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Digital Technology And Unprecedented Levels Of Information In Social Media Marketing

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Today, we live in an era that is driven by digital technology. The explosion of social media over the past decade has reshaped our digital society. In my research to understand how and where these changes have occurred, I have accessed several journal articles to comprehend the nature of these changes. Originally, social media was devised and planned to facilitate deeper and colourful communication between individuals or groups. However, in today’s climate it has evolved to allow engagement on various different platforms, from business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), consumer to consumer (C2C) and also the more recently acknowledged influencer to consumer activity via the blogosphere. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat have grown exponentially with Facebook as the major player with 2.4 billion users globally. These sites are utilised to broadcast information to the masses, through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content such as video etc. Marketers now have access to free communication platforms with their consumers, giving them the ability to engage and advertise globally cost free. This ability to share photos, opinions, events etc. in real time has transformed the way we live and the way we do business. Businesses who use social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy usually see measurable results. It is therefore critical to treat social media as a core element of marketing communications.

Organizations evolve in response to the socially networked marketplace (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019). In the earlier days of social marketing there was an impetus on businesses and retailers to obtain a presence on any social media platform they deemed relevant. Unfortunately, many of these platforms were left inactive, as it was more difficult to get a consumer’s attention with Twitter versus a newspaper advertisement. Ultimately social media accounts require active critical engagement, as by simply having an account is insufficient.

Social media is ubiquitous in virtually everyone’s lives and increasingly in companies. These companies need to become or remain innovative in increasingly complex environments, whilst developing new tools and approaches to connect with many aspects of this innovative ecosystem. In the process of achieving competitive advantage social media has and is being used by firms for marketing, engaging consumers in product development or service discussions. The increasing involvement of stakeholders in firm’s innovation process, alongside the relatively low cost, increasing speed and efficiency of ICT has encouraged firms to spend on social media tools. Since the financial crisis over 65% of firms have engaged in social media and showed significant growth versus their non engaged counter parts.

What are these critical influences?

Big Data

Social Media platforms generate powerful, rich media with unprecedented insights to drive faster commercial, innovative customer focused innovation. Its most critical asset is to drive the connection and relationship between clients and stakeholders. As most firms are still experiencing and breaking new ground on this, it is important to learn how to benefit from social medias potential for marketing and innovation purposes, (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019). Social media marketers can now efficiently use big data to assess future trends and buying patterns. Big data increases the probability regarding what consumers want, how they want it and when they want it. It also gives businesses ideas into how their products and services should be designed or delivered in the future.

With the emergence of big data, social media marketing has moved to a completely new level. It is estimated that by 2020 the accumulated volume of big data will reach 44 trillion gigabytes, (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019). With such a huge amount of data available the challenge for marketers is to attain relevant insights for creating social media marketing plans. Big data allows brands to engage with their customers in a more personalised way based on their likes and dislikes, in other words it enables personalisation allowing brands to approach their consumers and tailor communications to assist retention and develop trust.

The use of big data makes it easier for brands in selectively placing adds that interest consumers and target those placements on user’s social media posts based on their online activity (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019). Personalised advertisements allow marketers strengthen their relationship with social media users and give them a much stronger opportunity of converting them into customers, after identifying their online patterns (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019). The use of big data has and will continue to be a major influence in social media activation. The ability to generate and leverage deep customer insights is a powerful tool for marketers to make engagement decisions on which social media platforms to target.

Consumer Engagement

Historically, firms had limited consumer data and poor access to the wider consumer marketplace. Social media platforms have provided firms with access to a vast volume of potential consumers. Ipsos MRBI, recently released their most up to date social media statistics for Ireland. The most dominant social media platform in the country is Facebook with 62% of the population having accounts and 65% of them using it daily. This is followed by Instagram with 41% and similarly 65% with daily usage, (Twomey, 2019). The trends in the last year seem to continue (as Facebook nears saturation) with Facebook as the most popular and most used social platform, whilst Instagram is the fastest growing and may potentially catch Facebook in the future.

