Social Media Marketing

Statista estimates that there are currently (in 2022) over 4.5 billion social media users worldwide.1  Whether you post to Instagram frequently or use Facebook Messenger to chat with your friends, the chances are you probably use some form of social media. The high levels of social media usage have led to the creation of various social media channels that marketers use to communicate with customers. Communicating with customers through social channels is known as social media marketing. However, there is much more to social media marketing than posting aesthetic pictures and chatting with your community. Read along to find out why!

Social Media Marketing Social Media Marketing

Create learning materials about Social Media Marketing with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Social Media Marketing Definition

    To create a comprehensive definition of social media marketing, let's first look at how social media has become widespread.

    The advancement of digital technologies has given rise to numerous social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Due to increased social media participation, marketers quickly noticed an opportunity to engage and communicate with consumers through these new channels.

    Social media marketing can be defined as the efforts a brand makes to communicate with its target audience through social media channels.

    Before diving deep into social media strategies, let's explore the different types of media organisations use to communicate with their target audience.

    The POEM framework (paid, owned, and earned media) is used to classify the different digital media platforms (see Figure 1 below).

    • Paid media is any media you pay to use and promote your product/brand. Paid advertisement is a form of paid media that ranges from digital display ads to billboards and sponsorships. The benefits of paid media include that the firm can easily control the ad's message and scale.

    • Owned media is any form of media that belongs to the organisation. The organisation has complete control over owned media. Owned media is vital as it can be used as a tool to build long-term relationships with customers. However, it can take a long time to do this successfully.

      A mobile app, a website, or a blog are examples of owned media.

    • Earned media - refers to any media on a third-party channel. The user (in this case, the company or brand) has to adhere to the platform's community guidelines. The benefits of earned media include its two-way communicative nature (e.g. direct communication and back-and-forth between consumer and brand); however, the company has little control over the audience's reaction.

      TikTok is a form of earned media. If TikTok deems posted content inappropriate, the company risks losing the account.

    Social media marketing Types of media platforms StudySmarterFigure 1. Types of Digital Media Platforms, StudySmarter Originals

    Types of Social Media Marketing

    There are various types of social media marketing. To understand them, let's first take a look at the different kinds of social media platforms.

    Social networks are what usually comes to mind when considering social media. They include platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. These channels work on content and interactions and thus depend significantly on the network effect.

    The basic idea of the network effect is that a platform's value depends on the number of users.

    For example, there would be little-to-no value in signing up for Facebook if you were the only person using it. However, since millions of people use popular social media sites, marketers can benefit from the word-of-mouth (WOM) they generate. Opinion leaders can create a large portion of word-of-mouth. First, content producers and the mass media make content. Then, opinion leaders engage with the content, and other users engage with the opinion leader's activity. Therefore, marketers need to identify the opinion leaders within a social network.

    Blogs - can include weblogs or microblogs. Weblogs (blogs) can be used for commercial purposes, e.g., to advertise a product or service through search engine optimised posts. Microblogging is similar to blogging but in a shorter format (e.g. Twitter). Twitter can also be used as a platform to communicate promotional messages.

    Online communities - include forums and information-sharing platforms. They find goods, services, and experiences, discuss a common purpose/hobby, share professional tips, or have general discussions. Examples of online communities include Reddit, Duolingo forums, and TripAdvisor.

    Social Media Marketing Strategy

    There are various social media marketing strategies organisations may wish to pursue.

    Influencer Marketing Strategy

    Marketers may use influencer marketing strategies which involve identifying opinion leaders within a particular community to promote a product. An important aspect of influencer marketing is deciding the type of influencer to pursue:

    • 'Nano influencers' have between 1,000-10,000 followers.

    • 'Micro influencers' have between 10,000-50,000 followers.

    • 'Macro influencers' have over 500,000 followers.

    • 'Mega influencers' have over 1 million followers.

    However, a higher follower count does not necessarily guarantee results. Influencers with an increased number of followers may be suitable for raising awareness of a product or brand, but smaller-scale influencers tend to create higher engagement. For an influencer marketing campaign to be successful, the influencer has to portray credibility, high engagement rates, and share similar interests to the target group.

    An example of how influencer marketing campaigns can get tricky can be observed through Snapchat and Luca Sabbat's collaboration.

    Snapchat partnered with social media influencer Luka Sabbat to promote Spectacles (Snapchat's augmented reality glasses). The strange aspect of this collaboration was that Snapchat asked the influencer to promote the new product on Instagram - a competing social platform - and wear the glasses during fashion week. Snapchat sued the influencer as he never delivered on wearing the glasses beyond the Instagram post. Suing Lucas Abbat exposed Snapchat for promoting its product on a competing social media platform. The influencer also lost credibility in the eyes of his followers.2 This partnership resulted in a lose-lose situation for both parties.

    Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategy

    Another type of social media marketing strategy can be observed through word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. Word-of-mouth takes place on various forms of social media. For example, ranting your followers on Twitter about an awful product experience is a form of WOM.

    Electronic word-of-mouth (EWOM) includes consumer information sharing online and through mobile technologies.

    Word of mouth can either be positive or negative. Although negative word-of-mouth is less common, it can often be catastrophic for a company or brand. However, East et al. (2008) studied positive and negative word-of-mouth and found that there are several factors which influence its impact on brand purchase probability, including:

    1. Generally, the impact of positive word-of-mouth (PWOM) is more extensive than negative word-of-mouth (NWOM).

    2. People resist NWOM for brands they 'like' and PWOM for brands they 'dislike'.

    3. The impact of both PWOM and NWOM is related to the pre-WOM purchase probability.

    4. PWOM and NWOM have similar characteristics - they are both used to give advice.3

    Viral Marketing Strategy

    Certain companies and brands try to create viral content.

