Social Media Marketing is an emergent field of study and practice whose progress will affect how products and services are sold for an unforeseen period.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, social media is defined as “forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.“ Facebook and Twitter are sites that allow members to connect and communicate with one another instantly through the internet. To get an understanding of how prevalent social media is, there are currently over 1.86 billion monthly active users on Facebook alone, and about 51.7% of those users access Facebook through a mobile device. Marketing, i.e. the act of one party soliciting the exchange of a good or service with another party, has been around longer than we have been Homo Sapiens. It is an intrinsic part of evolutionary biology and how ecosystems grow and sustain themselves. Consumers are now more aware of traditional marketing ploys and are actively turning away from them instead of more progressive forms of news and media. Companies no longer have the same control of a given industry. Businesses need to shift from a product pushing model to that of a consumer connection-based model and share/produce content that is relevant to these consumers.
Traditional marketing communications were steeped in the lack of knowledge on the part of the consumer. Before social media becoming as universal as air we breathe, information was gathered through media sources such as television, newspapers, and the radio. Businesses made (and still make) large sums of money from advertisements on these platforms. They were able to control the flow of information about their brand and their product. Brands such as Verizon and AT&T were able to generate demand for new phones by withholding information about the newest technologies of cell phones. They simply provided a marginally updated model at a premium and consumers ate it up. It was a unidirectional model. Businesses generate the content and give it to the consumers. This is in many ways, a top-down model with consumers being at the bottom. The shift comes into play with the multi-directional and wide-spread reach of Social Media.
Consumers are gaining more influence in the corporate social sphere, and because of this, they are now understanding the traditional marketing ploys and finding ways to circumvent them. The consumer’s’ ability to communicate with one another limits the amount of control companies have over the content and dissemination of information. Consumers can now communicate with thousands of other like-minded consumers and vent their frustrations as well as advocate their love about a given product or service and can single-handedly shake the foundation of well-established brand if given the right opportunity. Thus, it is imperative that businesses take into consideration the views and opinions of consumers. That means whether they are good or bad, a brand needs to remain transparent in their responses because consumers now have the control.