Unlike what is generally perceived by people, marketing is not limited to just sales and promotions. Marketing is a holistic process that starts long before a business opportunity, when a market or a product is identified or created. One of the mediums used for marketing is social media. Social media marketing encompasses almost all areas that traditional marketing includes, such as customer research, promotion, sales, and customer feedback. It is also possible for businesses to execute their marketing activities strictly through social media. Social media includes social networking sites, cell phones and any other medium that people use to interact with each other.
Social Media Marketing Tools
We have heard quite a lot about the different social networking sites used by businesses to carry out their social media marketing techniques. However, not enough light has been shed upon the various tools used to maximize the benefit derived out of social media. Social media tools are used by experts to analyse holistic trends, related to different issues being talked about on social networking sites. They also include practices that boost the effectiveness of the social media features. Some of them include:
1. Social Media Measurement
Just the way businesses carry out surveys to find the extent to which customers are aware about their brands, social media measurement tools quantify the presence of certain marketing content on social media such as social networking sites, micro-blogs, news sites, blogs, and other forums. An area that compliments social media measurement is social media monitoring. A collection of professionals, that includes sales teams, social engagement staff, marketing teams and PR staff, is used to gain insights into not only the presence of a certain brand, but other areas as well such as:
- User interaction involving the discussion of the brand in question
- Users expressing an increase in desirability of the brand
- Impact of social media marketing on online sales
- Change in competitors’ social media marketing strategy as a response to the brand’s strategy
- Target market’s consumer behaviour in general and their inclination towards other issues, products, and brands
Since the area of social media measurement and monitoring has recently emerged, tools related to it are still developing. The ones that are present already are quite large in number and wide in variety. Some of them are entry level that can be used for free, while others are very powerful and are used by large organizations only. It must be noted that social media measurement tools have one of the two areas as their focus:
- Data Centeredness – These tools focus on collecting and analyzing data extensively to reveal trends. Such analysis helps companies identify areas that require change.
- Solution Centeredness – These tools track the presence of brands on the Internet and propose solutions to increase brand visibility and user engagement.
A lot of tools are a homogeneous combination of the two foci.
2. Social Network Aggregation
Given the huge number of social networking sites that have emerged over time, users often create accounts and use them on more than one platform. Since their accounts on different platforms contain exclusive sets of information, maintaining them all becomes quite cumbersome at times. This is where social network aggregation comes in. It is a process that lets users collect their profiles and information from different social networking sites on a single platform.
Social network aggregators come in the form of different tools and widgets that allow users to carry out tasks across different networks at the same time, such as accessing profiles, reading RSS feeds, searching for information, combining bookmarks, tracking friends, and consolidating messages.
3. Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking is yet another emerging field that has seen significant growth over the last two years. With the growing quantity of user related information present on the Internet, – a lot of which is generated by other users – the need to compile it all at the same place was realized. This compilation would make it easier and take less time for users to search for certain information. Different titles have been given to the concept of social bookmarking such as ‘tagging’. Facebook users are able to tag their friends in photos, statuses, notes, and comments. People may tag themselves in photos also. This way, with a single click, a user can have a look at all the pictures others have uploaded of him/her.
4. Social Analytics
Social analytics is a field of online marketing that allows companies to collect and analyze data of consumers who use social media. There are numerous companies that render services related to social analytics such as Telligent Systems, Expert System, Attensity, and General Sentiment. These companies’ job is to collect information related to different market segments. Once they do so, they are approached by clients. These clients are not necessarily businesses that sell products and services. They may also be businesses (such as advertising agencies) that cater to other businesses.
It must be noted that not all companies have to avail the services of different social analytics companies. They may also carry out analyses themselves by using platforms such as Klout, Swaylo, PeerIndex, and Empire Avenue. These tools help them find out their brands’ presence in social media. They also present solutions that companies must follow to engage people from the target market and increase their brand awareness among them. A number of companies such as JetBlue, Royal Bank of Canada, and Whirlpool have used these tools to accomplish their goals.
Purists almost consider automation a sin. However, others realize that given the ever increasing number of platforms used by businesses for social media marketing, automation is a tool that simply makes their efforts easier and faster. A certain level of responsibility must be exercised when applying automation because its overuse can lead to spamming that can annoy consumers and lead to the decline of brands’ desirability. When used wisely, automation can be not only good, but great. It picks up areas that are left untouched.
For example, TwitterFeed is a great way of connecting your blog to people on different social networking sites. Once you are done with writing a blog post, instead of posting links to your profiles on different sites, you can simply relax. You can do so by automating the process of sharing information on Twitter by using TwitterFeed. As soon as you publish a blog post, a message is automatically sent to all the members even if you are not signed into your Twitter account. Similarly, NetworkedBlogs is another tool that automatically informs your friends on Facebook about blog posts you publish.
The reason why social media marketing tools have emerged is because of the effectiveness of social media marketing itself. Today, the world revolves around information. Consumers make decisions based on the information they get about brands, and businesses make decisions based on information they get about consumers. Information minimizes the risk factor these parties are exposed to. Social media marketing has become so popular over the years because of three chief reasons.
There is hardly any other medium that spreads information faster than social media. The structure social media is built on and the way its users behave on it make it a platform that spreads information like wild fire. For this reason, businesses find marketing their brands on social networking sites, micro blogs, cell phones, and other social media tools to their advantage.
Another benefit that businesses enjoy using social media marketing is the extent to which they can engage their audience. Earlier, Orkut, Facebook, Blogger, and other services allowed users to share information of limited formats. After much development, they let information of virtually any type to be created and shared online. Whether it be social networking sites or blogs, textual, pictorial, and visual content can be easily uploaded. Some platforms are limited to certain types of information. For example, Twitter users share texts, YouTube focuses on videos and Pinterest supports pictures only. Hence, their users attach links to external online locations that can be visited for further experience.
Cost effectiveness is another reason for social media marketing’s boom. Unlike traditional media such as TVCs, billboards, newspaper ads, etc. social media platforms charge a lot less. This is because of the relatively lower business costs they themselves incur. Also, certain practices such as PPV (pay per view) and PPC (pay per click), make payment options not only low, but also efficient because clients pay for only what they have benefited from.
All in all, social media marketing is a field that highly depends on consumer behaviours. Its success depends on what consumers like and don’t like. Meanwhile, business collect, analyze, and use information related to social media to make decisions related to promotion, engage target audience, increase product/service sales, and receive customer feedback. With time, social media marketing practices are bound to evolve because of the changes in technology, politics, economy, consumer behaviour, and other factors.
Thank you to my Guest Post Author: Tim Wilson
Tim works as content manager at HostPapa, a website hosting company serving over 100,000 customers around the world. Since launching in 2006, HostPapa has offered reliable, budget-friendly, easy-to-use web hosting solutions for small to medium-sized businesses.