Social media is a cheap but effective way to marketing

By Summer Zhang

Nowadays, social media, which has changed the way people connect, discover, and share information, has becomes a major marketing tactic for many companies. More and more companies choose to market their products, services, and brands through their social networks. Social media takes advantage of the technology that connects people and refers to the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites. Social media has been adopted rapidly primarily because it is cheap and effective. Although most marketers believe that social media is cheap and trendy, but not very effective, the online marketing trend cannot be ignored.

According to Constant Contact’s 2011 Small Business Attitudes & Outlook Survey, small businesses are using social media marketing more than ever before. The survey showed that 73% of small businesses and organizations have started using social media marketing, 61% of those not using it expect to start marketing through social media within the next twelve months, and 65% report that social media marketing works well with other forms of marketing. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are the places where social interactions happen. People join chats, discovering their interests and sharing information online. Social media is all about discovering and sharing cool stuff; every interaction you have through social media has the potential to reach many new people. Social media marketing is the way to use such online networks to build relationships, increase business and attract new customers through friends who share with friends. It is changing the way people connect to each other. Also, according to a Social Sharing Research Report from Chadwick Martin Bailey, 75% of people are somewhat or highly likely to share content that they like with friends, co-workers or family and 49% do this at least weekly. Social Media is all about discovering and sharing information, and it has the potential to reach many new people who will be your potential customers.

The Internet provides users with the ability to research brands, products, and companies online. Social media gives users the opportunity to interact with the companies, brands, and people of their interest. It is an easy way to observe and interact with your audience. Social media marketing is much cheaper than traditional marketing for making connections with an audience, such as advertising online or on in print. Additionally, the best advantage that social media marketing has over traditional marketing is that it costs nothing to set up social media accounts. The real costs to a business are the time and resources a company needs to put into their sites. If you are a larger company, you may want to hire an online marketing company to help organizing your social media contents, which still costs less than putting ads on other medium. However, a company with a limited advertising  budget is still able to maintain its social media channels and interact with costumers. Compared to traditional media marketing strategies, social media provides a relatively inexpensive platform for executing marketing campaigns.

With traditional marketing campaigns, such as those that use print, radio, or television advertising, a company will have limited ability to make changes without spending more money. However, with social media marketing you have more flexibility. Moreover, you are able to evaluate campaign results through each network’s analytic tools. You can use the data to calculate costs and estimate potential customers’ behaviors to adjust your brand strategy. You can easily see how many people clicked on links and how many shares took place during a specific period. Also, the real traffic numbers are attractive to your advertisers and investors, compared to traditional marketing, in offline campaigns where it is harder to measure and know your audience.

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey 2012, 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth above all other forms of advertising and 70% chose online customer reviews as their second most trusted source. People do trust what their friends say rather than what brands say about themselves. This is why so many people are willing to try something new based on what their friends say on social media. Whether good or bad, people are easily influenced by their friends, especially in today’s online world.

The benefits of social media marketing are understandable; the initial gain is an increase in brand awareness. Creating brand awareness can be one of the greatest challenges for a company with a limited marketing budget. However, social media marketing is a great way to start with zero cost. Setting up social media accounts costs nothing except time and resources to maintain different social channels. Secondly, the one-on-one relationship is beneficial to a company. Social media marketing allows small business to reach individuals and provide customized service. Also the one-on-one communication model increases trust and credibility. The next advantage is that companies are able to do their market research while they are maintaining their social network accounts, which will save on the huge expenses that it would cost for a small business to conduct formal market research campaigns. By creating an online presence, you can get real feedback at no cost to your business, which is an effective marketing strategy.

However, social media marketing cannot be an independent marketing tactic. It is not a full replacement for other marketing tactics but will work as part of a broader marketing strategy. It works best when combined with other marketing activities, especially email marketing.

Social media is growing faster than ever before, and is increasingly able to provide companies with flexibility and increase their success. Social media marketing can benefit your company, not just because competitors are doing it, but because it is an effective and economical tool for connecting with your customers.

 

Resources:

1. Trattner, C., Kappe, F. (2013). “Social Stream Marketing on Facebook: A Case Study”. International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing.

2. Constant Contact’s 2011 Small Business Attitudes & Outlook Survey, 2011

3. Josh M and Jeff M, Chadwick Martin Bailey, Social Sharing Research Report, 2010

4. A Nielsen Report, Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, 2012

One Reply to “Social media is a cheap but effective way to marketing”

  1. Who wouldn’t agree that social media is an expensive and effective marketing technique, the cross-posting and sharing of information a way to reach “weak ties” (an audience outside of your target demographic). As you suggest Summer, it is definitely the way of modern marketing. College and university programs now offer social media specializations – majoring in Facebook and Twitter?! The concept would have seemed like a (crazy) dream just a few years ago.

    But while I agree with you that social media is the marketing tactic (in combination with print and in-person presence to establish a super strong brand) I would like to challenge the idea that social media is free. (As we learned, nothing is free – not even lunch!) You did mention that social media was associated with resource costs, and I would like to elaborate on this. While more budget-friendly than traditional (print, TV and radio) promotions, and with more precise return on investment measurables, there are many considerations surrounding the cost of social media, including:
    • The 24/7 nature of social media and immediate response time which customers have become accustomed to means that companies need to dedicate resources solely to social media upkeep, i.e., hire full-time in house social media experts instead of outsourcing to agencies which could not keep up with the demand.
    • Social media is continually evolving, with platforms becoming obsolete, as new ones are born, so social media experts will require continuous training and development (either in courses paid for by the company or self-taught, online learning during work hours).
    • The arduous task of content generation – searching and repurposing stories to post on social media outlets that will appeal to readers – and the daily or hourly posting of this content to maintain diminishing attention spans.
    • Analyzing how all the traffic social media has drawn to your site affects the big picture. Companies will have to reallocate existing resources such as business analysts or marketing professionals to monitor analytics and apply them to corporate strategy.

    Here is an article that actually breaks down the cost of social media, which can apparently run a company up to $775 a month: http://amoresocial.com/2012/07/time-is-money-cost-of-social-media-marketing-for-businesses/

    One more point of interest – you suggested that social media is an effective recommendation system. It’s irrefutable that it is an incredibly powerful marketing tool – social media is called word of mouth 2.0 – however, it would be interesting to explore the validity of this recommendation system. There is the very real possibility that social media analytics are skewed because companies buy fake reviews, fans and likes. And this isn’t a new scheme which makes it all the more plausible – companies paying for social media traffic, not unlike how Amazon has been accused of paying for book reviews.

    Take a look at this article I found which suggests that approximately 10-15% of companies pay for their social media reviews:
    http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2161315

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