Social media marketing

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Social media marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.[1]

Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it across their social networks. The resulting electronic word of mouth (eWoM) refers to any statement consumers share via the Internet (e.g., web sites, social networks, instant messages, news feeds) about an event, product, service, brand or company.[2] When the underlying message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself,[3] this form of marketing results in earned media rather than paid media.[4]

Social media platforms[edit]

Social networking websites[edit]

Social networking websites allow individuals to interact with one another and build relationships. When companies join these social channels, consumers can interact with them and they can communicate with consumers directly. That interaction feels more personal to users than traditional methods of strictly outbound marketing & advertising.[5]

Social networking sites and blogs allow followers to “retweet” or “repost” comments made by others about a product being promoted. By repeating the message, all of the users connections are able to see the message, therefore reaching more people. Social networking sites act as word of mouth. Because the information about the product is being put out there and is getting repeated, more traffic is brought to the product/company.[5]

Through social networking sites, companies can interact with individual followers. This personal interaction can instill a feeling of loyalty into followers and potential customers. Also, by choosing whom to follow on these sites, products can reach a very narrow target audience.[5]

Social networking sites also include a vast amount of information about what products and services prospective clients might be interested in. Through the use of new Semantic Analysis technologies, marketers can detect buying signals, such as content shared by people and questions posted online. Understanding of buying signals can help sales people target relevant prospects and marketers run micro-targeted campaigns.

In order to integrate Social Networks within their marketing strategies, companies have to develop a marketing model. The marketing model is essential to any successful marketing. It offers companies a wealth of information that - if correctly applied - can ensure the company success. In [6] a marketing model (SNeM2S) based on Social Networks is provided. The model includes the following steps: • selection of potential Social Networks to use; • definition of a financial plan; • definition of organisational structures to manage the Social Network in the market; • selection of target; • promotion of products and services; • performance measures

Mobile phones[edit]

Mobile phone usage has also become beneficial for social media marketing. Today, most cell phones have social networking capabilities: individuals are notified of any happenings on social networking sites through their cell phones, in real-time. This constant connection to social networking sites means products and companies can constantly remind and update followers about their capabilities, uses, importance, etc. Because cell phones are connected to social networking sites, advertisements are always in sight. Also many companies are now putting QR codes along with products for individuals to access the company website or online services with their smart-phones.


In the context of the social web, engagement means that customers and stakeholders are participants rather than viewers. Social media in business allows anyone and everyone to express and share an opinion or an idea somewhere along the business’s path to market. Each participating customer becomes part of the marketing department, as other customers read their comments or reviews. The engagement process is then fundamental to successful social media marketing.[7]


Betty White[edit]

Social networking sites can have a large impact on the outcome of events. In 2010, a Facebook campaign surfaced in the form of a petition. Users virtually signed a petition asking NBC Universal to have actress Betty White host Saturday Night Live.[8][9] Once signed, users forwarded the petition to all of their followers. The petition went viral and on May 8, 2010, Betty White hosted SNL.[10]

2008 US presidential election[edit]

The 2008 US presidential campaign had a huge presence on social networking sites. Barack Obama, a Democratic candidate for US President, used Twitter and Facebook to differentiate his campaign. His social networking profile pages were constantly being updated and interacting with followers. The use of social networking sites gave Barack Obama’s campaign access to e-mail addresses, as posted on social network profile pages. This allowed the Democratic Party to launch e-mail campaigns asking for votes and campaign donations.

Local businesses[edit]

Small businesses also use social networking sites as a promotional technique. Businesses can follow individuals social networking site uses in the local area and advertise specials and deals. These can be exclusive and in the form of “get a free drink with a copy of this tweet”. This type of message encourages other locals to follow the business on the sites in order to obtain the promotional deal. In the process, the business is getting seen and promoting itself (brand visibility).

Kony 2012[edit]

A short film released on March 5, 2012, by humanitarian group Invisible Children, Inc. This 29 minute video aimed at making Joseph Kony, an International Criminal Court fugitive, famous worldwide in order to have support for his arrest by December 2012; the time when the campaign ends.[11] The video went viral within the first six days after its launch, reaching 100 million views on both YouTube and Vimeo.[12] According to research done by Visible Measures, the Kony 2012 short film became the fastest growing video campaign, and most viral video, to reach 100 million views in 6 days followed by Susan Boyle performance on Britain’s Got Talent that reached 70 million views in 6 days.[13][14]

Nike #MakeItCount[edit]

In early 2012, Nike introduced its Make It Count social media campaign. The campaign kickoff began YouTubers Casey Neistat and Max Joseph launching a YouTube video, where they traveled 34,000 miles to visit 16 cities in 13 countries. They promoted the #makeitcount hashtag, which millions of consumers shared via Twitter and Instagram by uploading photos and sending tweets.[15] The #MakeItCount YouTube video went viral and Nike saw an 18% increase in profit in 2012, the year this product was released.

