Social Media Marketing:
The use of internet and social networking in the workplace has grown substantially over the last few decades. Because of this, individuals are now using the internet in various ways. Technologies such as social networking sites, blog sites and other innovations give individuals a chance to interact with one another (Apigian, Ragu-Nathan, Ragu-Nathan, & Kunnathur, 2005). Social media marketing is the process of marketing through the methodical use of technical concepts and techniques toachieve specific goals for a company. This is a form of internet marketing which used to achieve branding and marketing communication goals by participating in various media networks (Major, Pennisi, & Riese, 2010). There has been a steady incline in the use of internet and social networking in places of work over the past decade because of the web-based technologies that are being used for work and work related activities. Although social media is a relatively new trend, it is becoming a very important part of any business’s marketing and client base development platform.
What could once be accomplished by a traditional website now needs to be supplemented by a vigorous and responsive utilization of the tools social media offers (Bosari, 2012). Due to the increased use of internet technology, a business cannot survive without the support of social media. Social media marketing increases the exposure and traffic of a business, and the businesses use this as a tool to gain marketplace intelligence, to generate leads and to develop loyal followers (Stelzner, 2012). Some of the important reasons why social media marketing has become exceedingly important to businesses of all sizes are: * Today’s consumers are more tech savvy and have started taking time to research online before making a purchase. With the presence of social media, the business can engage with the clients and reassure them about the product and as well as the company, thus giving the business a chance to reach out and actually connect with their audience, and making the product more real and reliable.
* The social media sites also act as platform for a virtual social life, and having a presence there is a smart business move, especially for small businesses. This shows that it is smart to take the business to the target audience where they will come across one’s brand and product. * When many different people on a social media refer to a company’s content, then the articles related to the company, the search engines pay attention to this and in turn use this factor to provide better search engine placement for the content in your website (Stelzner, 2012). * Social media also provides the kind of transparency needed for a business. When someone likes the website, product or services provided by the company, everyone in the person’s social circle can see it, thus helping in creating a higher brand exposure. Advantages & Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing:
The use of internet in day to day life and the number of people using internet everyday has changed the way many businesses think about advertising. Many of the businesses direct customers towards their social network pages than their own websites. There are definitely many advantages to this, but at the same time, there are a few drawbacks as well (Hoffman, 2010).
Advantages to businesses through social media are:
* The biggest advantage is that the businesses can connect with networks that are full of potential customers that they may otherwise never come across through traditional marketing methods. * Social media networks are the best platform for word of mouth marketing, the most effective way increase one’s sales. These sites also allow the customers to voluntarily promote the services and products within their network of friends, thus increasing the brand awareness. * Social media sites are perfect for communicating with customers and understanding their questions and concerns, and are also the best platform for market research. * These sites also help a business to keep close watch on what the competition is doing and how are they being received by the people, and plan their strategies accordingly. Disadvantages of social media marketing for businesses are:
* The biggest drawback of social media networking is that advertising violates the users’ privacy policies. This is because, in order to provide the businesses with the information about the target audience, these sites gather personal information of the users and sell them to businesses, thus violating their privacy. Many also debate whether this is an ethical practice or not. * Businesses will have to invest money as well as other resources in order to keep themselves up to date, and to keep track of all the activity happening on their network. This could sometimes also be more time consuming than traditional marketing. * Social media can also have a negative impact on the productivity of the employees if they waste valuable time using these channels for personal use, and may also have a negative effect on the company’s reputation.
Use of Social Media Marketing by Pepsi:
The rise of technology, which is reshaping the world drastically, even the well-established brands have to play by the digital rules. No major industry in America immune to the need to adapt to today’s more “connected” world, where companies have to harness evolving relationships between technology, customers, and suppliers (U.S. News, 2012). While many brands are still cautious about the use of social media for business, Pepsi understands that cyberspace is a fertile ground for building relationships with customers who might not be reachable through the traditional marketing methods, and thus making Pepsi one of the most “connected” companies in the U.S. according to the U.S. News (Hatch, 2012).
For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi did not place an ad in the Super Bowl, but instead, chose to spend the money on their new experiment: The Pepsi Refresh Project. This was not only an innovative strategy for brand marketing, but also ground breaking in regards to using interactive methods and social media on a new level. Pepsi has launched a digital dashboard which features a lot of references to pop culture which will help them bring in more of their target audience of 18-35 year olds, and the content being a part of Pepsi’s “Live for Now” campaign (Hatch, 2012). Brian Solis, a principal analyst at the Altimeter group and author of The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way you Work to Succeed in the Consumer Revolution says that “today’s connected consumers are getting groomed and conditioned to expect the world to come to them”, and Pepsi has already taken the first step in that direction by trying to connect with them, and trying make them feel like they want to be a part of the brand (Hatch, 2012).
With this strategy, Pepsi showed how an established brand can effectively utilize five critical aspects of social media marketing in gaining more customer insight: consumer engagement, user-generated content, data aggregation, geo-local, and inbound marketing (Horton, 2012). i. Consumer Engagement – by launching the digital dashboard, Pepsi has encouraged the visitors of the website to comment on different TV shows which are related to pop culture. It has also encouraged them to select songs and encores for a Pepsi concert series in the summer featuring major artists, who will be selected by voting through Twitter by both live audience as well as the ones watching online. ii. User-generated Content – in social media marketing, customer reviews, comments, or other inputs from customers play a very important role.
