This sample essay by one of our professional writers at Ultius demonstrates how social media can be used in politics, business, and any form of civic interaction that requires communication between people. Social media is a hugely important aspect of modern marketing. Not only does it allow individuals the ability to network and discuss things amongst each other, but it gives businesses the capability to extend their brand recognition and outreach to other markets. A document like this would often be found in a communications or marketing course writing assignment.
What is social media?
Social Media is a relatively new concept in academia and multiple definitions can be found. For the common individual social media comprises the various internet applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, which allow users to connect with others. Solis provides a broader definition in that
“social media is the democratization of content and the shift in the role people play in the process of reading and disseminating information” (2009).
This interpretation of social media is accurate as it allows us to broadcast our opinions and influence others through the click of a button. Social media has begun to not only change our business practices but also the way in which we connect and communicate with one another.
Social media allows us to connect with others on an unprecedented level. It allows us to connect and build relationships both old and new. It has played a key part in the Arab spring and brought about revolutions in the Middle East. Social media was also utilized by the campaign of President Barack Obama to organize from a grassroots level which enabled him to go on and win the presidency of the United States. Businesses have also begun to realize the way in which social media can be used for their benefit as individuals can be influenced through these websites.
Social media’s impact on business
Due to this fact, social media has become increasingly popular among businesses. As a new technology that reaches out to many young people, who are the main consumers of products, businesses are looking to use social media more often in their advertising and marketing practices. Businesses have also turned to social media marketing as it is the new form of technology that will take precedence over other older forms of technology. Audiences fast forward through commercials on their DVR players, listen to satellite radios which do not have commercial breaks and no longer read printed newspapers. Businesses can no longer provide exposure to their products with the old way of advertising and have largely been turning to social media because of the advent of the new technology.
“Companies lost 100% of their communications a long time ago. People are discussing their brands, products and services, right now, across multiple forms of social media, with or without them” (Solis, 2009).
Businesses may not necessarily want to engage in the social media revolution but do so as to not be left behind. In order to remain competitive in the modern technological age social media must be used by these businesses or they will be at a disadvantage compared to others.
Other impacts of social media
Advertising is not the only arena in which businesses have begun using social media. All facets of a business have been affected:
“Social media is living and breathing and it touches every part of an organization from customer service, to frontline sales, even human resources and information technology” (Qualman, 2010).
Businesses have begun using social media and social media sites, such as Facebook:
• To hire employees
• As screening tools to determine if a candidate is appropriate for a job position
• For customer service tools as customers can contact customer service representatives through the use of instant messages
Customers, in turn can use social media:
• To receive support from websites to problem solve issues they are having with their technology
• To connect with other consumers to inquire whether they should purchase a product or not
To be successful, businesses must not just experiment or imitate other entrepreneurs in the use of social media, but come up with new ways to utilize it as well.
Accessibility for businesses
One of the main advantages for businesses who utilize social media is the access to more people than was possible with television or newspapers.
“The statistic that ‘an angry customer will tell up to 20 other people about a bad experience’, that’s face to face. With the use of social media like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, those 20 people can quickly become 20,000 or even 200,000” (Safko, 2010).
Businesses are also able to access these people and spend less money than they would have been with older forms of technology, as social media advertising can be bought at cheaper rates. Self promotion is also far easier as all new businesses need to do is create a free facebook page and simply and ask people to “like” it. Once a group of people like a page their friends will like it and word will spread like wildfire.
Consumer research via social media
Social media also allows businesses to conduct more effective research about consumer behavior at a cheaper rate.
“Social media puts customers back at the centre of the organization and gave marketers a new set of tools to listen to them and to encourage them to engage with the brand” (Smith, 2011).
Rather than pay researchers to research consumer trends, a business can monitor these trends themselves on websites like Twitter or Facebook. Through this research, businesses are better able to gear their advertising to the specific needs of its consumers which allows for better allocation of advertising resources. Rather than marketing a product to thousands of people out of which only a handful may purchase it, businesses are able to market to specifically the people who would be willing to purchase the product. In this way, businesses increase the chances that their advertising is effective with social media.
Although these tools allow businesses to gear the advertising and products closer to consumer preference and behavior, the tools have been accused of invading the privacy of consumers. This invasion of privacy can have negative consequences upon society as people may begin to feel that they are no longer are seen as individuals but as mere robots who will buy whatever they see posted on their Facebook page. As Qualman discusses the positive of the social media age come with costs:
“However, it doesn’t come without a price; the majority of what we consider to be out personal privacy might be a thing of the past” (Qualman, 2010).
Consumers may react negatively to an invasion of privacy resulting in a refusal to participate on the website or to purchase the product advertised by the business. Businesses should learn how to balance their consumer’s privacy while at the same time using the advantages provided by the social media age.
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Changing how business works through use of social media
Another disadvantage of the social media age is that businesses must change the traditional way in which they have conducted their business.
“It is imperative for social media to be an integral part of a company’s overall strategy” (Qualman, 2010).
With the advent of social media, businesses must adopt new positions within their organizations, upgrade technology and adapt new marketing strategies. This would require a large amount of investment in the business’s part to upgrade their business. It is also a risky venture to invest money into a new technology that may not be successful. Few emerging web companies will be the next Facebook and have its enduring appeal as websites such as Myspace and Friendster have demonstrated. Investing money into a social media website that is unsuccessful could be disastrous for businesses attempting to break into a new market. This new found understanding of the influence social media can have on other people is being replicated by other businesses who are changing their business models adjusting and adapting for success.