San Francisco Bat Kid[edit]

In November 2013, a campaign planned and directed by the Make-A-Wish Foundation was released on behalf of a young boy fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The campaign sought to help the boy realize his dream of becoming a superhero. During the campaign, the hashtag#SFBatKid was used to spread information about the situation, and people from not only the San Francisco area, but around the world, chimed in on the campaign from their social media accounts. Thousands of people in San Francisco participated in the actual event, cheering on the young hero as he completed his mock campaign. This campaign showed how social media can be used to efficiently rally thousands of people around a cause.[16]

Purposes and Tactics of Social Media Marketing[edit]

One of the main purposes in employing Social Media in marketing is as a communications tool that makes the companies accessible to those interested in their product and make them visible to those who have no knowledge of their products.[17] These companies use social media to create buzz, learn from and target customers. It's the only form of marketing that can finger consumers at each and every stage of the consumer decision journey.[18] Marketing through social media has other benefits as well. Of the top 10 factors that correlate with a strong Google organic search, seven are social media dependent. This means that if brands are less or non active on social media, they tend to show up less on Google searches.[19] While platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ have a larger amount of monthly users, The visual media sharing based mobile platforms however, garner a higher interaction rate in comparison and have registered the fastest growth and have changed the ways in which consumers engage with brand content. Instagram has an interaction rate of 1.46% with an average of 130 million users monthly as opposed to Twitter which has a .03% interaction rate with an average of 210 million monthly users.[19] Unlike traditional media that are often cost-prohibitive to many companies, a social media strategy does not require astronomical budgeting.[20] To this end, companies make use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram in order to reach audiences much wider than through the use of traditional print/TV/radio advertisements alone at a fraction of the cost, as most social networking sites can be used at no cost. This has changed the ways that companies approach interact with customers, as a substantial percentage of consumer interactions are now being carried out over online platforms with much higher visibility. Customers can now post reviews of products and services, rate customer service and ask questions or voice concerns directly to companies through social media platforms. Thus social media marketing is also used by businesses in order to build relationships of trust with consumers.[21] To this aim, companies may also hire personnel to specifically handle these social media interactions, who usually report under the title of Online community managers. Handling these interactions in a satisfactory manner can result in an increase of consumer trust. To both this aim and to fix the public's perception of a company, 3 steps are taken in order to address consumer concerns, identifying the extent of the social chatter, engaging the influencers to help, and developing a proportional response.[22]


Twitter allows companies to promote their products in short messages limited to 140 characters which appear on followers’ home pages. Messages can link to the product’s website, Facebook profile, photos, videos, etc.[23]


Facebook pages are far more detailed than Twitter accounts. They allow a product to provide videos, photos, and longer descriptions, and testimonials as other followers can comment on the product pages for others to see. Facebook can link back to the product’s Twitter page as well as send out event reminders.

A study from 2011 attributed 84% of "engagement" or clicks to Likes that link back to Facebook advertising.[24]

Decline in organic reach[edit]

In 2014, Social@Ogilvy, a division of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, published a white paper titled "Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach,"[25] analyzing Facebook's widely observed[26][27][28][29][30][31][32] restriction of content published from businesses' and brands' Pages. The "Zero" refers to the projected percentage of any given Page's followers who are able to see posts from that Page in their personal News Feeds. The paper's author observes that adjustments in Facebook algorithms have reduced organic reach for non-paying business pages (that have at least 500,000 "Likes") from 16 percent in 2012 down to 2 percent in February 2014.


Google+, in addition to providing pages and some features of Facebook, is also able to integrate with the Google search engine. Other Google products are also integrated, such as Google Adwords and Google Maps. With the development of Google Personalized Search and other location-based search services, Google+ allows for targeted advertising methods, navigation services, and other forms of location-based marketing and promotion. Google+ can also be beneficial for other digital marketing campaigns, as well as social media marketing. Google+ authorship was known to have a significant benefit on a website's search engine optimisation, before the relationship was removed by Google. Google+ is one of the fastest growing social media networks and can benefit almost any business.


