Written by: Anna Hagander
Today many companies have problems with how to use social media differently from traditional media. This paper starts with describing the difference in use between them, and then presents a number of suggestions of how to optimize the use of social media in your marketing strategy.
Optimize social media, Social Media, Marketing Strategy, Optimization, Customer Relations, Social Media Spend, Social Media Behaviour,
It is a fact that companies are no longer discussing whether to be present in social media or not, you simply do not exist if you are not there according to many consumers (Armelini and Villanueva, 2009). Social media have indeed changed branding by giving more power to the consumers and the brands have no other choice than to follow (Fournier, 2011). The thing is that many companies are present, but still do not know how to use social media’s full potential. One common problem is that organizations handle social media as traditional media, like something you can control (Peters et al, 2013). In addition, researchers now compare social media to a pinball game, where chaos has replaced the direct “bowling” approach for marketers in marketing strategies, which makes it even more crucial to know how to use social media (Hennig-Thurau, 2013). So to all of you that haven't been able to optimize the platform’s full strength - grab the opportunity to learn how to.
This paper therefore aims to present how to optimize your social media marketing strategy.
HOW TO BEHAVE IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Since many companies seems to have problem with how to use social media, they might not know in which manner to behave on the different platforms. The easiest way to describe how social media works in real life is therefore to compare it to attending a party, where traditional media is described as the egocentric person and social media as the interactive one.
When attending a party you want to present the best parts of yourself, to try to make people like you so that you can meet new friends. However, firstly you will probably look around and grasp the mood, have a drink and then start interacting with people. Maybe you see some people you would like to get to know and start thinking about how to approach them. Are you going to “sell” yourself, tell them how great you are and go on and on about it? Probably not a smart idea since people will walk away then and think you are repulsive and egocentric. That is not the person you want to be, even if there is always people who are like that at parties. The person you would like to be is someone who is polite, entertaining and respectful. Someone who listens carefully, that have interactive, rather than monologue conversations, and engage in conversations that reaches beyond their self-interest. Social media is a party and it is up to you to behave properly to gain the respect you would like to earn (Forbes, 2013).
HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECTIVELY
Before entering the social media party, you will have to be aware of one thing. This is the age of transparency and criticism (Fournier, 2011) so if you have a skeleton in your closet, be prepared to reveal it, otherwise someone else will do it for you. Few organizations are comfortable with “using the transparency card” (Fournier, 2011:198), but to be perceived as an authentic brand, it is indeed necessarily. Finally, here are some suggestions of how to optimize your social media marketing strategy.
SOCIAL MEDIA – THE NEW TEAM PLAYER
Social media take up more and more space from traditional media, and some organizations have even excluded traditional media completely from their marketing strategy. This is due to that social media is not as expensive as traditional media, and therefore is a way to shrink the marketing budget for managers. This would be a stupid decision, since the two strategies rather complement than substitute each other. Both strategies have their pros and cons depending on what you look at, but together they can support each other’s weaknesses in a perfect way (Armelini and Villanueva, 2011).
When trying to reach out to people with advertising, traditional media have a potential large reach from start. Social media is depending on word of mouth spread (WOM) and is therefore more limited from start since it requires people to interact with each other. On the other hand, if people do interact, social media is much more effective than traditional media and can get a larger spread. Furthermore it is easier to control the message in traditional media and to whom it should be sent to as well as how often. Social media does not work that way; it cannot be controlled in ways of how people talk about your product, they will say what they think and they will say it on social media. On the other hand, traditional advertising can never be as credible and persuading as WOM (Armelini and Villanueva, 2011).
So now when you realize that a combination of them would be a winning concept, you will get some recommendations for your social media plan. Begin with deciding your goals. What do you want to achieve with social media? Would you like to collect feedback from customers, guide customers to the corporate website or express your opinions? After that you can choose the right mix of social media platforms, whether it is a Facebook page, a blog, twitter or LinkedIn etc. This includes questions regarding how much content you will provide and how much of it that should be selling. Who will generate the content, the employees or the users? It is hard to decide which strategy that fits the best, but one thing to always keep in mind is when it comes to social media, the decisions is not always taken by us, the decision more often lies with the consumers (Armelini and Villanueva, 2011).
HOW TO SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA
It can be confusing which platforms to use and spend time and money on when entering the social media jungle. To begin with, it is important to understand that the aim of the spending on social media is not to send out messages directly from marketers; it is to make others communicate about your brand or product. Your goals and purpose in your marketing will decide which types of social media to use. For example, blogs can be used to enhance the product knowledge and to boost and build a brand. The availability of the content that appears on the blog is quite long, since most bloggers make maximum one post a day and the information is often quite rich. Even though it is possible to interact on blogs by commenting posts, this is not the main aim of it and therefore nothing to spend time on (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). Microblogs, like Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, are built upon quite shallow information that has a short appearance, since it is quickly replaced by new posts any time of the day. Here you have brief conversations and companies often use them to inform customers on short topics and link to other sources that have more information. Social networks, such as Facebook, are often used by companies to connect and communicate with their customers. Furthermore it is used to understand and find attitudes against a brand or a product. For example by looking at a company’s hash-tags can be an easy way to track attitudes. Looking at online communities platfoms, people interact and communicate with each other and with organizations. These types of conversations are rich and deep and are used to maintain relationships between organizations and customers; they are therefore suitable as a customer relation tool (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011).
UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA’S POTENTIAL IN CUSTOMER RELATIONS
As mentioned before, brand managers have entered the pinball age, which means that new methods are required in marketing (Hennig-Thurau et al 2013). Many companies today still have customer relationship strategies that are customized to the traditional media. Since social media entered the stage, you have to remember that customers are no longer in a passive relationship with a company as they used to be. This means that customer’s problems, complaints and negative opinions about a specific product or service from a company can be found on social media, accessed by anyone (Malthouse et al, 2013). Researchers mean that a company’s brand image get negatively affected by this kind of public feedback, therefore an effective customer relation strategy is crucial to maintain a trustworthy brand image. This is why it is time to adapt social media to the customer relation strategy (Forbes, 2014).
To be trustworthy nowadays not only means to keep what your product promises. It also means to inform customers quickly when things go wrong, like delays for examples. By integrating social media with customer relation, you can communicate fast with your customers (via Twitter for example) and thereby prevent upset customers that will find your service insufficient and spread bad WOM (Barwise and Meehan, 2010). Companies can also use social media to intervene easier; for example you can detect and deflect negative feedback by communicating with customers and try to make it up to them if they feel they have been treated badly etc. (Armelini and Villanueva, 2011). This is a valuable opportunity so make sure to use it since it will probably strengthen your brand image a lot.
Social media is not a new phenomenon anymore and most organizations are present on many platforms. Still too many do not have a clue of how to use it’s potential and handle it as they handle traditional media. To optimize your social media strategy, you need to realize that you do not have to choose between traditional media or social media - they simply complement each other’s flaws to high extent and are therefore very effective together. Further one needs to know what type of social media you should spend time and money on. By looking at the content, depth and time and compare them to your marketing purpose, you will realize which platform you need. Lastly social media have brought many opportunities when managing customer relations, use these opportunities well and your brand image will flourish. But never forget; in the end it is the consumers who decide whether they like you or not.
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