Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the use of online applications, networks, blogs, wikis, and other collaborative media for communicating brand messaging, conducting marketing, public relations, and lead generation. Social media are distinctive for their networking capabilities: they allow people to reach and interact with one another through interconnected networks. This “social” phenomenon changes the power dynamic in marketing: no longer is the marketer the central gatekeeper for all communication about a product, service, brand, or organization. Social media allows for organic dialogue and activity to happen directly between individuals, unmediated by a company. Companies can (and should) listen, learn, and find ways to participate authentically.
Social media marketing focuses on three primary objectives:
- Creating buzz: Developing and publishing messages (in a variety of formats–e.g., text, video, and images) that is disseminated via user-to-user contact
- Fostering community: Building ways for fans to engage with one another about a shared interest in a brand, product, or service
- Facilitating two-way communication: Online conversations are not controlled by the organizations. Instead, social media promotes and encourages user participation, feedback, and dialogue
How Social Media Marketing Works
Organizations have opportunities to engage in social media for marketing purposes in several ways: paid, earned, and owned social media activity.
- Paid: Paid social media activity includes advertisements on social media (placed in various locations), sponsored posts or content, and retargeting advertisements that target ads based on a consumer’s previous actions. This type of social media activity is best suited for sales, lead generation, event participation, and incorporation into IMC campaigns.
- Earned: Earned social media activity involves news organizations, thought leaders, or other individuals who create content about an organization. It is particularly suited to supporting public relations efforts.
- Owned: Owned social media activity happens through social media accounts that an organization owns (e.g., Facebook page, Twitter handle, Instagram name, etc.). This activity is ideal for brand awareness, lead generation, and goals around engaging target audiences.
Effective use of social media to reach your target audience requires more effort by an organization than the traditional marketing methods. Not only must an organization create unique content and messaging, but it must be prepared to engage in two-way communication regarding the content that it produces and shares on social media. To be effective at using social media to reach target audiences, an organization must:
- Create unique content, often. Social media, unlike traditional methods, cannot rely on static content. An organization must regularly publish new, unique content to stay relevant on any social media platform.
- Ask questions. To foster engagement, an organization must solicit feedback from users, customers, and prospects. This is critical to creating conversation, insight, and discussion on social media platforms.
- Create short-form media. Most social media platforms have character limits per post. Users on social media expect to be able to scan their feed. Long posts (even within character limits) tend to underperform. The more succinct an organization can be, the better.
- Try different formats. Most social media platforms provide users with the option to add images and video to text. Social media is becoming an increasingly visual medium, where content that performs the best usually includes an image or video. Try to convert messages into images and video when possible for maximum reach.
- Use a clear, immediate call to action. Social media works best for achieving marketing goals with a clear call to action that a user can do immediately from their computer or mobile device. Examples include 1) Web traffic (click-through), 2) downloads of content (e.g., white papers, articles, etc.), 3) online purchases, and 4) engagement (comment, like, share, view, read).
Common Social Media Marketing Tools
What’s hot in social media is a moving target, but the following table provides a listing and description of primary social media platforms.
|Long- or short-form medium for communicating with audiences
|Video-hosting social media site
|Short-form (140 character) “microblogging” medium that is intended for text and image sharing
|Long-form (up to 2,000 characters per post) medium for sharing text, images, videos, and other multimedia content
|Image-based social network that is intended as a visual medium. Does not have capabilities to drive click-through rate (CTR) because posts offer no link option
|Long-form medium for sharing text, images, videos, and other multimedia content
|Medium for sharing photos and visual content categorized by theme
|Long- or short-form medium for sharing text, images, videos, and other multimedia content targeted to the business community
Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing
The advantages and benefits of social media marketing focus heavily on the two-way and even multidirectional communication between customers, prospects, and advocates for your company or brand. By listening and engaging in social media, organizations are better equipped to understand and respond to market sentiment. Social media helps organizations identify and cultivate advocates for its products, services, and brand, including the emergence of customers who can become highly credible, trusted voices to help you sell. Unlike many other forms of marketing, social media are very measurable, allowing marketers to track online customer behavior and how target audiences respond to content created by the organization. Social media offers a virtually unlimited audience for communicating and sharing key messages in the market. It also offers marketers the ability to relatively easily target and test the effectiveness of content using the various targeting capabilities of social media for location, interests, income, title, industry, and other sociographic differentiators.
Social media also carry a number of inherent challenges. Social media are dynamic environments that requires significant effort to monitor and stay current on. It is also difficult to continually create “share-worthy” content. The variety of social media tools makes it a challenge to understand which platforms to use for which target audiences and calls to action. Crisis communications can be difficult, too, particularly in the public environment of social media, in which it is difficult to contain or control communication. This means it can be difficult to mitigate the impact of a crisis on the brand.
One of the biggest challenges facing organizations is determining who in the organization should “own” the social media platforms for the organization. Too few hands to help means the burden of content creation is high on a single individual. However, too many people often results in duplication of efforts or conflicting content.
Expert Insight on Using Social Media: JetBlue
Airline carrier JetBlue has received attention and accolades for its effective use of social media to foster two-way communication with customers. In this video, JetBlue’s head of social media strategy, Morgan Johnston, explains the company’s approach to social media and how it complements other corporate and marketing communication activity. He also shares insights about how the company used social media to manage crisis communications and respond to customers during Hurricane Sandy, when extreme weather conditions hit the company’s northeastern U.S. travel routes hard.