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About two decades ago, before the emergence of the social media platforms, companies had many difficulties in communicating messages to their customers and target groups. Companies predominantly relied on television, newspapers, pop-up advertisements, and magazines for advertisements in order to reach their customers (Shih, 2009). Today, with the development of social media tools such as Twitter, Google Plus+, Flickr, Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn, companies can reach out to their target groups more effectively and easily. Nowadays, it has been eased to the level of just clicking the computer mouse or button of your cell phone.
To understand how companies can utilize social media in their marketing strategy, three key areas need to be considered; (1) the tools used in marketing, (2) methods to determine best tools for marketing, and (3) business plan and its importance. This paper, however, will limit itself to investigating the impact social media can have within the context of marketing communication strategy for companies. To answer this question, it is important to understand how companies can utilize social media tools to distribute messages to their targeted and existing customers (Schmugar, 2008).
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For sending messages and notifications to their customers and clients, companies can utilize these social media tools. They can also do promotions, provide special offers and provision of online vouchers to the clients. With Facebook, companies are capable of sending messages to their targeted group in the market by entering some demographics details such as what they are looking for, age groups, interests, or zip code among others. Corporations such as Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and East Coast Pizza have Facebook accounts that facilitate effective communication with their consumers and offering special discounts. Research shows that East Coast Pizza and Ritz-Carlton have had a remarkable sales increase since they began using Facebook as a tool of advertising and communicating with their customers.
Twitter differs in some ways from Facebook, but it can also be a good marketing method for companies. In Twitter, firms can twit their company messages or promotions on their twitter pages and receive feedbacks from the followers of those pages. In recent times, Twitter has however lost popularity as an effective tool of marketing because of the complexities involved in accessing and following a firm there. One advantage of Twitter is that posted messages can reach the target group without having to be “friend” to the one’s posting (Shih, 2009).
Social media can thus play an important role in the establishment of access and direct relationships with clients and consumers. Companies can reach their target group without having to use the costly traditional methods of marketing such as television and newspaper advertisements. Use of social media by companies is a trend that has become prevalent in today’s business arena because of the global increase in using internet as a communication platform. The global rise for firms utilizing social media can be attributed to the presence of internet and its characteristics such as real time mode of communication, high access capabilities, and its ability to reach people from anywhere, anytime (Stelzner, 2012).
One of the outstanding advantages of using social media is that it provides direct negotiation and interaction between the customer and the product. This interactivity is based on the consumer’s preferences, needs, decision-making process, and behavior (Weber, 2009). The consumer is able to make decision based on information got from the internet (using social media), search and evaluate diverse product options, recognize problem and evaluate the product’s post purchase behavior. In this context, social media become a platform for customers to search information based on the presence of the web (online strategy) from every corner of the world. Online communication is fast merging with the real world and the virtual world leaving firms with little choice other than to adapt to the modern trends of communication and marketing strategies. Thus, communication is the pillar of any marketing strategy for businesses.
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Besides utilizing social media through the internet, offline strategy is also available. Social media can combine the use of words with social interaction where people can then share their personal opinions with their friends, relatives, or strangers offline. Companies should therefore strive to grab the attention of their target groups outside the internet by creating direct relationship with them. Some of the offline social media tools that firms can utilize include use of ads, QR codes, live tweeting, and apps among others. A 2011 research by CBS showed that TV, media, and other paid advertisements still generated a significant level of conversation where Brad Fay of the Keller Fay Group that conducted the research for CBS stated that this was because word of mouth and paid advertising go hand-in-hand and work well together (Stelzner, 2012). Current trends show that many companies are moving toward using social media as a direct marketing strategy for their businesses. This is because social media have more benefits than disadvantages.
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Firms should therefore find it essential to utilize social media as a direct marketing strategy for their businesses based on the return on investments that this strategy gives to the firms thereby providing them with a financial muscle that enables them to remain active in a competitive market. Companies must be compelled to use social media as an effective communication platform for reaching their target market in diverse demographic distributions. These will help companies to accomplish their marketing objectives that vary according to individual company’s marketing goals and strategies (Stelzner, 2012).