Internet Technology, Marketing and Security
New communication technologies provide an environment for businesses and individuals to participate and discuss various aspects, and share their ideas, thoughts as well as inventions. This virtual space comes in the form of the social media, which is basically a user-based platform that has been instrumental in attracting crowds and bringing people together and also heightening their interaction with one another (Vural & Bat, 2010). Such interactions have translated into good and profitable opportunities for businesses and individuals in as far as advertising and marketing is concerned. Currently, there exists a blurred boundary between the real world and the virtual space. Social media has also enabled many people to develop new friendships, share opinions with other people, whether political or social, and also arrive at important decisions including marrying someone that you met in this virtual world. The use of social media has also gained significant popularity, particularly among the youths, and has actually by far surpassed the usage value of any other traditional media.
The fact that social media is not just attractive but fast as well, has facilitated the access to many people at a relatively low cost and within no time. Millions of people, especially the youth, now spend most of their time in the virtual world and spare less time for watching television or listening to the radio. A survey on consumer digital media and entertainment habits conducted by IBM in 2007 revealed that 60% of the study participants reported to watch television for four hours daily. Similarly, this percentage was matched by study participants who reported to spending four hours on the Internet every day (Barefoot & Szabo, 2010).
Furthermore, social media usage has also been promoted by the demerits that are inherent in offline advertising. As a matter of fact, measuring the cost effectiveness of offline advertising has not only been difficult but is always costly. In the social media marketing, however, there are powerful web analytic programs capable of cracking the numbers and assessing the success of all the social media marketing frameworks. Barefoot and Szabo (2010) argue that the evaluation of the effectiveness of social media marketing campaigns is affiliated to science and in practice, social media marketing is highly important for the enterprises that desire to connect with their target markets. It gives room for companies to interact with both the existent and potential clients.
Most of the surveys conducted regarding social media marketing as a field reiterate the fact that a large number of people spend a lot of their time online and they actually prefer to operate in the virtual world that the social media avails. Over a billion people engage in social media, making this an unmatched platform where companies can generate leads, create new business connections and direct their sales (Singh, Becker, & Williams, 2010). It comes as no surprise therefore that in some sectors social media marketing platform is rapidly replacing the traditional marketing technologies, strategies and techniques. On the other hand, this platform has been able to complement conventional web-based marketing technologies like the email newsletter campaigns and online advertising. All in all, social media marketing has gained the preferential choice for many enterprises, and it continues to gain worldwide popularity.
The fact that businesses worldwide have embraced the use of social media marketing by has been accompanied by its fair share of advantages and disadvantages.
In social media marketing messages can be conveyed rapidly, and as such entrepreneurs find this avenue quite useful when conducting cost-effective campaigns and strategies aimed at generating viral results. Social media provides a superior quality of interaction since it allows the enterprises to communicate directly with their clients, an aspect that is not possible on a generic website. The professionally crafted social media web pages further permit the entrepreneurs to directly view the likes and dislikes of the clients with regard to their product or service, as well as offer responses to any inquiries and comments made by the clients. The fact that this interaction is effective, easy, and fast makes it more popular
In addition, social media has also unearthed the unmatched capability and techniques of directing and guiding users as well as channeling traffic to a particular website, product, blog among others. This consequently makes it the best means through which entrepreneurs can drive traffic to their business websites or gain new fan bases for their business fan page. The powerful targeting features of social media make it highly effective, because a business can tailor it advertisements to particularly target those who view them based on their location, gender, age, and, most importantly, special interests.
What is more, social media is an important platform that can be used in bringing large groups of people together. This is especially vital when conducting marketing for global brands or when undertaking cause-related campaigns, because it allows the people from different geographical divides to convene to a particular location and offer their views. Social media can also equally influence users through word of mouth advertising because many users tend to spread the word about what they like and inform their friends and family members concerning a particular product or a service. In case such friends and family members like the product or service, there is a high chance that they will in turn inform other people and in the long run many people will follow the enterprise’s product or service and like the page. This helps the business to amass more popularity among consumers and build a bigger client base (Saravanakumar & Suganthalakshmi, 2012). Furthermore, social media presence is quite essential in building long-term relationships with clients and attracting potential clients and any enterprise that lacks a social media presence loses a huge part of its competitive edge.
