Social Media as a Major Marketing Tool
Social media has become a major source of communication and entertainment for people around the world. Facebook is the biggest social media site with over 1.5 billion people having accounts. Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the next most popular sites.
For businesses, the popularity of social media has made it an attractive way for advertising and other types of promotion. This is especially true for smaller businesses as social media has the potential to reach their target customers at a relatively low cost.
Christopher Bunsey said he is using Facebook and Google+ to promote his company, Massage Green Spa in Rocky River. “We use Facebook because it is a widely accepted method of communication and used across generations. We are establishing the Google + account to appeal to the smartphone users under 40 demographic who want instant time and place utility.”
A major decision for small business owners is how to use social media to promote themselves. Shama Kabani, founder and CEO of one the country’s top social media companies, The Marketing Zen Group, says companies need to use these tools as mirrors of who they are as opposed to just trying to get people to buy from them.
Heather Fay and Emily Reitenbach, owners of The Style Loop in Rocky River, said the biggest advantage of using social media for them is the sheer number of people that can be reached at minimal or no cost. “Our business consists of only two people so the major disadvantage is the time it takes to keep up with daily posts and monitor three different social media platforms. It also takes time to gain enough followers to make it worthwhile.”
Bunsey said the advantages of social media include the ability to implement very specific and time-limited offers to clients that follow Massage Green Spa. He also uses it to educate consumers. “Using social media successfully starts with determining how the customer sees the company and its products. Then the company must create a message that matches the image the customers have of the organization. Customers need to "connect" with the company.”
Customers often use social media sites to comment on products offered by a company. For the company, it is important to respond to customer comments. However, 60% of major brands do not answer customers or prospects on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. Entrepreneurs who do respond can create a competitive advantage.
Occasionally, companies send out tweets or posts they later regret. A company must quickly realize a problem exists and attempt to fix it. Mistake need to be admitted, but it may take time to recover from such errors.
Do You "Like" It?
Social media providers are now offering tools to help businesses track customers and create customer loyalty. These tools provide incentives for customers to share their social media contacts in exchange for discounts on the firm’s products.
Do “Likes” on Facebook or “Followers” on Twitter lead to sales? How to measure social media effectiveness is a major challenge for small and big companies. Many smaller organizations barely have the time to manage their sites.
The Style Loop measures results by tracking Facebook likes and shares; Instagram follows, likes, and reposts; and Twitter follows and retweets. “Our website is fully integrated with these social media applications,” Fay and Reitenbach remarked.
“To have a constructive campaign on social media, a plan needs a clearly defined goal, a specific time period, and measurable components. The latter is the most difficult to ascertain because social media is not as definitive as direct mailing,” Bunsey said.
Dr. Perry Haan is Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and former Dean of the Business School at Tiffin University. He resides in Rocky River and can be reached at 419-618-2867 or email@example.com.