A company such as Pepsi which has been around for decades has also had to evolve with the social media age. Social media is helping Pepsi gain insight about its consumers which it previously has not been able to do with the practices that they had formerly attempted.
“Pepsi bypassed a Super Bowl advertisement for the first time in 20 years in order to shift these millions of dollars into social media” (Qualman, 2010).
The level of commitment towards social media from Pepsi demonstrates how business is shifting towards this new mode of media and away from more traditional advertising techniques. Pepsi recognized that they would be able to reach these amounts of people through social media instead. Rather than utilize other social media websites to promote their product, Pepsi has converted its own website into a social media site. By allowing users to generate their own content on their site, Pepsi allows its customers to be involved in the marketing of their product. Pepsi recognizes the influence that people can have towards other individuals. While this has been a common conception held among marketing experts, social media demonstrates how much influence our friends and family can have on our buying habits and preferences.
The Ford Motor company
Another company which has changed their business practices to adapt to the social media age is the Ford company. Qualman describes the way in which the company utilized social media to promote their new car.
“The fiesta movement, in which we gave 100 euro-spec Fiestas to digital influencers for six months, yielded amazing result. We let them do what they normally do: tweet, blog, post videos and photo, and tell everyone they know about the experience” (2010).
The user generated social media promotion helped to propel the company forward from some difficult economic struggles. The website generated thousands of views from multiple other social media websites such as Youtube and Flickr. The campaign also helped to sell more Fiestas than anticipated as it exposed the model to more consumers who may have bought other vehicles . The user generated social media campaign resulted in the Fiesta selling as many if not more models as other more popular vehicle brands which had previously been on the market for longer periods.
Ford used a similar model to the Pepsi social media campaign. Rather than advertise on Facebook as other companies had done, Ford created its own website which allowed its consumers to participate in the build of a vehicle. This concept allowed for:
• Connecting consumers with businesses
• Utilization of the input from the users
• Creation of new designs and ideas based around what the consumer desires
After the success of this campaign Ford continued to make changes to its business model to incorporate more social media in their marketing.
“At Ford, we’ve adjusted our marketing business so that 25% is digital and social media” (Qualman, 2010).
Ford recognized the direction the company needed to take as the social media campaign was a resounding success.
As Google is a company created from the technological age it would not appear to need to change to meet the advent of the social media revolution. However, Google has made attempts to adapt and needs to continue doing so. As social media became more privatized and pursuing profit, Google has been able to place search engine listings on pages like Facebook. Google has also collaborated with Facebook to promote its own products such as Google Chrome (Kangas, 2007). The collaboration has led to more users using the browser as they have seen their friends using the website.
The misstep of Google Plus
Google has not had similar success with other social media ventures such as Google Plus which serves to act as a browser with a social media component in which you can add friends and share similar features or searches. Although Google Plus was the fastest growing site in recent months, the users who signed up to the website did not utilize its enhanced features. While the promotion of the website led many to sign on right away, the functionality of the site deterred them from using the site. Google needs to be able to learn and adapt from the failure of Google Plus. According to Kangas, Google also needs to be able to expand their social media sites from just advertising as they will not continue to grow if they do not innovate as newer and more successful social media sites emerge.
The future of social media in business
Although these examples of forward thinking companies provide evidence of how social media is working, not all businesses have embraced it. As Solis described many businesses are hesitant in pursuing the use of social media:
“However only a few industries are embracing it and pushing things forward. Even though Social media is eliciting corporate participation and engagement, not all companies believe that this is the right step”. (2009).
As these companies get left behind by those who embrace social media, we will see its use by businesses broaden and expand. These companies will also generate new ways to use social media so as to innovate and create new avenues for that use. As more money is dedicated to social media we may see traditional forms of media such as television, radio and newspapers lose the advertising dollars that they would normally receive. This in turn would lead to changes being made in these traditional forms of media. Television and radio may find more ways to connect with social media or utilize social media in their own promotions. While these forms of media have begun to utilize social media in small doses, they will be forced to embrace social media more so to survive.
As businesses engage in more practices with social media we may see increased regulation from the United States government. Social media is largely unregulated however as more businesses engage in the practice we may see a need for increased regulation. The debate over privacy rights of individuals has begun to increase as more individuals are finding their rights violated. Supporters of a websites rights will argue that an individual can just choose to opt out of using the site. This will become even more difficult when more businesses are using social media sites for their advertising, customer support and purchasing sources. Individuals who are not utilizing the social media sites will find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to socializing in the media age.
Social media is beginning to infiltrate more areas of our lives as businesses continue to expand their use of the sites. As social media grows and evolves, the responsible use of it will need to be explored. Academics and experts in social media will need to emerge as will regulators of the field. While radio, television and newspapers were once new forms of communication, social media has emerged as the next stage of the evolution of media and communication. This growing channel will surely be the subject of essays, research papers, and even doctoral dissertations for years to come.
Kangas, P., Toivonen, S., & Bäck, A. (2007). ” Ads by Google” and Other Social Media Business Models. VTT.
Qualman, E. (2010). Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. Wiley.
Safko, L. (2010). The social media bible: tactics, tools, and strategies for business success. Wiley.
Solis, B., & Breakenridge, D. (2009). Putting the public back in public relations: How social media is reinventing the aging business of PR. Ft Press.
Smith, P. R., & Zook, Z. (2011). Marketing communications: integrating offline and online with social media. Kogan Page.