Over the last decade, the growth of social media has forced businesses to change the way they operate and especially how they market and promote their products and services. Social media, often called the love child of the World Wide Web, can be used in many forms and can open up significant opportunities to connect, share and review. Be it the use of blogs like Blogger and WordPress, online forums like Google Plus or networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, there is no doubt that social media will continue to dominate the web-world in the years to come.
Along with social media, another important element of the World Wide Web that has had significant impact on the traditional business model is the use of e-commerce. Gone are the days when consumers could only purchase products and services by visiting an actual store or a physical location. Today, consumers can browse, compare, select and purchase almost anything without ever leaving their home. The eCommerce industry showed incredible growth in 2015 with approximately $1.5 trillion worth of goods and service bought by consumers online - either through desktops, tablets and smartphones. eMarketer reports that businesses have been spending more and more on Internet advertising and forecasts that spending on internet advertising will surpass $160 billion in 2015 with over $58 billion on display advertising.
In a recent global study, 70 percent of respondents said they have to be connected wherever they are. People within the age group of 13-24 cannot live without being online. Young people have now become experts at using social media and digital devices. They even use these devices while watching TV. 53 percent of the young people included in this study, also say that they like it when brands speak to them through social media as long as the information being provided is useful and entertaining. Thus, the visibility for brands and businesses through social media is continuous and immediate. Businesses today have the opportunity to be literally in their consumers "pockets". The only trick is that they have to create content that is relevant and designed for their target audience.
Statistics show that as of August 2015, Facebook is the market leader among all social networks and has surpassed 1 billion registered users. Twitter has over 316 million active accounts and the popular blogging platform Tumblr has over 230 million active bloggers. The rapid growth of social media has had a significant impact on business and marketing strategies. The traditional business model has been altered to incorporate the elements of social networking. For example, businesses now actively use Facebook to promote their products and services. They do so because Facebook offers several benefits, including discoverability, instant connection with customers, time-specific delivery of special messages, promotions and discounts and an insight into customer needs, perceptions and opinions. Most businesses, whether big or small, have an official Facebook page that is used to connect with their target market.
The use of Facebook pages is not limited to getting likes, reviews and comments. Businesses can also create a Facebook store and customize it according to their needs. By doing so, they can gain access to 1 billion users. Facebook stores can be set up within minutes and can enable businesses to reach a large customer base. Businesses have access to dynamic store applications that are easy to use, quick to set-up and are accessible on any device. These dynamic apps and services enable businesses to create an online store or add eCommerce to any existing site. The store is visible and accessible to Facebook users and allows businesses to sell their products and services right on their Facebook page. With such customizable applications, businesses can multiply their social media efforts and derive value from it.
With more than 900 million visits everyday, Facebook is rapidly becoming an integral component of any media-marketing campaign. The use of Facebook business pages and an online Facebook store can be further enhanced with the use of Facebook Advertising. The biggest advantage of Facebook ads (apart from its reach to 1.4 billion people) is that it allows businesses to choose their audience and to design it to reach a specific target market - either through location, age or interest. By choosing the type of people that can be reached through the ad, the chances of the marketing message reaching the relevant people multiplies. Targeted advertising thus promises to be an effective strategy, designed to bring real results for businesses.
Facebook ads are highlighted as Promoted Posts in the newsfeed of the target audience and while they may not always lead to direct sales, they can help businesses engage in communication with the consumer and can also distribute their promotional message effectively. Whether it’s a contest, a new product, a book or a blog post, Facebook is highly effective in promoting quality content and brand messages.
Since blogging has also become integral to many marketing campaigns, embedding the brand/corporate videos on their Facebook page is also an effective strategy. Again, there are applications that enable businesses to show their videos on their Facebook page. Some businesses run giveaways and sweepstakes by embedding links and creating tabs on their Facebook business page.
Twitter has also been successfully used as a marketing tool. According to an in-depth study by Simply Measured, out of Interbrand’s 100 companies, 58 percent had a minimum of 100,000 followers and 17 percent of these companies had crossed the 1 million follower mark. For small companies, 17 percent had 5000 followers, while three percent had 50,000 plus followers. 92 percent of the top brands tweeted more than once per day, while 44 percent of small businesses followed the same pattern. Big brands like Amazon, eBay, Google and Disney post tweets with links over 95 percent of the time. It is important to note however that although these top brands tweet regularly for brand promotion, they are not as responsive when engaging with users as most of them send one "@reply" per day.
Social media is being used as an effective marketing tool by big businesses and small entrepreneurs. It is also being used by individuals selling their art, music, books and crafts. Since easy to install and easy to use applications have made it possible for normal individuals –that is individuals with no programming knowledge, to create online stores, embed links, videos, widgets and promotional items, the use of such tools on Facebook, Pinterest, Blogger and on business and individual websites has become rampant. Whether it is through Facebook or Twitter, the presence of the social media has changed the paradigm of traditional marketing. Businesses that have been unable to adopt the advantages offered by social media and eCommerce are slowly fading away.
The above discussion clearly establishes the rapid growth of social media and how it has become critical to any successful marketing strategy. While bombarding your target market with advertisements and promotional messages on a continuous basis is not advisable, it is definitely important to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities offered by platforms like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out there, to highlight a new product or service, to create a brand image and identity and to enable your target market to take the desired action.
The penetration of social media among consumers is immense. The rewards of implementing a social-media business strategy are definitely worth it. The importance of implementing an eCommere platform is evident. The only catch: You’ve got to have the right message; offer the right products and services; and ensure you meet customer expectations.