In the 21st century, we have seen the shift of paradigm for interaction from offline, or in-person basis to a virtual platform. Interaction is no longer limited by the constraints of physical presence, time, topic, or clash of interest. Virtual platforms have made it possible for people to modify and customize interaction, whilst also keeping intact its pristine form.
Doing justice to such a customization, think-tanks around the world have put in their effort and time in developing means to support this revolution. The entire focus of communication is being emphasized on making the online platforms more interactive, and easy to use. We have seen a growth in the number of platforms that have come up just to offer something new. However, recent trends have seen this agenda of social media platforms shift from their pristine form of interaction among people to communication to the mass. Social Media has now become another form of marketing, one that is considered extremely imperative and effective.
So what is, ‘Social Media Marketing’? In layman terms, social media marketing is a method of Digital Marketing wherein social platforms are used to convey the message of the marketer. A product is advertised online without any physical existence and provisions are made to buy the same, only to deliver it to the doorstep of the customer. This marketing method had to come into existence because of a lot of reasons. The ideology of traditional marketing methods was to bring the customer to the product. While this was effective to some extent, the modern philosophy of marketing, which has led to innovation in the field, has changed to, “bring the product to the consumer.”
Social Media Marketing was devised for this same purpose. It has enabled markets to target the audience where they are present, online. We’ve always known the concept that selling a product requires an audience. If we have an audience, then the product is sold. That is exactly what social media platforms are to marketers these days, an audience.
The second reason as to why social media marketing had to come into effect was because of the growing marketing costs. In recent times we’ve observed the sudden growth of start-ups. A small-scale firm that has limited resources but an idea to potentially change the world. Such ideas would be rendered useless if it weren’t for ways to glorify them to the world. Social Media platforms have given exactly that opportunity to these start-ups. The ability to market their brand and sell their products without incurring heavy costs on marketing. These cost-cutting tendencies have ensured that the quality of product being manufactured, or the service being rendered, is the best. That proves the case in point – social media marketing is a necessity for small businesses.
But that is not all that this field is restricted too. Social Media Marketing has a wide scope and, of course, a deep impact on businesses of all sizes. Fields such as, ‘Search engine marketing’, and ‘Mobile marketing’ are done with the purpose of gaining leads and securing conversions, it must be noted that social media marketing is not restricted in that scope. While it is true that social media marketing is used in performing the aforementioned tasks, a chunk of companies uses such methods for generating brand awareness. Social media platforms are used with multiple purposes. On one side, we have the individual product being sold; while on the other, ad campaigns are run to create awareness of the brand and generate some buzz.
In terms of development, a lot of new features have been added to the current social media interface to make it more friendly in terms of C2C and B2C interaction as well. Some examples of such innovations could be the new, ‘Business Account’ profile that has been developed by WhatsApp. The sole purpose of this is to give a platform to the businesses to contact their customers on an online medium with ease whilst also maintaining the professionalism. WhatsApp business allows organisations to add essential details about their firm right in their profile so that customers don’t have an issue inquiring about them. These details include the address, an about section, and a map direction to the head office. WhatsApp is also considering integrating a catalog feature and a secure buying feature for selected products. This would allow customers to buy directly through WhatsApp without being reliant on offline ways of placing orders. Facebook has also introduced a similar feature by the name of, ‘Facebook Marketplace.’
Social Media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more, have come a long way when it comes to the way their adverts work. The presentation of all of these advertisements has also come a long way. The cost of advertising has gone down substantially, especially when targeting a larger audience. Each social media platform has been revamped with a particular purpose. While Facebook and Instagram are for B2C dealing, Twitter focuses on B2C as well as B2B, and LinkedIn is solely for B2B. Each platform has been designed in such a way that it allows maximum outreach. While the cost of advertising on Facebook and Instagram is low, LinkedIn is very expensive and is only meant for B2B dealing. While these platforms provide an intuitive way of designing and executing campaigns, they do an equal justice to the way these campaigns are tracked. With the in-depth statistics provided by these platforms, it becomes convenient for organisations to track various aspects that determine the quality of their product. These statistics also help the organisation build up a STP (segmentation-targeting-positioning) approach. Planning posts on Social Media platforms can give firms a huge edge because you can control exactly where the post goes out, the time, the audience, the days, the pace, and so much more. The amount of customization that one can do per post/campaign is simply amazing.
While these were the inorganic ways of performing social media marketing on famous platforms, there are some platforms who were built with specific purposes and cater to the needs of only a limited set of people. These platforms, such as Pinterest and Quora, do not offer direct ways of marketing. They are communities among which a firm can choose to build themselves by impressing the people around. These platforms generate leads and advertise your brands’ skills in getting customers.
It must be noted that while social media marketing is, in fact, different from marketing, the way of execution of campaigns is the same as the way of releasing an offline advertisement. Proper planning and analysis should be made as to how must one go by posting ads. Each advert, each product caters to the need of a specific set of people. It is necessary to think about the people and launch the campaigns accordingly. For example, an ad campaign with the sharing setting at, ‘word wide’ wouldn’t be beneficial for a product which is available only in India. Another factor to remember would be the timing. For examples, an advertisement for a product that helps cure sleeplessness could be advertised late in the night to reach the targeted segment.
Business planning for Social Media Marketing enables marketers in these firms understand the requirements and perform some tests to see what works best. Pre-planning the content and the targeted audience also helps determine if the ad that is to be run is to drive sales for a product up, or just for brand awareness. It must also be noted that certain products should only be advertised on certain social platforms. You must remember that running ads is not the end of the process. The entire team should review the statistics together and understand why certain content works better only in certain crowds. This will help the company plan for future growth and expansion, whilst also reflecting on their weaknesses so that they may work on reducing them. Social Media Marketing is a wide, wide scope of marketing and if used right, it can make you a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Concluding, I think that Rebekah Radice said it the best, “Visual Marketing does not just sell a product or a service – it sells an experience around your brand.”