Social media can be defined as ‘a group of internet based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User-Generated Content’ (Dahl 2015: 2).
‘Social’ refers to our innate need to connect with other humans through sharing our thoughts, ideas and experiences and ‘media’ refers to what we use and how, in order to make those connections (Safko, 2012). As social media platforms are constantly growing and evolving, the potential for a marketer to grow their business via these networks is endless.
‘Social media marketing’ relates to the way a company monitors and facilitates customer interaction throughout the web in order to encourage positive engagement and there are numerous techniques in doing so (Chaffey, Ellis-Chadwick, 2016).
Firstly, marketers are able to ‘listen’ to what is being said about their company through different tools that increase their social media awareness and help to keep up with trends. For example, using Google Trends we are able to see how often ‘Secret Garden Party’ is mentioned by publics on the web over a specified amount of time as displayed in Figure 1, and then compare this to other festivals and events.
Marketers can also ‘listen’ to audiences through hashtags, inbound links and comments and mainstream media attention as well as social bookmarking websites such as Digg which can help give an indication of where to direct their energies the most (Gillin, 2009).
Social media is a fairly cheap way of implementing mass communication and this is often established through user generated content and brand communities (Barker et al 2013). A brand community is a specialized, non‐geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand or organization (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001). Online brand communities allow customers to engage by asking questions and leaving comments which can provide valuable feedback for organizations as well as improve customer satisfaction and consequently enhance customer retention (Barker et al 2013).
According to Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick (2000), it is essential to include customer conversations on social media as it offers great credibility to the company to receive a positive sentiment from a ‘real’ person from outside the company. Social media makes interacting with customers easier than ever before as there are so many efficient methods of doing so; Twitter tweets, Facebook likes, Instagram posts, YouTube vlogs and videos are just a fraction of the mainstream platforms available on the web that all help to improve brand awareness and most importantly make customers feel engaged and connected.
There are a vast variety of social media platforms which businesses can use to promote, discuss and launch products and services. Some of the most well-known platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow businesses to reach a huge proportion of their consumers due to today’s advanced and sophisticated technology.
The majority of media that is posted on these platforms is ‘owned media’. This means that brand owns all communications, including sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and any blogs or websites (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2000).
Social media marketing can be a crucial part of a business’s digital marketing campaign. It involves ‘encouraging customer communications on a company’s own site’ (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2016:33).
This year, the Brit awards launched a major social media campaign to get the event a trending, hot topic. They used several social media platforms for their campaign.
Firstly, they used Twitter to build up a buzz by using a hashtag of a celebrity name, followed by ‘BRITS’ added onto the end e.g. #coldplayBrits. This brought up a lifelike emoji of that/those celebrity. The limited edition emojis were incredibly popular, especially celebs such as Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and Adele. This got fans tweeting the various hashtags just too see the emojis, ultimately giving The Brits more mentions and meeting their objective of becoming a trending topic with twitters 317million monthly users (statista, 2016:online).
Additionally, it is also the third consecutive year that the winner for ‘British Video’ is chosen by twitter votes only (PR Week, 2016:online).
The Brits also had a live feed of the red carpet, performances and awards on Snapchat. This gave snapchats 60 million daily users the opportunity to feel as though they were at the event too (chrissniderdesign, 2016:online) as well as letting those there share their experiences.
Although the event used these two platforms the most, they also used other social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Vine. The whole event was streamed live on YouTube for all to see as well as having a live feed on the Facebook page for the event and having small videos and pictures uploaded to the Instagram account as they happen (PR Week, 2016:online). Snippets of the event were posted on its own Vine channel and had ‘more than 10 million views on the day’ (broadcastnow, 2016:online).
One way to understand the usage of social media is using ‘the social techno graphics ladder which is constructed by Forrester research. (Barker et al, 2013)
It is a framework that acknowledges all the different social media users, once an organisation identifies its target market by creating buyer personas. It is then easier to identify where the target market use their time online as the technographic use age, gender and location to group the online activities. (Barker et al, 2013)
There are seven different users within the framework; creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. They all play an important role within the spectrum, for example the creators and critics who augment the message to the mass audience. The most active users are the creators as they are the people who can help our clients and us by posting, sharing and writing stories and articles on our before. (Chaffey,PR Smith, 2013).
The information they provide on their social media can be positive or negative, however generally speaking, if the creator is sharing information on our before, they will be posting positive information that is subjective as they will be getting paid to advertise on our behalf.
The majority of the social media users are the spectators who use social media networking for quick daily users. This consists of reading tweets, customer ratings/reviews, online forums and blogs. To extend further, they may also watch videos from other users online. Recent research portrays that 69% of 16,473 European online adults,(eighteen and over) users are spectators.(Forrester,2012) Moreover, same research indicates that the Y generation, born between 1980 and 2000 are the ‘largest group of creators, making up 37% of consumers’ [and] ‘aged 18 and 29’.(Barker,2013:P54) This simply means that the young urban are the main target audience of social media as they extend their social presence and profile further to actually invent within the social media platform.
The social technographic ladder is valuable to some extent; it is very good at identifying the range of social media users, however fails to explain why ‘inactives’, who make up 21% of the consumers in Europe don’t use social media at all.(Chaffey,PR Smith, 2013). The research also doesn’t indicate what type of people this makes up e.g. their age or gender. When it comes to digital media there is a lot of data collected and available for the measure of behavior users. However most measures can ‘lack interpretative insight’ and as a result many question the validity of the quantitative data that has been collected. Practitioners and some academics have approached the data as ‘useless and deceptive’.(Dahl,2015:P204)
Whilst social media marketing has many benefits, as with any digital platform, there can be disadvantages too. The most significant problem with using social media as a marketing tool is that receiving public complaints or negative comments from outsiders can have detrimental effects on the organization’s reputation which is why it is important to monitor and influence conversations on social networks through online reputation management. However, it could be argued that it is better to be involved in conversations with publics on social networks that can be controlled by the organization rather than when it is less controlled on third-party websites (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2000). Similarly, a brand’s image can be damaged if they are associated with certain stigmas such as racism, or sexism which is difficult to monitor on social networks where millions of individuals are able to publicly post their opinions (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2000).
Using social media as a marketing tool can be challenging to engage audiences who are using social networks to communicate with friends and family as they may not wish to interact with advertisements or organizations trying to promote products or services. This idea can be supported by the ‘banner blindness’ theory which is when users ignore advertisements and even find them intrusive (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2000).
Another issue that marketers may face is that legal issues surrounding social media marketing are confusing and lack specifics so therefore can have unintended consequences. Some advertisement laws that apply to traditional media have no such regulation on social media and vice versa which often causes problems (Dahl, 2015).