Social media marketing is one of the channels or types of digital marketing that centers on the use of social networking sites or social media platforms in the promotion of goods and services.
The popularity of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok have encouraged business organizations from different industries and sectors, non-profit organizations, and individuals with personal brands to maximize the benefits or advantages of social media.
However, it is also important to note that the utilization of social media platforms for marketing promotion does not guarantee success because of notable issues and drawbacks.
Pros: The Advantages of Social Media Marketing
Affordability and Accessibility Compared to Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing represents all marketing promotion activities that use offline channels. Examples include the use of direct mail, outdoor advertising such as the placement of billboards and posters, the dissemination of fliers or brochures during booth fairs or field sales activities, and the placement of ad spaces in print or broadcast media.
However, these activities have notable disadvantages: their audience reach is limited and they can be expansive, especially when compared to potential reach. On the other hand, one of the advantages of social media marketing is that they are accessible to a lot of individuals and organizations, thereby making it an affordable marketing platform.
Starting a digital marketing campaign using social media requires creating a so-called social media presence. Doing so means choosing which particular platforms to use and creating official accounts. Signing up to platforms such as Facebook and TikTok is not free. Anyone can virtually promote their products or brands in an instant.
It is also important to note that advertising in social media is more inexpensive than traditional media. Note that spots on primetime television programs can cost around USD 100,000.00 for a 30-second commercial while placing ads on print can cost between USD 500.00 and USD 20,000.00. A billboard can cost USD 750.00 to USD 15,000.00 per month.
As a comparison, advertising on Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world, can cost between USD 4.00 to USD 10.00 per day for a target audience reach ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of users. Ad placement on TikTok starts at USD 10.00 per 1000 views or USD 120,000.00 for a target reach of 12 million users.
The popularity of these social media platforms also means that there are people to target and reach. They are readily accessible to a large number of people across different demographical backgrounds. Hence, the presence of an established number of users in a particular platform can easily translate to accessing a sizeable number of potential customers.
Specific Advantages of Advertising on Social Media Platforms
Advertising on social media platforms also has other particular benefits over advertising on traditional mediums of communication. Consider hyper-targeted ads as a collective example. Note that hyper-targeting is the practice of delivering paid marketing communications to a specifically defined audience or specific interest-based market segments.
Hyper-targeting also allows the delivery of customized and relevant messages to a particular segment of an audience pool or a defined audience profile. Doing so requires collecting and analyzing relevant data to include demographics such as age and gender, geographical information, and psychographics such as interests and behavior.
Marketers can theoretically deliver hyper-targeted ads in all mediums of communication. However, in traditional mediums and outdoor settings, this can be not as efficient when compared to social media platforms. Note that data are easier to collect using online platforms and the audience can readily be segmented and defined.
Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provide marketers with built-in tools that allow them not only to create and launch ad campaigns but also customize how they want their advertisements to be delivered. These tools include access to customizable settings that enable targeting specific users based on demographics, locations, and interests.
It is also interesting to note that social media platforms are inherently audience-specific. Facebook and Twitter appeal to the general public. However, TikTok and Instagram appeal to younger people. LinkedIn is also a notable example. It is a social networking platform dedicated to professional networking and career development.
Another advantage of social media advertising is that it complements the entire digital marketing activity of a particular organization or brand. For example, marketers can run ad campaigns that can point potential customers to an e-commerce website to directly purchase an advertised good or service. It can also promote the online presence of brands for better brand awareness.
Other Paid and Non-Paid Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics
The availability of novel digital marketing strategies and tactics and even established practices in traditional marketing collectively represent another advantage of social media marketing. Take note of the following examples:
• Content Marketing: The creation and distribution of content can help increase brand awareness and product knowledge, as well as attract customers. Social media platforms have served as mediums for deploying these contents
• Moment Marketing: A marketing activity that takes advantage of ongoing events or current affairs to deliver marketing messages and increase the potential of engagement or conversion. Moment marketing centers on sending the right message at the right moment.
• Viral Marketing: This is a derivative of word-of-mouth marketing that uses online platforms and capitalizes on highly engaging messages to compel people to organically spread information about a particular product.
• Influencer Marketing: Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube have paved the way for the rise of influencer marketing, in which marketers tap individuals with a sizeable following as endorsers who will promote their products or cause.
• Public Relations: Marketers can also tap the social media accounts of the media organizations or prominent individuals such as product reviewers and bloggers for free exposure and inexpensive publicity.
• Direct Selling: The social media account of a particular brand can also serve as an online storefront. Note that Facebook and Instagram have an e-commerce platform built in their platforms to allow direct sales transactions.
• Sales Promotion: Because social media platforms are digital mediums of communication, they serve as vehicles for disseminating and running sales promotion activities to include providing freebies, price discounts, and holding contests.
• Customer Service: The built-in messaging capabilities of social media platforms can also serve as channels for attending to inquiries, providing after-sales support, offering sales promotion for repeat sales, and promoting customer loyalty.
