Business organizations today use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to market their products and services. The social platforms may enable businesses to have closer interactions with their customers. These kinds of interactions create trust and confidence between the clients and the organizations.
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The consumers may become willing to purchase the products or services that are advertised by the organizations hence improving the businesses’ marketing performance (Rosen, 2000). The improved marketing performance translates to significant income for the business. Several businesses including the PepsiCo have employed social media marketing. This fact has enabled the businesses to increase their numbers of customers.
The objective of social media marketing is to attract social media users. Social media enables organizations to inform their clients about their products and services. It provides opportunities for users to share information about the products and services of given organizations with other potential clients who may not normally access it. The continued advancements in technology have brought about positive business prospects for social media and marketing.
The evolution of the internet and the subsequent invention of the World Wide Web have revolutionized social media marketing and “overshadowed” traditional forms of marketing. Technological forms of marketing have gained more popularity than television, radio and print advertisements. Social media platforms have not only transformed the marketing of products and services by companies but they have also enhanced the communication of business organizations with their customers.
These platforms have enabled the users to share pictures, ideas and videos across the globe at anytime. Facebook enables individuals to open accounts in which they can create “profiles” and describe themselves. These accounts can be used for the sharing of ideas or in the expression of opinions by the users. The sharing of information can be made possible through other features within Facebook where users can “update their statuses”.
Users can use Facebook to share pictures and videos by uploading them through the internet to their accounts hence allowing other users in their social networks to view them. Options for “share” and “like” can be provided by the social sites under which statuses, pictures and videos can be interlinked. The easy access to the internet can increase the use of the social networks. Subsequently, the access can enhance the sharing of information among the users of the social media.
Organizations can be compelled to develop innovative and unique marketing initiatives that can attract the attention of the social media users. Consumers usually consult with one another before purchasing anything. They value the opinions of their fellow users more than that of the businesses themselves. The transfer of information orally from one user to another is referred to as the “word-of-mouth” communication.
Social media marketing utilizes concepts like social media optimization. The optimization functions in a similar way to “search engines” by attracting users to websites. Customers who look for products and services in the social media can see the organizations’ names in the search “results” which have links to the websites. Organizations that may be viewed more by many users may naturally become popular with the users.
The competitiveness of the organizations can persuade the consumers to perceive the organizations’ products and services as being of high quality. This positive perception may encourage bigger purchases and use of the organizations’ products and services by the customers.
The purpose of the study
This study focuses on evaluating the merits and demerits of social media as a marketing tool for organizations. It explores the reasons why social media has become popular among businesses. The study explores the value of social media in helping the Pepsi Company to gain more customers. The study evaluates other businesses that have successfully used social media marketing. Finally, the paper examines the viability of social media in transforming business practices over the next decade.
The reasons why social media marketing is popular among businesses
The popularity of social media marketing can compel companies to increase their expenditure on advertisements through social platforms. The numerous social media platforms can provide a wide range of options for businesses. The decision of which social media site to use for a given organization is usually determined by the specific organization’s “target group”.
When an organization identifies its potential customers, it can then enlist the number of social websites that its customers prefer using. A site like LinkedIn is mostly used by professionals and companies that create “profiles” providing their professional skills and the nature of their organizations. This fact provides the organizations with the opportunities of interacting with other professionals hence forming networks.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter have over half a billion and 200 million diverse subscribers respectively. They range from elementary school pupils to professionals, celebrities and even politicians. The exploitation of social media as a marketing tool enables businesses to not only gain access to their consumers but also to their competitors’ clients. Social media gives the consumers a wide range of choice of products or services to choose from depending on the marketing strategies of various organizations.
Marketers need to be aware of the fact that their marketing strategies may also be based on the opinions of other social media sites’ users. Social media marketing can be popular because of its entertaining nature. The users manage to share information about one another. A company may be able to learn a lot about the consumers including their socio-economic aspects. A company may also be able to assess the preferred aspects of its products and services by consumers.
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A company may derive information from social media which may be helpful in the improvement of its weak areas. The interaction of companies and their clients through social media provides an opportunity for the customers to gain access to information about the companies’ products and services. Businesses use blogs to disseminate information about their products and services. Consumers can access these sites and others with ease provided they can gain access to the internet.
The regular sharing of information creates awareness of the products and services including where they can be purchased and their prices. The analysis of the business trends and queries may enable businesses to determine the marketing indicators. These indicators may help companies to identify specific markets. The individualized interaction between the company and the client may transform the customer’s paradigm from that of a passive “viewer” to an active “participant”.
The customers may change from being the audience to the “advertisers” by sharing their thoughts on the products and services with other customers. Promotional deals can be used as incentives of encouraging users to share information within their social networks. A restaurant can offer a meal voucher to a client who expresses the most “likes” for the business on Facebook.
The restaurant can use the opportunity to review the feedback of the client through Facebook when the client visits the restaurant. A positive review or feedback by the specific client may also be viewed by other potential clients of the restaurant. This aspect may then promote the restaurant making it popular with clients. Various users can provide “links” to the restaurant’s website in their reviews thus making it easy for other users to access it. This aspect is called social media optimization.
The merits and demerits of the use of social media as a marketing tool
Social media has changed the way businesses are run in the modern day world. Businesses that would have otherwise been exposed to a small audience can benefit from the use of social media marketing. As opposed to traditional marketing practices like television commercials, social media marketing can be cheaper and faster. Marketers usually pay every time their advertisements are “aired” on television.
Advertisements that are done through the internet only incur costs during the initial stages of designing the website. Businesses can address customers’ concerns during the interactions. Many companies assign employees the responsibility of managing their websites on a full time basis. This fact is referred to as social “relationship” management. The immediate feedback offers an opportunity for the business to enhance its customers’ service performance.
