media Marketing weapons can be used largely for free and very easily, in comparison with other promotional tools (Levinson, J.C. & Gibson, S., 2010). The main purposes of using Social Media Marketing are the strengthening of word-of-mouth marketing, market research, general marketing, idea generation and new product development, co-innovation, customer service, public relations, employee communications and reputation management. Indeed, social networks can increase product and brand awareness, web traffic, customer loyalty, but also improve the company's Search Engine Optimization, and even increase the success of new product launches.
Social Media Marketing can be using unconventional means to achieve conventional goals, through the use of creativity, community, and relationships instead of big budgets to achieve marketing objectives. These methods are powerful guerrilla marketing strategies. Every marketer is now armed with highly effective online communications tools that enable him to gather the same level of influence that many large corporations have. Therefore, Social Media Marketing is a great change in the world of marketing.
According to HubSpot (2012), 57% of SMBs say social media is beneficial to their business. Whether it is concerning large multinationals or small and medium-sized enterprises, Social Media Marketing presents many important benefits for the companies' success. Social Media platforms raise communication around brands and products, enhancing positive as well as negative word-of-mouth around a business and its products and services. Any message or piece of information shared on the Social Media channels can be seen by thousands of people in an extremely short period of time.
Furthermore, 94% of marketers affirm that they are employing Social Media for marketing purposes (Stelzner, 2012). 83% of them said that Social Media is important to their businesses and 59% of marketers are using Social Media for 6 hours or more weekly, and 33% for 11 or more hours.
Benefits of Social Media on Business Marketing
The main benefit learnt by businesses implementing Social Media strategies represents the increase in brand exposure. Brand exposure occurs when the customer becomes aware of a product, service or advertisement through at least one of their five senses, whether or not they paid attention to it. Thanks to the Social Media platforms, new brands can establish themselves and foster awareness. For existing brands, Social Media platforms also raise awareness. The brands' visibility is increased thanks to their presence on the large variety of Social Media channels, but also thanks to the word of mouth that is automatically expanded around the brand. Companies can heavily use Social Media Marketing to build their brand's reputation and enhance their popularity. This is also called online reputation management.
Social Media Marketing increases brand awareness by extending the online presence of the products and brand. When Social Media platforms are widely used by a business, it becomes extremely important to measure the impacts of Social Media Marketing on brand awareness.
With millions of users, Social Media Sites makes a convenient target base for people who are trying to market products or services to people online. Actually, Social Media Marketing has become a very effective way to drive targeted traffic to companies' website or blogs. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) still plays a significant role in the website traffic, but Social Media has opened many new doors, generated an extremely high amount of online traffic. Indeed, Social Media channels are now providing a huge avenue for business owners, as they have millions of members and make the scope of the reach unlimited. Social Media Sites will drive targeted visitors back to the company's website. The more channels the company is using, the more backlinks and interested referrals will point back to the website.
One of the biggest advantages that advertising through Social Media can offer marketers is the ability to specifically target customers based on a variety of different factors. Social Media sites are storing all kinds of data on their users, such as age, gender, geographical location, interests, and many other pieces of information. Consequently, these data can be used to reach the company's target audience. Therefore, marketers can deliver marketing messages directly to the people who are the most likely to notice them and click on them.
61% of US marketers have admitted that the main reason why their company has implemented a Social Media strategy is to increase lead generation (HubSpot, 2012). Leads are defined as potential customers or sales prospects. With the millions of users connecting every day on the different Social Media sites, every business is bound to have some prospective customers somewhere on these sites. But how are businesses supposed to find these potential customers? It is quite simple. Every person who likes the Facebook page of the company or follow the Twitter profile is a potential customer. Therefore, by gaining more and more followers online, brands can raise their chances of generating new customers. The challenge is to encourage people to visit the companies' Social Media sites and once they are there, companies need to create enough value for them to hang around. In order to make the visitors hang around, the company's Social Media Sites need to present the company efficiently and to make some connections with the users, sharing valuable content, offering useful information and answering any requests or critics. Also, the personality of the brand needs to expressively high lightened on the Social Media sites. Once the visitors feel interested by the brand, then only, they will become valuable leads.