LinkedIn, a professional business-related networking site, allows companies to create professional profiles for themselves as well as their business to network and meet others.[33] Through the use of widgets, members can promote their various social networking activities, such as Twitter stream or blog entries of their product pages, onto their LinkedIn profile page.[34] LinkedIn provides its members the opportunity to generate sales leads and business partners.[35] Members can use “Company Pages” similar to Facebook pages to create an area that will allow business owners to promote their products or services and be able to interact with their customers.[36][37] Due to spread of spam mail sent to job seeker, leading companies prefer to use LinkedIn for employee's recruitment instead using different job portals. Additionally, companies have voiced a preference for the amount of information that can be gleaned from LinkedIn profile, versus a limited email.[38]


Yelp consists of a comprehensive online index of business profiles. Businesses are searchable by location, similar to Yellow Pages. The website is operational in seven different countries, including the United States and Canada. Business account holders are allowed to create, share, and edit business profiles. They may post information such as the business location, contact information, pictures, and service information. The website further allows individuals to write, post reviews about businesses and rate them on a five-point scale. Messaging and talk features are further made available for general members of the website, serving to guide thoughts and opinions.[39]


Foursquare is a location based social networking website, where users can check into locations via a Swarm app on their smartphones. Foursquare allows businesses to create a page or create a new/claim an existing venue.[40] A good marketing strategy for businesses to increase foot traffic or retain loyal customers includes offering incentives such as discounts or free food/beverages for people checking into their location.[41]


In May 2014, Instagram had over 200 million users. The user engagement rate of Instagram was 15 times higher than of Facebook and 25 times higher than that of Twitter.[42] According to Scott Galloway, the founder of L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, latest studies estimate that 93 percent of prestige brands have an active presence on Instagram and include it in their marketing mix.[43] When it comes to brands and businesses, Instagram's goal is to help companies to reach their respective audiences through captivating imagery in a rich, visual environment.[44] Moreover, Instagram provides a platform where user and company can communicate publicly and directly, making itself an ideal platform for companies to connect with their current and potential customers.[45]

Many brands are now heavily using this mobile app to boost their visual marketing strategy. Instagram can be used to gain the necessary momentum needed to capture the attention of the market segment that has an interest in the product offering or services.[46] As Instagram is supported by Apple and android system, it can be easily accessed by smart phone users. Moreover, it can be accessed by Internet as well. Thus, the marketers see it as a potential platform to expand their brands exposure to the public, especially the younger target group. On top of this, marketers do not only use social media for traditional Internet advertising, but they also encourage users to create attention for a certain brand. This generally create an opportunity for greater brand exposure.[47] Furthermore, marketers are also using the platform to drive social shopping and inspire people to collect and share pictures of their favorite products. Many big names have already jumped on board: Starbucks, MTV, Nike, Marc Jacobs, Red Bull are a few examples of multinationals that adopted the mobile photo app early.

Instagram has proven itself a powerful platform for marketers to reach their customers and prospects through sharing pictures and brief messages. According to a study by Simply Measured, 71 percent of the world’s largest brands are now using Instagram as a marketing channel.[48] For companies, Instagram can be used as a tool to connect and communicate with current and potential customers. The company can present a more personal picture of their brand, and by doing so the company conveys a better and true picture of itself. The idea of Instagram pictures lies on on-the-go, a sense that the event is happening right now, and that adds another layer to the personal and accurate picture of the company. Another option Instagram provides the opportunity for companies to reflect a true picture of the brand through the perspective of the customers, for instance, using the user-generated contents thought the hashtags encouragement.[49] Other than the filters and hashtags functions, the Instagram’s 15-second videos and the recently added ability to send private messages between users have opened new opportunities for brands to connect with customers in a new extent, further promoting effective marketing on Instagram.


YouTube is another popular avenue; advertisements are done in a way to suit the target audience. The type of language used in the commercials and the ideas used to promote the product reflect the audience's style and taste.

Also, the ads on this platform are usually in sync with the content of the video requested, this is another advantage YouTube brings for advertisers. Certain ads are presented with certain videos since the content is relevant. Promotional opportunities such as sponsoring a video is also possible on YouTube, "for example, a user who searches for a YouTube video on dog training may be presented with a sponsored video from a dog toy company in results along with other videos."[50] YouTube also enable publishers to earn money through its YouTube Partner Program.

Delicious, Digg and Reddit[edit]

Delicious, Digg and Redditslashdot are popular social bookmarking sites used in social media promotion. They are heavily used by the social media marketers to promote their websites due to their ability to share links.


Platforms like LinkedIn create an environment for companies and clients to connect online.[51] Companies that recognize the need for information, originality, and accessibility employ blogs to make their products popular and unique, and ultimately reach out to consumers who are privy to social media.[52]

Blogs allow a product or company to provide longer descriptions of products or services, can include testimonials and can link to and from other social network and blog pages. Blogs can be updated frequently and are promotional techniques for keeping customers, and also for acquiring followers and subscribers who can then be directed to social network pages.

Online communities can enable a business to reach the clients of other businesses using the platform. To allow firms to measure their standing in the corporate world, sites like Glassdoor enable employees to place evaluations of their companies.[51] Some businesses opt out of integrating social media platforms into their traditional marketing regimen. There are also specific corporate standards that apply when interacting online.[51] To maintain an advantage in a business-consumer relationship, businesses have to be aware of four key assets that consumers maintain: information, involvement, community, and control.[53]


Tumblr first launched ad products on May 29, 2012.[54] Rather than relying on simple banner ads, Tumblr requires advertisers to create a Tumblr blog so the content of those blogs can be featured through the site.[55] In one year, four native ad formats were created on web and mobile, and had more than 100 brands advertising on Tumblr with 500 cumulative sponsored posts.