The information available on social media platforms is extremely valuable as, for example Instagram have 1.8 million users with women being the majority at 57.3% and the largest user group are people aged 25-34 (Twomey, 2019). This depth of platform data allows firms identify where their core customer is most present and design programmes for consumer engagement, for example, Dove’s Real Beauty marketing campaign (Gensler, Völckner, Liu-Thompkins, & Wiertz, 2013). Creating engaging, informative video content relates people on a personal level, giving the business a human face. When producing content for an audience firms may have millions of followers, however, if they don’t connect with their audience, consumers won’t care about the brand and are effectively useless to them.

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Consumers are people who would be happy to engage if they are offered rewards for actions i.e. bonus or loyalty plans, and this will assist them in developing a positive connection with a brand. Engagement with consumers can also occur on a regular basis with the delivery of fun activities or competitions. Businesses can show the people behind the brand i.e. meet our team, personalise their stories or use employees in advertising, as this humanises a brand in the eyes of a consumer. Customer queries and engagement can be effectively managed through the use of a live chat functions on a firm’s website. These functions can also be extended to all other social media accounts allowing customers receive immediate responses to their comments and perhaps assist with service queries also. Finally, customers are also more likely to engage where the content involves people just like them, rather than the brands message. Therefore, sharing consumer stories in the forms of reviews, testimonials, photos etc. can be considered a more trustworthy source of content and present an opportunity to convert other consumers to your brand.

Brand Management

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is. It is what consumers tell each other it is” (Gensler, Völckner, Liu-Thompkins, & Wiertz, 2013) Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit. The dynamic, organic real-time interaction facilitated by social media alters the landscape for brand management. Now, consumer generated brand stories need to be managed by firms and this phenomenon must be coordinated with the firm generated brand stories. Marketers should view social media as a double-edged sword. When used correctly it can provide priceless feedback as firms can scale and quickly reach their critical masses of consumers. However, misused and it’s a brand damaging nightmare fraught with zero return on investment activities (Oracles, 2018). For example, United Airlines customer Dave Carroll had his guitar destroyed by baggage handlers. He posted his story on social media and the tagline “United Breaks Guitars” went viral thus damaging United Airlines brand instantly (Gensler, Völckner, Liu-Thompkins, & Wiertz, 2013).

Consumers are now empowered to share their brand stories throughout social networks and have gained a much more important voice that firms can no longer ignore. Integration of consumer generated stories with a brands own messaging is a powerful tool to contribute to beneficial marketing communications. These consumer generated brand stories can appear in various formats through social media (i.e. forums, blogs, social networks, video, photo etc.). Previously, brands considered that their identity was understood in the same way by all members of the target audience. However, consumers hold many different views and there may be multiple brand stories, as different consumers make sense of the brands position in the world (Gensler, Völckner, Liu-Thompkins, & Wiertz, 2013). Consumers in particular are more empowered by social media as these platforms enable them to share their brand stories with their peers. Research has highlighted how persuasive consumer generated brand stories are on the basis of electronic word of mouth, these stories are often more influential than the firm created content. Social media plays such a critical role in a firm’s ability to manage brand health and reputation.

The most prominent current content creators of these stories are social media influencers. Influencers are social media users that have credibility and an audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and trustworthiness, they usually have attained a large audience or followers. These influencers have built their reputation based on their knowledge and expertise on a particular topic. They post regularly about their particular topic on their preferred social media platform. Brands recognise the importance of social media influencers as consumers admire them and value their opinions to guide them with their decision making. They can create trends and encourage their followers to buy the brands they promote. Social media influencers range from celebrity endorsers and industry experts to youtubers. Of all the influencers, bloggers and micro-influencers are considered to have the most active authentic relationship with their followers, many brands are recognising and encouraging this.

Engagement with Platforms

Brands will have a finite marketing budget and will ultimately look to optimise their marketing expenditure. To deliver the best social media optimisation (SMO) within your integrated marketing communications (IMC) it is critical to select the most relevant social media platforms. Facebook is the dominant social media player at present both in Ireland and globally, therefore, businesses would benefit from exposure and interaction through activity on the platform. Sharing content is at the heart of social media, some firms set up social profiles and remain inactive, this will lead to a lack of success in social marketing. It is essential to ensure you only share content that’s of value to your followers. A firm must give their presence on social media a purpose, this could be as simple as requesting followers to sign up for emails or provide their feedback on a product. Posting on a platform just “for the sake of it” is ineffective for a brand. Critically, you need to strategically post at the best times to give you the eyeballs of your followers. There is no point in making your posts when your target audience is asleep or inactive.

As socials media fosters communications and connects people and companies it is a prime platform to access knowledge, concepts, user insights and test product ideas. For example, Starbucks online platform “My Starbucks Idea” gives customers a space to give feedback on the business and offer ideas on product or service delivery (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019). Nokia used social media tools to engage in real time global co-creation for the WP7 mobile phone by tapping into the knowledge and feedings off its community of users (Bhimani, Mention, & Barlatier, 2019).

The next steps

“Content is King” (Bill Gates, 1996) has become a mantra in the digital marketing arena. However, it is no longer enough to create fresh content articulating a brands message. Success in social media marketing requires a continuous engagement with your audience through many social platforms. Brands are continuously trying to drive non-paying consumers (social media users) toward income generating activity. To effectively reach audiences and consumers, marketers must be more intentional about the content they post, there must be a clear benefit that motivates them to follow, share and engage. For example, JetBlue Airways devised multiple Twitter accounts that guided passengers to different services i.e. reservations, complaints, customer services, promotional deals, @JetBlueCheeps offers last minute discounts and more than 400,000 followers have selected this Twitter handle.

The king of social media is content that both aligns with business objectives and provides value to customers and prospects. Firms must grow a sustainable audience through providing value, they must care about their audience and what they can give to them and not just the number of followers they have. Regardless of the volume of the audience a company holds their only focus should be providing that group of people something of value. Businesses need to be mindful of their endgame and be patient in achieving this through providing value. The difference between having a vast following versus smaller active and engaged audience is more beneficial to a brand, essentially the focus should not be on follower count but on follower engagement.

Conclusion

My analysis has shown social media to be a highly complex arena breaking new grounds and delivering unprecedented levels of information. Businesses need to recognise social media and truly consider its importance in todays marketplace. The articles collectively identify how businesses appear to be operating in a fledgling status, working to optimise digital marketing within their organisations. It is clear that while marketers are focused on obtaining mass followings across social media there is still cloud of uncertainty as to how best turn this following into consumer activity. The challenge for companies at senior board level is to learn of the value of social media in organisation settings and work to change effectively. Over the past decade there has been a value-chain shift where upon, obtaining more access to consumer segments is more relevant than being concerned at the entrant of a new competitor.

The challenges that face social media marketing now and in the future are and will be, 1. Rising costs 2. Getting noticed in overcrowded feeds, 3. Too many trends to keep up with 4. Limited trained staff and critical resources and 5. Efficient analytics and use of big data. The journal articles have provided an insight into a dynamic, ever-changing media environment which must be strongly considered and managed for the healthy future of virtually all businesses.

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Digital Technology And Unprecedented Levels Of Information In Social Media Marketing. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/digital-technology-and-unprecedented-levels-of-information-in-social-media-marketing/
“Digital Technology And Unprecedented Levels Of Information In Social Media Marketing.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/digital-technology-and-unprecedented-levels-of-information-in-social-media-marketing/
Digital Technology And Unprecedented Levels Of Information In Social Media Marketing. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/digital-technology-and-unprecedented-levels-of-information-in-social-media-marketing/> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2022].
Digital Technology And Unprecedented Levels Of Information In Social Media Marketing [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Dec 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/digital-technology-and-unprecedented-levels-of-information-in-social-media-marketing/
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