Moreover, one of the key advantages of social media marketing is how it can use pre-launch offers to attract potential and existing clients. By displaying their pre-launch product offers online, business can be able to test its merchandise before releasing it to the market and also use this an optimal method for obtaining honest and true feedback from customers. Just before the release of a product into the market, the company can display it on their social media page, allowing users to view it from all over the world. The effectiveness of reaching the target audience through this strategy is unmatched, and consequently the company can employ various options to incorporate eye-catching logos, videos, images and brochures to quickly capture the attention of their target audience.
In terms of disadvantages, a wrong social media strategy can easily place the business at a viral social disadvantage, causing irreversible damage on the reputation of the entrepreneur and the business at large. For example, if a business makes a mistake in the virtual environment and in front of a million audience who are online, not only will their audience know about the mistake, but will also spread it such that even those who were not online become aware of the mishap.
Furthermore, in most cases companies are compelled to track down users of social media in order to find out which specific group to target and the probable impacts of their marketing strategies. In order for a business to gain from social media, it must fully comprehend the manner in which it works, the methods and timings involved in utilization of the social media platform, as well as be aware of the particular channels to target based on the target audience and the objectives of the company. All these aspects require time to decipher and even though many businesses and entrepreneurs are unaware of this, using social media for marketing can consume a lot of time. These aspects also bring in a much complex structure in social media marketing in comparison to the conventional media marketing.
In conclusion, there are many legal challenges that enterprises are likely to face when using social media marketing. For instance, companies that market their products or services through the social media are considered to be limited purpose online publishers and as such are susceptible to face many liability challenges that are linked to infringement of the intellectual property rights of third parties and sometimes, defamation of third parties. This challenge is further exacerbated by the fact that these enterprises can even be held responsible and charged over information that third parties such as their clients publish (Lockwood, 2011). Of importance also is the fact that customer information can easily be compromised through social media marketing and individual customers whose privacy is infringed can engage the companies in costly legal battles (Aquino, 2012).
Due to its rich interaction with clients and provision of highly important insights, the strategy of social media marketing strategy has earned extremely high profits for many companies. A company like PepsiCo has gained remarkable profits from this strategy especially considering that it took a step further and fostered deeper collaborations with its client base through social media. As one of the pioneer companies to adopt the use of social media in marketing, Pepsi raised the bar for soft drink brands in 2010 when it launched the global optimism project. Through the social media, the company got involved in notable campaigns such as the DEWmocracy campaign, which was an initiative that paved way for the launch of the Mountain Dew flavor and aimed at getting the members of the public to participate fully across all levels of the product process. In 2012, launched its Pepsi Refresh Project and instead of placing emphasis on television advertisements, it splurged a whopping $20 million on its social media campaigns. The two campaigns were a clear representation of part of the strategy that Pepsi has prioritized in its crowd sourcing pursuits which are expected to closely integrate the consumers and clients of Pepsi with its brand. In addition, Pepsi also shifted its focus to driving the client interests and engaging the public, hence restructuring every aspect of its operations including product development and marketing alongside its entire portfolio (Betancourt, 2010). Through successful utilization of social media networks, Pepsi has managed to develop new flavors of its Mountain Dew drink. The sales of more than 36 million cases of such new flavors between 2008 and 2012 are largely attributed to the company’s social media marketing strategy (Betancourt, 2010). This is evidence that the company has gained extremely important insights from its clients through usage of social media platforms.
In this section, we analyze how giant companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola have successfully utilized social media marketing to their advantage.