Ad Formats[56]

These posts can be one or more of the following: images, photo sets, animated GIFs, video, audio, and text posts. For the users to differentiate the promoted posts to the regular users’ posts, the promoted posts have a dollar symbol on the corner. On May 6, 2014 Tumblr announced customization and theming on mobile apps for brands to advertise.[57]

Advertising Campaign on Tumblr

Marketing techniques[edit]

Targeting, COBRAs, and eWOM[edit]

Social media marketing involves the use of social networks, COBRAs and eWOM to successfully advertise online. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter provide advertisers with information about the likes and dislikes of their consumers.[50] This technique is crucial, as it provides the businesses with a “target audience”.[50] With social networks, information relevant to the user’s likes is available to businesses; who then advertise accordingly.

Consumer’s online brand related activities (COBRAs) is another method used by advertisers to promote their products. Activities such as uploading a picture of your “new Converse sneakers to Facebook[60]” is an example of a COBRA.[60] Another technique for social media marketing is electronic word of mouth (eWOM).[60] Electronic recommendations and appraisals are a convenient manner to have a product promoted via “consumer-to-consumer interactions[60]”.[60] An example of eWOM would be an online hotel review;[61] the hotel company can have two possible outcomes based on their service. A good service would result in a positive review which gets the hotel free advertising via social media, however a poor service will result in a negative consumer review which can potentially harm the company's reputation.

Social media marketing tools[edit]

Besides research tools, various companies provide specialized platforms and tools for social media marketing:[62]

Implications on traditional advertising[edit]

Minimizing use[edit]

Traditional advertising techniques include print and television advertising. The Internet has already overtaken television as the largest advertising market.[63] Websites often include banner or pop-up ads. Social networking sites don’t always have ads. In exchange, products have entire pages and are able to interact with users. Television commercials often end with a spokesperson asking viewers to check out the product website for more information. Print ads are also starting to include QR codes on them. These QR codes can be scanned by cell phones and computers, sending viewers to the product website. Advertising is beginning to move viewers from the traditional outlets to the electronic ones.[citation needed]


Internet and social networking leaks are one of the issues facing traditional advertising. Video and print ads are often leaked to the world via the Internet earlier than they are scheduled to premiere. Social networking sites allow those leaks to go viral, and be seen by many users more quickly. Time difference is also a problem facing traditional advertisers. When social events occur and are broadcast on television, there is often a time delay between airings on the east coast and west coast of the United States. Social networking sites have become a hub of comment and interaction concerning the event. This allows individuals watching the event on the west coast (time-delayed) to know the outcome before it airs. The 2011 Grammy Awards highlighted this problem. Viewers on the west coast learned who won different awards based on comments made on social networking sites by individuals watching live on the east coast.[64] Since viewers knew who won already, many tuned out and ratings were lower. All the advertisement and promotion put into the event was lost because viewers didn’t have a reason to watch. [according to whom?]

Social media marketing mishaps[edit]

Social media marketing provides organizations with a way to connect with their customers. However, organizations must protect their information as well as closely watch comments and concerns on the social media they use. A flash poll done on 1225 IT executives from 33 countries revealed that social media mishaps caused organizations a combined $4.3 million in damages in 2010.[65] The top three social media incidents an organization faced during the previous year included employees sharing too much information in public forums, loss or exposure of confidential information, and increased exposure to litigation.[65] Due to the viral nature of the internet, a mistake by a single employee has in some cases shown to result in devastating consequences for organizations.

An example of a social media mishap includes designer Kenneth Cole's Twitter mishap in 2011. When Kenneth Cole tweeted, "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at [Kenneth Cole's website]".[66] This reference to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution drew objection from the public; it was widely objected to on the Internet.[66] Kenneth Cole realized his mistake shortly after and responded with a statement apologizing for the tweet.[67]

Numerous additional online marketing mishap examples exist. Examples include a YouTube video of a Domino's Pizza employee doing unspeakable things to pizza ingredients, which went viral on the internet.[65] A Twitter hashtag posted by McDonald's in 2012 attracting attention due to numerous complaints and negative events customers experienced at the chain store; and a 2011 tweet posted by a Chrysler Group employee that no one in Detroit knows how to drive.[68] When the Link REIT opened a Facebook page to recommend old-style restaurants, the page was flooded by furious comments criticising the REIT for having forced a lot of restaurants and stores to shut down; it had to terminate its campaign early amid further deterioration of its corporate image.[69]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]