Social Media Marketing and E-Commerce and Related Sales Processes
Businesses that have standalone online storefronts or those who sell their products using electronic commerce platforms can also capitalize on the notable advantages of social media marketing. Remember that advertising on social media platforms can point potential customers to their online storefronts for them to directly purchase advertised products.
Of course, aside from paid marketing activities, organic reach using social media optimization and an established number of engaged followers can sustain regular visits to their online stores and ensure consistent online sales transactions. Social media platforms can essentially be used to promote an e-commerce storefront.
Note that some of these platforms can be readily integrated with e-commerce tools. Facebook and Instagram also provide users with an option to place a hyperlinked button to a particular post or a specific page that directs potential customers to the official online store of a particular business or brand. Facebook also provides tools for building e-commerce websites.
It is also worth mentioning that the messaging and user engagement capabilities of social media platforms can also be integrated with the entire online sales process. Built-in messaging can be used to handle inquiries from potential and existing customers. The list of existing followers can also be used for lead generation and customer prospecting.
Cons: The Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing
The Need to Choose the Most Appropriate Social Media Platforms
Remember that there are a number of platforms available out there. These include Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, among others. Some marketers might decide to create accounts on all available platforms to build and maintain a strong online presence and reach as many people as possible.
However, it is important to note that each platform has its unique characteristics and, to a certain extent, use cases. For example, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are ideal video-sharing platforms for disseminating video content. Both Facebook and Twitter are ideal for different types of content, as well as for maintaining audience engagement.
There are platforms tailor-fitted for specific uses. As mentioned, LinkedIn is a professional networking and career development. It does not make sense to create an account on this platform for business-to-consumer transactions. Pinterest and Instagram are also ideal for content discovery aimed at inspiring ideas and getting information about the people behind these ideas.
Marketers must decide which platform is the most suitable for their businesses or the products or causes they intend to promote and their marketing goals and objectives. Maintaining accounts on these platforms can take a lot of effort because of the needed user-engagement activities. Some activities are ideal for a particular platform but may not work for another.
Requires Expertise from Professionals with Different Specializations
Digital marketing is a subfield of marketing. It has its defining characteristics and sets of required competencies. Furthermore, marketing via social media is an entirely different subfield that entails a more specialized set of skills and knowledge. An organization must have the capabilities needed to maximize the advantages of social media marketing.
Building a dedicated team for social media is the current practice today. A typical team includes a social media manager responsible for developing and implementing overall social media strategy, a set of specialists who work under the manager, and dedicated content creators such as copywriters, graphic designers, and video editors, among others.
However, having a dedicated social media team can mean an added expense to smaller businesses, individual entrepreneurs, or non-profits. It is in this regard that organizations with limited marketing budget must decide between traditional marketing and digital marketing, as well as what specific digital marketing activities they want to pursue.
Some organizations pursue a do-it-yourself approach. Others are tempted to pursue a small social media team composed of a few individuals with multiple roles and responsibilities. Note that either of these two can work. However, the larger the target audience and the bigger the marketing goals and objectives, the more the team should be complex.
Clutter and Noise in Social Media Due to Its Accessibility and Popularity
The key to successful social media marketing is consistency. But consistency also means ensuring the continuous creation and dissemination of relevant marketing messages via content, deployment of specific tactics and activities to keep the interest and participation of followers, and continuous efforts to expand further the number of followers.
But another pressing disadvantage of social media marketing is that marketers or specific businesses, individuals, organizations, and brands need to compete not only with their competitors but also with other businesses and organizations, as well as users. A particular social media platform can be too cluttered because of the number of its users.
In addition, because of the huge number of users who also partake in content consumption and content creation, there can be too much noise in a particular platform. Marketers need to stand out to get their messages across. Furthermore, as mentioned, they also need to be consistent to ensure that the products, causes, or brands they represent remain visible and relevant.
Then there is the issue about the algorithms used by each platform. Publishing content on a particular platform does not guarantee that it will reach the intended audience, even among existing followers. Because of the huge volumes of content and the number of users, these platforms use machine learning to deliver content to pre-specified individuals.
Notable Issues and Risks Associated in Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms have received criticisms due to the unresolved issues associated with their use. Security and privacy are prime examples. Governments and advocacy organizations across the world have expressed concerns about the amount of data social companies collect from their users, as well as how these data are used to push their business interests.
Some people are not comfortable sharing their personal data with these companies in fear that they will be used for intrusive advertising. To respond to these clamors, these social media companies have given users the right to opt out of advertisements or defer from data collection, thus affecting the marketing decisions of social media marketers.
Then there are the risks of damaging the reputation of brands. User feedback is one of the defining characteristics of social media platforms. Users are not only content consumers but also content creators. Brands can earn bad publicity from controversies or poor delivery of promises attached to their goods or services through customer reviews.
Competitors and malicious individuals or organizations can also exploit the feedback-intensive nature of these platforms to launch smear campaigns against a particular business, individual, nonprofit, or brand. These campaigns can include trolling and flaming. There are even firms offering services intended for this particular purpose.