In a 2011 interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Coca-Cola, Muhtar Kent, he highlighted the growth of the social media marketing component in the company’s advertising budget from 3% in 2005 to 20% in 2011 (Harvard Business Review, 2011). The appeal to broaden a prospective client base and also engage with clients was too huge for Coca-Cola to overlook and as such it is expected that social media will continue to be an integral aspect of the company’s marketing strategy, not just today, but in the future as well (Harvard Business Review, 2011).
As a leader in marketing strategies across diverse channels, Coca-Cola has recently been seen to increase its preferences towards the Internet-based channels. Even though TV as a marketing channel has continued to retain its value, it is way too expensive and limited in its capacity to enhance the accessibility and general repute of a brand in comparison to the social media marketing (Ryan & Jones, 2009). The fact that 20% of Coca-Cola’s $2.9 billion plus total advertising budget is reserved for social media marketing is a clear indication of the seriousness with which the company treats this channel. This intensive use of social media marketing across diverse platforms has already yielded significant results for Coca-Cola and this is evident in their strong presence on pages such as Facebook which with more than 34 million likes has strongly enhanced the appeal of the company’s products, and helped it to connect more withe clients especially those from the younger generation. There is a definite likelihood that social media will continue to shape the future of Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy especially with the company’s ambition of doubling the sales revenues in the next decade (Harvard Business Review, 2011).
Like Coca Cola, Nike has also embraced the use of social media but this is not just limited to the marketing of its products; instead the company has extended its social media use to carrying out communication with its clients through its full site of major social media channels. Most of the footwear products designed by Nike have become must-have items in pop culture and their popular brands such as Air Force One, Dunks, and Air Jordan have such a huge fan base that when new posts are made on social media platforms regarding the release of new products is met by hundreds of loyal customers visiting the nearest outlets to get these products. This is the reason behind the use of social media outlets to company broadcasts news of new releases mainly via the social media outlets.
Nike demonstrated their quest to secure a fresh online presence in the United States, when it rolled out Twitter RSVP to help the company to manage the launch of new products in each of their brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. The company made their offers even more attractive for clients by some rewarding clients who responded within an hour following the tweet with a footwear on the basis of “first respond, first serve”. The selected clients who qualified for the rewards were to pick up these rewards during the launch of the new footwear in respective stores provided they gave identity proof. In addition, Nike equally uses social media to collect the responses of their audience with regards to different issues that affect its products and is why it has made huge investments in various social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, and its own social network Nike Plus (Cashman, 2013). The company has enhanced both product quality and customer experience by accepting both the positive and negative feedback received via the social media platform. Apart from that, the company has been able to engage insiders, brand enthusiasts, and advocates through this platform and all these activities combined have played an instrumental role in building brand loyalty and boosting sales for Nike (Cashman, 2013).
Today’s trend reveal that within the coming decade traditional marketing and advertising techniques are likely to be phased out by the social media strategies. The way of life and performance of daily tasks has greatly evolved with technological advancement. As internet use advances across the globe it is more likely to have features such as high bandwidth cloud computing, powerful web analytics and mobile services and these aspects are likely to transform businesses for the better. It is predicted that the society will have the capacity to generate data at an unprecedented rate in the future hence giving companies the opportunity to harness power through these huge data and this will be a critical factor in determining global competitiveness. Relationships and communities at large will be greatly transformed by the wide presence of socially connected services and instruments across the globe which will ultimately compel the businesses and individuals to embrace new techniques of conducting their activities and operations. Customers will consistently seek social network contacts and bloggers for information before making purchase decisions hence their roles in the markets will remain highly relevant. On the other hand, companies will have no choice but to employ numerous interconnected tactics to reach out to new customers, many of whom access social media platform.
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Barefoot, D. and Szabo, J. (2010). Friends with benefits. San Francisco, Calif.: No Starch Press.
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Harvard Business Review (2011). Shaking Things Up at Coca-Cola. Retrieved on 25 November 2013 from: <http://hbr.org/2011/10/shaking-things-up-at-coca-cola/ar/1>.
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