Social Media in Marketing: Implications of New Communications Paradigm
Companies are witnessing significant changes in how social media is utilized for marketing on the virtual marketplace. The changes are spurred with new media tools that allow consumers to access information and conversations surrounding products and services. As new technologies are turning social media into dynamic platforms of communications, the number of customers who utilize social media increases. Presently, companies face the challenge of adapting successful marketing strategies in response to the new communications environment. This paper argues that new communication paradigm associated with increased use of social media influences how marketers perceive social media and analyzes impacts of social media strategy, its components, evaluation metrics and how the strategy is developed, implemented and assessed. The limitations of the new model are discussed, particularly its unpopularity among public enterprises such as investment agencies. At last, the paper provides an example of social media strategy followed with conclusions and recommendations for further research.
Social Media and New Communications Paradigm
Social media refers to online communication platforms and tools where information exchange and conversations take place. It includes blogs, social networks and forums, among other media, as well as creative software instruments such as mobile applications. Categories suggested by Manovich help distinguish between user-sponsored and company-sponsored social media. Platforms and tools that allow marketers to engage target consumers in conversations include company-sponsored blogs, online campaigns, and social media profiles on such sites as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. User-sponsored social media encompass wikis, individuals’ blogs and websites. Existence of such type of media allows the information about firms to originate in non-company-sponsored media. This phenomenon, coupled with the scale of web 2.0 technologies and interactive exchanges taking place online, is indicative of a shift in communication paradigm that is capable of changing how traditional marketing is done.
Importance of Social Media in Marketing
The scale of interaction between consumers and companies as well as customers amongst themselves makes it necessary to include the latter in marketing activities. When relationships with clients are leveraged within social media, they “connect, share and collaborate”. If marketers opt to leave target publics outside conversations, potential customers remain unengaged, unaware of opportunities to buy or even uninterested in making purchases, resulting in reduced brand popularity and sales. At the same time, companies need to ensure that discussions of their brands become a part of a larger marketing strategy, where messages are coordinated across all media formats. Unless coordination takes place, user-sponsored conversations may distort firm’s image while company-sponsored social media could utilize social media to the detriment of traditional tools. Social media’s growing role presents a challenge for devising correct strategy and identifying its components.
Developing and Implementing Media Strategy
Formulating social media strategy necessitates combining traditional and new media content. The overall media strategy should be viewed in the context of content “ecosystem” to achieve this goal. Company’s mission and marketing goals need to be viewed as being in the center of this system, while social media strategy must be cognizant of the core content and be based on content located within the whole ecosystem. Hanna et al. illustrate the concept by examining how a unified message is formed by gathering information on target consumers, their location and preferences, reviewing marketing goals, feeding this information through the content ecosystem and formulating resultant social media strategy. Further implementation of media strategy depends on company’s level of maturity in social media management. Optimal conditions for this process exist when social media strategy is formulated in view of content ecosystem and considering the readiness level of a firm to integrate social media marketing.
Components of Social Media Strategy
When developing social media strategy, marketers need to review content that is shared socially online in their industry. As a first step, traditional marketing research needs to be done for identification of target customers, competitors and influencers. Stakeholders’ social media environments must be studied, including strategies of suppliers and competitors. Next, the reasons for social media strategy need to be identified; they can range from leveraging relationships to creating conversations. Afterwards, marketers define objectives, most common of which are differentiation, market share growth and brand visibility. Another important and final strategy component is letting customers access and co-create presented content.
Sources of content that can be useful as social media strategy is formulated include social groups within industry, trade associations, industry magazines, and internally available reports and papers. A successful strategy will take note of where content is located and how stakeholders and customers access it in order to develop strategies that complement or set industry trends and let content become available to all.
Social Media Strategies and Need to Evaluate Strategies
Social media strategy needs to be actionable and measurable, so it can be translated into a plan that can be implemented and evaluated. Diverse goals can be pursued with strategies, and various social media platforms offer different information sharing and interactive possibilities. Evaluating media strategies amounts to a great extent to assessing the value propositions provided by selected social media formats.
Mangolda describes strategies that help achieve a range of marketing goals. They include options to implement platforms, such as company-sponsored blogs, where customers can exchange experiences about a service or product; launch online polls that seek feedbacks from clients; offer exclusive propositions such as special deals; launch platforms that provide important opportunities and implement those of them that underline comparative advantages such as special price, size or value. Marketers need to ensure that strategies provide valuable possibilities and that they can be effectuated and measured.
Evaluation of Social Media Strategy Effectiveness
Estimating the success rate of social media strategy allows marketers to gather information on company’s visibility and performance, something that was not possible with traditional media. The “financial” and “non-financial” dichotomy helps evaluate social media strategies’ effectiveness. It is desirable that strategies bring financial and non-financial value as the dichotomy suggests. Evaluating non-financial effectiveness is relevant to instances when social media participants are only fans or followers. The criteria for assessing non-financial value are the level of activity on social media pages, the volume of social actions, and participation level, while financial value metrics include the number of sales transactions and new customers reached. An effective social media strategy will bring both financial and non-financial value.
Examples of Social Media Strategy
Successful social media strategy examples include a Facebook campaign to reach prospective customers and enlist them. The analyzed social media campaign had a goal of reaching at least 250 clients. Marketing tactic was two-fold and consisted of offering one discount on purchasing company’s products via online store and another discount for sharing the information about the program via Facebook. Evaluation metrics encompass reckoning up the number of new Facebook connections, the number of shares of this content, and the number of sales that took place within the strategy’s implementation timeframe. The strategy was effective as it was actionable, measurable and brought non-business and business value. It resulted in new connections and shared information as well as in sales. As this example illustrates, offering exclusive experiences and engaging customers in conversations about company’s proposals on a platform where hundreds of potential clients communicate can be an effective way to increase sales, expand customer base and increase market share.
Successful instances of social media campaigns are limited to privately held corporations. Wells and Wint state that personal contacts are a common source of investment information. The reason for this is that customers need to be sure that the right product or service is purchased. As not much research is available to conduct on social media marketing of public companies, the effect of new communications paradigm on the latter is undetermined and necessitates further study.
With the advance in new media technologies and an increased participation of consumers in conversations about services and products that indicate a new communication paradigm, marketers need to redefine the place of social media in their marketing activities. Integrating social media necessitates ensuring that company-sponsored sources correspond to its mission and coordinate with other content, which can be achieved when viewing social media within a content ecosystem. Social media strategy components must target needed customers and be aware of social media environment where stakeholders operate. Chosen social media strategy needs to respond to marketing goals, be actionable, measurable and create non-business and business value. Available research indicates that social media communications affect the role of social media in marketing of private corporations. Yet, private companies may cooperate with the public sector in diversifying promotional activities aimed at encouraging investments. Further research would yield insight into how social media could be relevant for marketing communications of public and private companies.