Social media marketing is a recent addition to organizations’ integrated marketing communications plans. Integrated marketing communications is a principle organizations follow to connect with their targeted markets. Integrated marketing communications coordinates the elements of the promotional mix;advertising, personal selling, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, and sales promotion. In the traditional marketing communications model, the content, frequency, timing, and medium of communications by the organization is in collaboration with an external agent, i.e. advertising agencies, marketing research firms, and public relations firms. However, the growth of social media has impacted the way organizations communicate. With the emergence of Web 2.0, the internet provides a set of tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information and collaborate on projects online.
Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. A corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it is coming from a trusted source, as opposed to the brand or company itself.
Social media has become a platform that is easily accessible to anyone with internet access, opening doors for organizations to increase their brand awareness and facilitate conversations with the customer. Additionally, social media serves as a relatively inexpensive platform for organizations to implement marketing campaigns. With emergence of services like Twitter, the barrier to entry in social media is greatly reduced. Report from company Sysomos shows that half of the users using Twitter are located outside US demonstrating the global significance of social media marketing. Organizations can receive direct feedback from their customers and targeted markets.
Social media marketing is considered as a powerful strategy of low-cost promotion through social media channels. Social media sites allow the sharing of opinions and customer experiences on companies, products and services. Social media websites are usually not moderated or censored and customers can critically assess products, companies and services in a positive or negative way.
Online social media involves:
Sharing: Anything can be promoted to everyone (example: DIGG)
Networking: Anyone can connect with everyone from anywhere (example: Facebook)
Publishing: Everyone can publish anything for everyone (example: Twitter)
Social media marketing which is known as SMO Social Media Optimization benefits organizations and individuals by providing an additional channel for customer support, a means to gain customer and competitive insight, and a method of managing their reputation online. Key factors that ensure its success are its relevance to the customer, the value it provides them with and the strength of the foundation on which it is built. A strong foundation serves as a stand or platform in which the organization can centralize its information and direct customers on its recent developments via other social media channels, such as article and press release publications.
The most popular platforms include:
Benefits of online social Media
The audience is in control
It is a two-way communication
The message to be delivered can be adapted and designed so as to appeal to the target audience
The focus is on the audience and its experience rather than on the brand
It is a powerful way of influencing and getting the audience to be involved
The user can participates in the co-creation
Several companies are now providing specialized tools and platform for social media marketing. Popular tools include:
Shoutlet - Social media marketing platform
Sysomos - Social media monitoring and analytics provider
Hubspot - Inbound social media marketing