Perhaps like most, you still reminisce of when the word “friend” was just a noun, a phrase such as “LOL” was just an uncommon quip and children only used emojis. Or, rather more annoyingly, the last time you were surfing the web and something didn’t pop up at you screaming, “Click here” or “Buy now”. But nowadays social media networks such as Facebook have been a pivotal fixture for individuals, which the majority of companies have identified, and subsequently altered their marketing strategies.
This isn’t just in Facebook’s instance, this goes for YouTube, which has made video accessibility as simple as can be for both consumer and business as well as Twitter, for that matter, as sponsored tweets were first created 2010 (Bennett, 2010). It’s interesting to look back at these iconic moments in the last 10 years of social media history, and realize although they seem to have been around forever (from this millennial’s perspective) and yet they truly are still in their infancy. Can you believe it’s only been 10 years since Facebook was founded?
Below is a short video outlining the evolution of Social Media. Staggering really, considering I personally still remember MySpace and the unmentioned Bebo.
So what exactly do large corporations achieve from creating a Social Media page or account?
Bridge the gap
“Between a consumer’s first touch with a brand, and them making a purchase there is a gap. It’s the missing piece between an initial interaction and an outcome. Those who aren’t filling that gap with a branded experience all the way through will eventually lose consumers” according to Irving (2015).
From official brand Facebook pages to Twitter profiles for real-time company updates, social media channels have provided brands the means to create a virtual community, commonly referred as “followers”. Whether sharing exclusive behind the scenes footage, or collecting feedback from other customers, social media allows users to feel more connected with their favorite brand on a more personal level. This emotional connection can, and has almost certainly been cashed in upon, I mean, just look at Apple loyals, which prior to founder Steve Job’s death, was almost seen as a religion (Rosenwald, 2011) as he created a cult following during he tenure.
Little bit technical
The buyer process is the theoretical concept developed by Kotler and Armstrong (1997), which outline each step to making a purchase. Social media enables brands access to a multitude of touch-points within this process and gives brands an array of opportunities to engage with a consumer, or alternatively face losing them. Just quickly, can you remember the last time you bought a product online, can you relate to this model? I certainly can, unfortunately I must be a stereotypical consumer, and here I though I was impervious to marketing tactics having studied it for 3 years.
According to research from Google (2014), for large retailers, social contact will first happen in the middle of a customer’s buying process 47% of the time. With just under half of customers potentially influenced at this juncture, a strategy that creates and increases desire will helps to build trust between consumer and brand, which is “vital” (Vale, 2015).
Boost those Sales
Social media is a valuable ecommerce extension – it’s an excellent way to promote latest offerings, new products, discounts or spontaneous sales. Additionally Social Media’s real time nature creates a sense of urgency in consumers to make a purchase before the desired item is sold out according to Marias (2014). Social media platforms have recognised this monetary potential for brands, and have adapted to develop additional features to facilitate ecommerce. These range from Facebook’s ‘buy now’ button, to discount codes and sponsored ads that appeal to you personally. All these different methods are employed across the varying networks, aiming to seamlessly guide users through the purchase cycle.
Real time also benefits the business however, as they can essentially analyze and store a customers buying behavior in a complex algorithm, which far surpasses this tiny humans brain. However in turn this leads to big data, which come to think of it may make for a quite interesting future post. Getting sidetracked slightly…
Influencers & Celebrity endorsement
Basically, at its core, Social Media is a big popularity contest, and some people just have that certain something that makes them a digital King or Queen. Whether it is lavish lifestyle, good looks or envious career, platforms such as twitter and Instagram allow the celebrity (for example.) to share with ‘normal people’, just exactly what they are up to, where they are going or what they are thinking in real time. An article in the Telegraph (2015) listed the top 10 most followed individuals on Instagram, with artist Taylor Swift amassing just Under 50 million followers, that’s a pretty impressive… more impressive however when she has gained an additional 20m in the last year, now that is mass marketing. Imagine TS recommending a brand of face cream to her large loyal fanbase … what would happen?
Influencers have a wide reach because their followers respect them. As a result, their opinions carry immense weight. This allows them to carefully push the brands, people and products they associate with. These social media influencers can be a virtual goldmine for brands and their digital PR endeavors, (if they fit the brand image of course). A couple examples could be well-known actor Ashton Kutcher proting Lenovo technology or DJ Afrojack, promoting the Call of Duty franchise (Mets, 2015).
However, one case worthy of mentioning is that of Enessa O’Neil, whom rose to fame as she exploited the fabricated nature of social media. She explained the ‘behind the scenes’ look at subliminal promotional strategies, revealing exactly how businesses put together Instagram Posts (The Telegraph, 2015).
Social media has also forced brands to step their game up concerning customer service. Gone are the days of angry or disgruntled customers waiting for office hours on a Monday morning, phoning or physically attending somewhere.
According to Stern (2010) five ways Social media has affected customer service/
1. Leveled the Playing Field
2. More Informed Customers
3. Fewer Frustrated Consumers
4. Authenticity in customer experience
5. Customer service is a higher priority (Finally!)
So, overall its good news for the consumer, maybe not so good from a business standpoint, the old adage of ‘the customer is always right’ will be forever resented.
Contagious is good. No, wait here me out, I mean of course concerning media content. Being popular is no longer just an aspiration for prepubescent children at school, businesses and brands want to achieve it too. Social media has made it incredibly easy for users to simply click and share something that they enjoy case and point, the social media concept Vine was built upon this simple concept. The higher the number of eyes that see the post, video, picture (ahem, marketing campaign) logically increased sales should follow, based on increased brand and product awareness.
A most recent example is the 20th Cent. Fox picture Deadpool, which due to being a slightly obscure product, has had its marketing campaign toyed with in a silly and fun way. Mendelson (2016) and the author of this post agree, they have nailed their strategy, especially when trying to compete for an audience with the recent release of the latest Star Wars installment. By releasing tidbits of the film, with mysterious posters, people have enjoyed this approach and successively shared it with others to see.
You can’t escape Social Media…
After highlighting all these beneficary issues experienced by businesses, conversely are individuals and consumers being hoodwinked by these new age marketing methods, increasing awareness and desire for product they do not need? By which I mean, the whole concpet is essentially a ‘social’ experience, however loggin in to any network and you’ll be hard pressed to not come across some form of advertising. Were Nantel and Weeks (1996) right that Marketing is unethical?
Just looking at the image below, it’s clear how diverse and ubiquitous social media has become. Worryingly, it is in fact still in it’s infancy. From the highlighted points, dpedning of course on the nature of the business, social media can be implemented so seemlessly now into the majoirty of stratagies. in addition to this, the low cost associated with creating the profile of platform it makes sense to adopt and utilise it. Although I cant help but think I haven’t even scratched the surface of Digital marketing’s other major concepts whioch social media is intrinsically linked to such as SEO, Big Data, Analytics and email marketing. Future posts I’m thinking.
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2015/12/14/the-ten-most-popular-instagram-accounts-in-pictures/taylor-swift-and-her-cat-posted-on-her-instagram-account/ [Accessed 05 February 2016].