INTRODUCTION: THE DIGITAL LANDSCAPE
When marketing turned digital, it was revolutionary. Brands could advertise to millions, reaching a global audience, and the success of each campaign became much more easily measurable. The world was quickly changing to digital forms of entertainment, and marketers had to follow suit. Now, there is yet another dramatic change sweeping the marketing landscape: social media. Social media marketing has many impressive advantages, and is proving its worth to companies worldwide.
EASE OF USE
One of the greatest advantages of social media marketing is how easy it is to use. Businesses can click a button and instantly reach their audiences, a privilege they did not experience with traditional advertising. When marketing on television, magazines, or websites, companies might have to wait several months before they see their advertisement run. However, with social media, brands can make announcements, release coupons, or share blog posts as soon as their plans are finalized.
This is so time-effective that by spending as little as six hours per week, over 66 percent of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media. It can take up to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to make a purchase, and social media allows this repeat exposure: it is simple for brands to continue to remind potential customers about their products.
For a short time, digital advertising meant free advertising, mainly through mass spam. Although this is no longer the case, social media marketing is still incredibly cost effective. Some portions of advertising are still free, such as the act of creating an online profile on media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Pinterest.
Free account creation aside, brands are now willing to dedicate a small portion of their budget in order to reach large amounts of people in a simple way. By carefully choosing how to advertise, companies can utilize a small budget and still run successful ad campaigns. When using traditional advertising, those with the biggest budgets tended to get ahead of the game – who can afford the biggest billboard in the best location? They could reach more people, and therefore they were more likely to achieve the success they wanted. However, this is no longer the case. Thanks to advanced yet affordable targeted advertising programs, companies can select their ideal customers based on things such as geographic locations, keywords, customer profiles, and browsing habits.
AUDIENCE INSIGHT & TARGETED ADVERTISING
Yes, social media allows marketers to advertise to billions, but what is even more effective than mass marketing is targeted marketing. 71 percent of companies are using social media to gain marketplace intelligence, and then advertising to those who fit their ideal demographic. To put it simply, brands only pay for reaching people who may actually have an interest in what they have to say. For instance, a musical instrument company could mount an Instagram campaign targeting those in music-related groups or following music-related accounts. Companies can target whichever audience they choose: they can separate by things such as location, job, age, gender, and much more. Impressively, businesses can sometimes see the results of social media marketing in real time.
According to Forbes, 83 percent of organizations don’t analyze the demographics or profiles of their customers that are active on social media, but that is a huge mistake: social listening allows marketers to gain valuable insight about the behaviors and interests of consumers. Companies can compare promotions to find out what is the most effective, and monitor comment sections to see exactly what their customers think of them. Using monitoring tools, businesses can access information throughout all forms of social media in real time. There are billions of active users throughout these websites and apps, and companies can gather relevant customer data, then use that data to inform crucial marketing decisions.
Geotagging is another effective way to target a specific audience. Through media such as Snapchat, companies can market to people in certain locations. For instance, a local restaurant might add a geotag to their location to encourage consumers to take photos in their restaurant, or for those passing by to come inside and check it out. Geotagging can also be used through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to send messages to followers in specific companies, as well as to discover company-relevant online conversations.
Additionally, companies can interact directly with their audience through social media. Businesses can ask a question through a Facebook page and fans and followers will reach out quickly to respond, especially if there is an incentive such as a coupon offered.
An aspect of social media marketing that is too-frequently overlooked is customer relations: while 86 percent of companies are comfortable marketing with social tools, only 41 percent use those tools for communicating with customers. Social media allows companies to transparently and efficiently interact with customers. Customers have begun to expect brands to have a social media presence; they want fast response times and 24/7 availability. People flock to spaces such as Facebook that allow them to leave comments, questions, and concerns instantly.
While customer service departments utilizing email and phone are still useful, many customers prefer social media that is more immediately accessible. Those experiencing problems want to know they can easily and quickly be resolved, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter allows them to communicate with brands directly. This makes customer relations a public experience, and allows potential consumers to observe the quality of that brand’s communication.
Successful customer relations through social media improves business: 71 percent of customers who receive a quick response on social media say they are more likely to recommend that company to other people. Social media marketing allows for the development of relationships between consumer and company, and when people feel as though a company really cares about their issues and opinions, their loyalty to that company increases. Companies that want this loyalty understand that social media is a place to have conversations with their followers: it is not a one-sided environment like traditional advertising.
Traditional advertising, such as television and radio, has fallen to the wayside as the digital age surges forward. Many consumers use adblockers and streaming services, and therefore watch their shows and podcasts commercial-free. Additionally, traditional marketing allows brands to access a limited amount of people, while social media gives these brands a much larger audience. For instance, Facebook has over 750 million users. Consumers can also “follow” pages in order to receive notifications for every update or sale.
SUCCESS & INCREASED EXPOSURE
92 percent of all digital marketers have noted that their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses, and 80 percent of digital marketers noted that their social media efforts created more traffic. Companies also are able to monitor their competitors via social media, allowing them to strategize creative ways to stay ahead of the game by offering products or content that their competitors lack.
As a company gains followers and likes, its influence continues to grow. If a brand is, for instance, “hashtagged” on Twitter and consumers begin to use that hashtag, that brand will appear more valuable to new Twitter users. Interacting with major and authoritative-seeming social media influencers will also increase that company’s influence and reach. Additionally, as businesses put out more and more valuable information, more and more consumers will share (or “retweet”) that content.
Without social media, companies limit their exposure to only those who are already familiar with the company. When companies share content on social media, they give all audiences a reason to check out what they have to offer. The higher quality content a brand shares through social media, the more followers that brand gains, and the more traffic is created through to their website or blog. This makes social media marketing especially useful if a company’s website traffic is down.
More than 58 percent of marketers who have been using social media for one year or longer improved their organic search engine (SEO) rankings. Just optimizing a professional website is not enough for companies to successfully rank on search engines; social media presence is now an important factor as well. If a brand wants to rank high for specific keywords, that brand needs to consistently make posts on those topics and build legitimacy and trustworthiness.
Marketing in the digital age changes rapidly, and social media is just the latest revolution in its landscape. As of 2016, 92 percent of marketers agreed that social media is necessary for their business, a significant change from 86 percent in 2013. Social media marketing has opened new doors for small businesses, while demanding that larger and already established businesses become more marketing-savvy. It has given every company the opportunity to succeed in this new age. 90 percent of brands have a presence on some form of social media: how has your brand adapted to the social media age of marketing?