The millions of social media users and their infinite networks increase the number of potential customers for organizations (Godin & Sakamoto, 2007). Social media does not put limitations on information sharing by users. Users only access information in the social media when they “join” the sites. Social media marketing reduces an organization’s expenditure on research and design.
The cost cutting is achieved through the consumers’ participation during the innovation procedure. A business can assess the marketing developments through the monitoring of trends in the social sites. The monitoring offers insights to businesses on the likely dynamics of the market environment. The use of social media platforms as marketing tools has various demerits. The increased use of social sites poses risks to the privacy of organizations (Conrad & Jeannie, 2007).
Businesses must regulate the amount and type of information disseminated to the public through the websites. Organizations should only provide accurate and reliable information in their blogs. The law may hold a given business organization accountable for falsehoods and inaccurate information provided by the organization to its clients through social media. The law treats online information posted by companies as an “endorsement” of their corporate images and responsibilities.
Due to the “viral” aspect of social media, negative information can spread fast to millions of users hence “besmirching” the image of a given company in a short time (Hedon, 2006). This aspect can be worsened by the fact that online information is usually accessed by the public.
Companies and their public relations departments should formulate strategies that may help them cope with any eventualities especially those that may be linked to corporate social responsibility. An organization should maintain the commitment of managing its website and interacting with consumers. A given company should address the concerns of its clients in a timely manner to avoid situations where the clients may be forced to think that the company ignores their queries.
How social media marketing can help the Pepsi Company gain more customers
The Pepsi Company invested $20 million of its money from the marketing budget in a project called “The Pepsi Refresh Project” launched in 2010. The project was aimed at improving the community by awarding grants to individuals who developed creative ideas that improved the well being of the society and simultaneously marketed the Pepsi brand.
The Pepsi Company used social media in carrying out this project by creating a website in which the participants would “post” their ideas. The company reviewed the first 1000 proposals every month which were then used in the competition. The popularity of social media platforms manifested itself in the first month of the Pepsi project.1000 proposals were posted by the contestants in the first week of the competition.
The Pepsi Company was the first business organization to accommodate social media, advertising and corporate social responsibility. Social media users “voted” for the ideas that they liked most through the company’s website and the ideas that earned the most votes “won” prizes. The Pepsi brand was promoted in the process. The company wanted to project a positive image of itself by showing that it had the best intentions for the community.
It also learnt a lot about its “target market” from the proposed ideas by evaluating what the consumers were concerned about. The Pepsi Company spent minimal funds in advertising its brand because the sharing of information about the project promoted the company. The company was able to reach out to millions of people worldwide which would have otherwise been difficult and costly. The project was successful because the company exploited the use of social sites like YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.
The Pepsi Company was able to receive immediate feedback about the project and its products from its clients. The project helped the company to avert a situation in which the Pepsi Company would have waited for weeks for the submission of applications and an even longer time to shortlist them. After the selection, the company would have been compelled to communicate the results to the public. The public would have waited for the company to select the best applicants and see which of them had earned the most votes.
Businesses that have successfully used social media marketing
Certain companies have been embracing the use of social media marketing to advertise their products and services. The Ford Company awards its customers for sharing their “auto experiences” with other clients. The company expects its social network users to share their experiences on the use of automobiles. The Ford Company then publishes the stories on the website created by Ford’s “FiestaMovement.com”.
These experiences are usually aimed at influencing people’s perception of the cars sold by the Ford Company. The money spent on “advertising” Ford’s cars is may be less than what the company may spend if it uses normal channels of advertising like television and print advertisements. Zappos is an online-based retail store that deals with fashion. The company has a Facebook page entitled “Let’s be in a like-like relationship”. Once “a new visitor” accesses the Facebook page, he/she is usually requested to “like” the page.
He is then asked to submit his e-mail address to enable the company to maintain regular communication with him. The user can only submit his e-mail address upon “liking” the page. This aspect ensures that “a relationship” is created between the user and the company. The page is designed in a way than one cannot access its content without first “liking” the page and becoming its “fan”.
The content includes incentives like special offers for fans. Fans can post their products’ reviews on the company’s website which can be accessed through a link available on the Facebook page. The review can be automatically “updated” on their Facebook profiles allowing all their “friends” to read it. Zappos holds weekly contests called “Fan of the week”, where the fans can upload their pictures and “vote” for the best fan. The winner’s picture is usually posted on the company’s “wall”.
The impact that social media is likely to make on businesses over the next decade
The use of social media may continue to be realized over the next decade. Companies may continue to enjoy its benefits in the marketing of their products and services (Boone & Kurtz, 2012). It may continue to be employed as a communication tool among companies, stakeholders and clients and may not be limited to marketing alone. Changes in social technologies may take place in the next decade.
The changes may pose challenges to the use of social media and hence companies should adjust their approaches to cope with new technological developments. The developers of social media strategies are bound to play an important role in marketing. Companies may in future need to create “executive” positions for social media administrators. The strategists may need to learn new skills in order to address the effects of social technologies on organizations and enhance their use of new applications.
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Conrad, J., & Jeannie, L. (2007). Guerilla Marketing: Easy & inexpensive strategies for making big profits from your small business. Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin.
Godin, S., & Sakamoto, K. (2007). Permission marketing: Turning strangers into friends & friends into customers. New York, USA: Simon & Schuster.
Hedon, D.W. (2006). Classic failures on product marketing: Marketing principles violations &how to avoid them. New York, USA: Quorum Books.
Rosen, E. (2000). The Anatomy of Buzz: How to create word of mouth marketing. New York, USA: Crown Business.