In order to keep track of this, Pepsi has started using a tool called SocialFlow which ranks the content within the audience segments, what the customers are interested in. By doing so, Pepsi is able to understand its consumers’ wants and needs, and in turn act accordingly in order to gain their loyalty. Moreover, by keeping track of the consumers’ views about its products, Pepsi is able to manage complaints before they can escalate (Horton, 2012). iii. Data Aggregation – with social media, a company has better access to different statistics of the consumers, which would be very hard to gather in the traditional marketing methods. This data helps Pepsi understand its consumers better and also tells them how they can attract new ones. iv. Geo-local Reach – with the increase in the usage of smart phones, Pepsi can now incorporate social media with location-base mobile marketing. v. Inbound Marketing – today’s consumers want to be listened to and social media networks give them the perfect platform for them to communicate with the brand.
Other Businesses Using Social Media:
Ford Motors – The once great American automobile company, Ford Motors, was on the ropes in 2009. But it has now reported its biggest annual profit since 1999. There are many reasons for this turn about like: the closure of about quarter of their plants, the reduction of its labor and health care costs, and the sale or retirement of underperforming brands. Along with all of the above, Ford has also been engaging in first-time conversations with its customers (Roman, 2011). Ford invested around one-quarter of its marketing dollars on digital and social media, which was double the amount spent by any of its competitors.
Ford now has “social media agents”, who openly converse with their customers on forums, message boards, enthusiast sites that are not owned by Ford, as well as through official Ford Twitter and Facebook accounts. They use customized search engine tools to find and respond to customer queries, comments or concerns, including about new product arrival, warranties and repairs (Tellem, 2012). Social networking sites have allowed Ford to meet customers where it might not have been possible previously through traditional advertising, and allowing them to go where the customers go.
For example, Ford created the Fiesta Movement using social media, before the all-new fiesta went on sale in North America, to create a buzz about the car and as a way to introduce it to the market. This campaign inspired tens of thousands of people, not only to merely listen to the advertising, but also to engage in an ongoing dialogue with the company through channels of their own choosing: to post videos, to share feedback, and stay engaged and in touch with “The Ford Story,” very often via multiple feeds (Roman, 2011).
Ford employees respond to an average of 2,000 people weekly via social media and the interaction have continued to rise from a year ago. Also, rather than dealing with the issues the traditional ways shows that the Ford is being proactive in resolving the consumers’ issues rather than wait for their calls and then react. This is win-win situation for Ford or any other company that proactively reaches out to consumers who have issues (Halliday, 2012).
Whole Foods Market – Whole Foods Market believes that customers who are more knowledgeable about food are more likely to be their customers, so the company makes efforts to help people learn more about ingredients, locate recipes, etc. Keeping this in mind, and taking this policy to heart, 5% of Whole Foods Market’s tweets are promotional and 10% are content-based. The rest 85% are responses to customers. Rather than controlling everything from the headquarters, most of its Twitter activity comes from staffers in local stores, who know their local markets and can respond to local issues much faster. This also shows how Whole Foods has made social media a part of each and every one of its stores (Eckhouse, 2011).
Not all the customers shopping at Whole Foods are serious foodies. Many treat Whole Goods as a supplemental grocery store – where they pick up special items or pre-made meals. Whole Foods uses social media to give these occasional shoppers more reasons to connect by announcing flash sales on seasonal items, and also to promote gift boxes (Friedman, 2011). With the help of social media, Whole Foods strives to: * Provide something to the customer – Whole Foods works hard to answer questions about recipes, wine, cheese, ingredients and health tips. The company found that customers who are more knowledgeable about food are more likely to be Whole Foods customers, so helping them learn more about food helps make the store more appealing as a destination (Eckhouse, 2011). * Serve all the customers – Whole Foods believes that everyone who enters a store should be respected irrespective of how often one visits the store.
The company wants its staff to interact with each and every customer, and give them more of a reason to come and they will. For example, Whole Foods tweets out flash sales on seasonal items that will only be in the stores for a single day. Whole Foods also uses social media to promote its gift boxes as another way to reach its occasional customers (Eckhouse, 2011). * Encourages conversation – To use Twitter as a two-way communications tool, Whole Foods works diligently to get its followers to respond and interact. For example, it holds contests with questions about food and healthy living. Nor does it take itself too seriously. It posted cooking tips for insects on its website as an April fool’s spoof as well as a YouTube video making fun of an incredibly crowded and despised parking lot for one of its Los Angeles stores (Eckhouse, 2011).
Future Impact of Social Media:
In the current competitive world of global business, a company needs to make use of every tool available to gain an edge. One such tool is social media, which includes websites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogs and forums. Social media has a direct impact on key areas such as marketing, transacting business and customer relationships. Some of the ways in which social media will affect businesses are (Edge, 2012):
* Business performance driven marketing – with the help of social media and the various platforms it provides, companies have a better opportunity to interact with and understand consumers across multiple networks, and drive them to purchase. With so many options available and opportunities to understand performance, businesses will be focusing more on how social media drives business and marketing performance as opposed to just “getting the word out”.
* Demand for innovations – with the increase in the usage of social technology and mobile integration, more agencies and brands will hire technology and innovation managers. They will be responsible for staying on top of trends in marketing technology and will be the digital leaders spearheading such projects. * Increase in consumer experience – along with technology, there will also be a change in the experience that takes place between brands and their customers online. Relations will become both more data driven and more interactive. Ideas will be bigger and brands will have to find innovative ways to create consumer driven brand experiences to woo their customers.
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