Likewise, Social Media channels represent a wide interactive dialogue between brands and their current and prospective customers. Through the Social Media Sites, consumers are able to leave feedbacks and share their opinions, but they can also request help and support. The communication is valorized and often foster relationships between companies and their customers. Marketers can have a direct conversation with precisely the individuals who are purchasing their products or services, or who are currently looking for what they have to offer.
On the companies' blogs, pages and profiles, customers can leave feedbacks, expressing their true thoughts and feelings about a company and its products and services. Thanks to this communication, marketers get the opportunity to answer these thoughts, but also to educate the customers. These opinions help brands to improve their customers' experience. Feedbacks may include general opinions of the brand, experiences trying the products and services, convenience with the buying process, and even the way that consumers feel about the look and usability of the company's website. Through these feedbacks, marketers can find out if the company is meeting or exceeding the expectations of its customers.
By offering such a quick, efficient and personalized customer service, consumers will appreciate it and feel different. Strengthening the customer service online is also a way of presenting the brand, products and services in a more human, interactive way. It offers a human face in the form of a social spokesperson, with person-to-person conversations which build trust in the company's authenticity and professionalism. Therefore, a personalized experience through the solvation of an issue will foster customer engagement, loyalty and trust. Finally, this customer interaction on the Social Media platforms is also indirectly reducing costs, as the online community might as well help answering the problems, and the cost per interaction in customer support is definitely cheaper through the Social Media sites than using telephone or email support.
Social Media Marketing is a promotional tool that does not need high advertising costs or an extremely high amount of time. It is a strategy of doing good and costless business marketing. If a company is aware of where its target audience is interaction in the Social Media landscape, a small investment is enough to get a Social Media strategy started and the returns can be amazing.
Social Media Marketing guarantees relatively low costs, effectiveness and measurability. Besides, Social Media encourages short-term success when looking at increasing exposure and targeted traffic for instance. However, Social Media optimization will also offer long-term results such as building trusted relationships with the customers.
Finally, another important benefit for businesses implementing a Social Media strategy is concerning the domains of Public Relations and Human Resources. Public Relations specialists were some of the first people to embrace the power of Social Media. They use it every single day to get the word out about clients, to communicate with customers and to respond to questions or problems. Anybody can now connect with people in their industry, impress them with their professionalism, and gather information that can directly help them in their professional career.
Using the social network LinkedIn for example is a valuable asset for businesses aiming at building a professional network. Business-to-business companies might easily find prospective customers, while any type of business can use LinkedIn to look for employees, posting job alerts and connecting with future potential employees. Other examples of professional Social Networks are Viadeo, Ryze, Meettheboss or Focus.com.
Social Media supports the recruitment system in many ways. It helps searching for new candidates, keeping in contact with them, advertising specific jobs, advertising to build company profile, building talent pools, building employer brand, graduate recruitment, but also providing an online application process for selection. Therefore, the new term Social Recruiting has been developed in order to define the process of recruiting candidates through the use of Social Media platforms as promotional and advertising channels by employers.
Public relations and social media are both about creating and fostering relationships. Professional networking has been made exponentially easier with social media. Nowadays networking represents the ability to tap into hundreds of relevant connections with just the click of a button.
Social networking is the grouping of individuals into specific group online. When it comes to online social networking, the websites commonly used are called Social Sites. They work like an online community of internet users, regrouped depending on their shared common interests in hobbies, religion, politics and alternative lifestyles. Social Networks foster collaboration, can replace intranets and corporate directories, and can promote non- email conversation channel, creating thus a forum where conversation flourishes based in part on experiences with the products and services that businesses sell. Also, they amass like-minded people around shared interests with little external force, no organizational center, and a group sense of what is important and what comes next. Online communities spread globally, while managing to retain regional culture and behaviors. Social Networks contain lots of information about prospective new hires, customers and competitors. Actually, they are a valuable source of prospecting and lead-generation information for sales and marketing. They can be whether Personal-oriented, like Facebook and Google+, or Professionally-oriented, like LinkedIn.
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