Critical essay — Advantages and disadvantages of social media marketing
Critical Evaluation of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing
Social Media today has become a major phenomenon today and it has had its mark on the business organizations as well, by transforming their concepts of marketing and communications. According to a research conducted among the Fortune 500 companies, more than 85 percent of the top 100 organizations have integrated at least one of the social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, online Blogs, etc. in their marketing communications strategy [ CITATION Cha11 l 16393 ].
Some of these companies have experienced tremendous success as well due to their social media marketing campaigns. Some examples include global brands like Oreo cookies, Dove, GoPro, etc. to name a few. However, there literature also contains numerous references to the unsuccessful or failed social media campaigns and even some of its risks and side effects. In this essay, an attempt is made to critically analyse the advantages and disadvantages of social media marketing.
DEFINITION OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In the academic literature there are multiple views regarding the definition of social media. For example, some experts believe that it is difficult to provide a single definition for social media, as it is subject to change and evolution[CITATION Bij14 l 16393 ]. On the other hand, others have defined it to be a form of public relations, which is highly interactive and contains an immense potential for engagement [ CITATION Bij14 l 16393 ]. A technical definition available for social media states that it is actually a collection of the internet based services which are available to the users, that enable them to create and participate in digital interactions taking place in an online community which is generated by the users [ CITATION Mic101 l 16393 ].
One of the prominent characteristic of social media is the persistence of its content, which refers to the duration for which the content is available on the internet after being posted [ CITATION Asu l 16393 ]. The content remains available on social media for infinitely long period of time, until it is specifically removed. The accessibility of the content and the search functionality that the internet offers, further adds to the persistence of the content.
Digital marketers try to leverage this feature of the social media platform, by trying to generate as much buzz as possible and making its contents reach as many people as possible.
ADVANTAGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
One of the biggest advantages of a social media marketing campaign is the direct access to the target audience. The number of users of the various social media platforms has been rising at a rapid rate. Facebook, for example, currently has more than 1 billion users, and this figure is also rising quite rapidly [ CITATION Gab14 l 16393 ]. This provides a unique opportunity to the marketers to connect and communicate directly with their intended customer base.
Unlike other conventional media, like television and print advertising, the social media platform is actually interactive. This is yet another advantage that contributes significantly to the effectiveness of the social media marketing. The interactive nature of the platform implies that the marketers have a greater opportunity to engage the target audience. In addition to that, the interactive nature also provides the immediate feedback of the viewers’ response to the campaign. This enables the companies to align or adjust their campaigns better in accordance with the likings of the audience, thus, making them more responsive to the markets. Through social media, marketers are also able to understand the behaviours and actions of the consumers better as well.
A good example of a successful social media campaign is that of Lay’s Potato Chips campaign in the year 2012. In this all the above mentioned features were effectively utilized to create a successful campaign[ CITATION Ann14 l 16393 ]. The motto of the campaign was to involve and engage as many customers and potential customers as possible and for that they launched a campaign in which the consumers could debate, discuss and suggest new flavours of chips. Through this social media campaign, not only were they able to reach out to millions of people, but they were able to effectively engage them and even know their opinions about the various flavours that the company offered.
Another major advantage of social media marketing is its low cost [ CITATION Sis11 l 16393 ]. Unlike traditional advertising media, social media marketing is significantly cheaper, while still having a wide reach among the target audience. Therefore, social media marketing is particularly useful for small and medium sized companies, which lack big marketing budgets.
DISADVANTAGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
While there are many benefits of the social media marketing, there are many disadvantages as well. One of the major drawbacks is that it is quite difficult to measure and quantify the impact of the social media marketing initiatives to the actual purchase decisions made by the customer [ CITATION Gab14 l 16393 ]. In other words, measuring the return on investment of any social media marketing campaign can be quite difficult [ CITATION Cha11 l 16393 ].
In addition to that, the organization or the marketer has very little control over the messages created and posted for the social media marketing campaign, as the interactive nature of the platform basically relies on the users to respond to the message and spread it[ CITATION Lil l 16393 ]. In certain situations, it might also lead to a lot of negative publicity for the company as well.
The above mentioned issue of lack of control also might lead to reputational risks for the companies. Because, the social media forum facilitates rapid sharing of any content, both of positive and negative nature. A good example of this could be the negative feedback that might be posted on Facebook, regarding the poor service of some well-known restaurant, or even airlines. Such negative responses can counterbalance the overall positive effect that the social media campaign might have created.
The lack of control also at times leads to lack of consistency in the message or values that the brand wants to associate itself with. Because there are a large number of people who are responding to the content posted by the company, the company cannot ensure that the discussion remains centred on the focal points that the organization wants to propagate and not on the peripheral points or messages that the content might contain.
The increasing user concern regarding privacy with reference to social media is also taking a toll on the social media marketing endeavours as well[ CITATION Spi10 l 16393 ]. Users are sharing a lot of personal details and data on the various social networking media, which the websites are leveraging for gaining revenue through advertising and other means. However, this is raising concerns in the minds of the users and therefore affect the overall success of the social media marketing campaign as well.
The above arguments have clearly shown that how important social media marketing has become. However, the above analysis has also shown that merely having a social media campaign alone does not ensure success, and there are many side-effects of the social media platform as well, that might totally backfire for the organization. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that a company devises its social media marketing strategy with great care and diligence. In addition to that, the organization must also have a dedicated team of marketing professional, who should be adept at channelling the social media discussion in the right direction and minimize any negative impact or publicity.
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