    Viral marketing is a method of marketing whereby consumers are compelled to share information and forward content to others.

    In most cases, viral content usually involves an element of shock, information-sharing or humour, which results in consumers being more likely to distribute the content to others.

    An example of a viral campaign can be observed through the ALS ice bucket challenge.

    Around 2014, thousands of people online were pouring buckets of ice over themselves and encouraging their friends to do the same (by tagging them in their social media posts) to raise awareness and donations for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). You might have even participated in the challenge yourself! During one of the first weeks of the campaign, there were already over 71,000 mentions of the challenge online - growing at an hourly rate of 3,000 - eventually leading to its global virality.4

    Benefits of Social Media Marketing

    The benefits of social media marketing are vast. Businesses can reach millions of active social media users through their marketing messages. On the other hand, they can also focus their notes on specific groups of consumers.

    For example, if Gucci wanted to promote a new fragrance using social media marketing, they might opt for mega influencers that post about various fashion and beauty products. On the other hand, a new fragrance company that makes fragrances specifically for athletes in their twenties might opt for targeted ads on Instagram.

    Similarly, social media is beneficial as companies and brands do not necessarily have to set up their media. Instead, they can use existing social media channels.

    Rather than creating an online shop or e-commerce website, small businesses can set up an Instagram shop for customers to purchase their products directly on the platform. Similarly, larger companies can use Instagram to promote their products and guide customers to their shopping carts when scrolling through Instagram. An example is Asos' Instagram shop, which refers shoppers directly to their website/mobile app through Instagram.

    Social media marketing Online shop example StudySmarterASOS Online Shop, StudySmarter Originals. Source: screenshot taken from Instagram

    Social Media Marketing Advantages and Disadvantages

    Let's now take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of social media. The advantages of social, in addition to the benefits outlined above, are as follows:

    1. Targeted - Social media allows for personal communication with target customer segments.
    2. Engagement - Social media channels allow for interactive, two-way communication between brands and consumers. Customers can participate in brand communications, and brands can listen to customer feedback.
    3. Immediate - Posting to social media takes little time and can instantly reach thousands of people anytime.
    4. High ROI - Social media is a relatively cost-efficient communication channel that brands can use for free and post unlimited content. For example, a brand can post dozens of Tweets a day for free, whereas having a promotion advertised on TV dozens of times per day can be very costly.

    On the other hand, the disadvantages of social media are:

    1. Effectiveness - Marketers must understand how to use social media and find the correct segments to target with their communications efforts. They must pay close attention to trends, popular keywords, etc., to capture consumers' attention.

    2. Consumer trends - Marketers cannot simply start posting to social media and expect high returns. To engage consumers, a brand has to build a community on social media. This is especially relevant nowadays as consumers are bombarded with numerous ads daily.

    Social Media Marketing - Key takeaways

    • Social media marketing can be defined as the efforts a brand makes to communicate with its target audience through social media channels.
    • The different types of platforms used in digital media include paid, owned, and earned media.
    • Social networks are based on content and interactions. Their success is highly dependent on the network effect.
    • Opinion leaders create a large portion of word-of-mouth.
    • Influencer, viral, and word-of-mouth are examples of social media marketing strategies.
    • Electronic word-of-mouth (EWOM) includes consumer information sharing online and through mobile technologies.
    • The benefits of social media include the fact that its personal, immediate, cost-effective, and engaging.

    References

    1. Statista. Number of social media users worldwide from 2018 to 2027. 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/
    2. Chris Kubbernus. 28 Epic Influencer Marketing Fails of All Time. 2020. https://www.kubbco.com/epic-influencer-marketing-fails-of-all-time/
    3. East, Robert, Kathy Hammond, and Wendy Lomax. Measuring the impact of positive and negative word of mouth on brand purchase probability. International journal of research in marketing. 2008.
    4. Brian Braiker. The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’: A case study in viral marketing gold. 2014. https://digiday.com/marketing/ice-bucket-challenge-case-study-viral-marketing-success/
    Frequently Asked Questions about Social Media Marketing

    What is social media marketing?

    Social media marketing can be defined as the efforts a brand makes to communicate with its target audience through social media channels.

    Why is social media marketing important?

    Social media marketing is important as the benefits of social media marketing are vast. Businesses can reach millions of active social media users through their marketing messages. On the other hand, they can also focus their communications on specific groups of consumers. 

    How to use social media for marketing?

    There are various types of social media marketing companies can use to reach their target audiences. Social networks are what usually comes to mind when considering social media. They include platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. These channels work on content and interactions. However, organisations can also use blogs (weblogs and microblogs) or online communities as part of their social media marketing strategies.

    What are the types of social media marketing?

    There are a variety of social media marketing types. They include influencer marketing strategies, word-of-mouth strategies, and viral marketing strategies.

    Who coined the term social media marketing?

    It is unclear who coined the term social media marketing. However, the origins of social marketing are often attributed to Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    It is estimated that there are over 4 billion social media users worldwide (in 2022). 

    ______ refers to any media on a third-party channel.

    The benefits of ___ media include that the firm can easily control the ad's message and scale.

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Marketing Teachers

    • 11 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner