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Social Media Marketing

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Social Media Marketing

Although it is one of today’s buzzwords, “Social Media” is a generic term that refers to websites that allow one or more of the following services: social networking, content management, social bookmarking, blogging and micro-blogging, live video-casting and access into virtual worlds. Social Media—the technology as we know it today—has its roots in Usenet, a worldwide discussion system that allows users to post public messages to it (Kaplan and Haenlein, pg. 60, 2010).

Usenet was created by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis at Duke University in 1979 (Kaplan and Haenlein, pg. 60, 2010) and it is still in use today. According to its website, Usenet is “a world-wide distributed discussion system. It consists of a set of ‘newsgroups’ with names that are classified hierarchically by subject. ‘Articles’ or ‘messages’ are ‘posted’ to these newsgroups by people on computers with the appropriate software—these articles are then broadcast to other interconnected computer systems via a wide variety of networks.”

Obviously, 1979 was a long time ago, it was long before what most people would consider the true era of social media, which began with the creation of “’Open Diary’, an early social networking site that brought online diary writers together into one community” (Kaplan and Haenlein, pg. 60, 2010).

In their influential article Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media, Kaplan and Haenlein (pg. 60, 2010) explain that a formal definition of social media first requires an understanding of two related concepts that are often referred to when describing it: Web 2.0 and User Generated Content. As Kaplan and Haenlein (pg. 60, 2010) see it:

Web 2.0 is a term that was first used in 2004 to describe a new way in which software developers and end-users started to utilize the World Wide Web; that is, as a platform whereby content and applications are no longer created and published by individuals, but instead are continuously modified by all users in a participatory and collaborative fashion. While applications such as personal web pages, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, and the idea of content publishing belong to the era of Web 1.0, they are replaced by blogs, wikis, and collaborative projects in Web 2.0. Although Web 2.0 does not refer to any specific technical update of the World Wide Web, there is a set of basic functionalities that are necessary for its functioning.

The “basic functionalities” that Kaplan and Haenlein (pg. 61, 2010) refer to are; Adobe Flash, the popular animation tool, interactivity, and web streaming audio/video program, Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries or news headlines, as well as audio and video—in a standardized format; and Asynchronous Java Scrip (AJAX), a group of web development methods that can retrieve data from web servers asynchronously, allowing the update of one source of web content without interfering with the display and behavior of an entire page.

For Kaplan and Haenlein (pg. 61, 2010), Web 2.0 represents the ideological and technological foundation, while “User Generated Content (UGC) can be seen as the sum of all the ways in which people make use of social media. The term, which achieved broad popularity in 2005, is usually applied to describe the various forms of media content that are publicly available and created by end-users.” 

The most important thing to recognize about social media is the fact that the content is user generated. Social networks provide all of the tools their members require to become content producers (Outing, 2007); social network members submit photos, videos and other forms of multimedia as well as provide customer reviews, content for blogs and vlogs and links to other social networking websites that they find noteworthy (Outing, 2007). The content comes from the users themselves, not from the publishers, and this is an important distinction (Outing, 2007). The publisher supplies all of the necessary tools for the content’s distribution, but it must remain at arm’s length from the actual content to ensure that the integrity of the content remains intact.'s Top Tools to Measure Your Social Media Success (2010) states that there are five Ws that must be kept in mind when devising a social media strategy. These are:

  • Who within the company will be using this tool? Will one person or several people be using the tools and will they be inside or outside the organization? Will the primary user be tech savvy or will he or she require an intuitive interface?
  • What key performance indicators (KPI) are to be measured with this tool? It is imperative to know how you are going to measure and benchmark your social media efforts as this will dictate what social media monitoring tools are the best to use. If sales revenue is a key KPI, businesses should invest in a tool that integrates with a CRM system to track impact.
  • Where on the Web will the business be engaging customers, and where does it plan to monitor its social media conversations? If a business is only interested in tracking specific channels such as Facebook or Twitter, tools such as Facebook (obviously), and can help with the former, while Twazzup, TweetEffect and Twittercounter can track the latter. All-encompassing tools that monitor new sites and forums are useful to monitor mentions from across the entire Web.
  • When should the company be alerted of conversations and mentions within the social media sphere? Options here include general reporting dashboards or instant notifications via e-mail alerts or RSS feeds.
  • Why is the company engaging in social media? This is, perhaps, the most important question of all, and a business must decide whether it is turning to social media to manage its online brand reputation, to engage with its customers and/or potential customers, to provide real-time customer service or simply to drive traffic to its Website to influence SEO.

A company is only as strong as its weakest customer relationship and I believe that social media can help both businesses and individuals reach their customers in highly efficient and what can be extraordinarily affordable ways. Businesses should look to social media to help them in the following ways:

Studies have shown that 80% of social media users prefer to connect with brands through Facebook and 43% of people prefer Pinterest over associating directly with retailers and/or brands (Honigman, 2012). This fact alone should underscore the importance of social media in a business context. This fact, coupled with the power of a Reed Network—(i.e., one million people can be marketed to when only 20 people are reached via social media)—you will understand the importance of marketing through social media. This is the true power of social media and it cannot be underestimated. And, when coupled with mobile, that number can be even greater and the reach lightning fast.