What is Social Media Marketing and Why Should You Care?
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing (SMM) is the process of marketing a business, individual or product on social networking sites.
That’s the academic definition of SMM. For marketers and businesses, a much better definition would be “social media marketing is the process of engaging with clients, customers and users through social media”.
Social media marketing is one of the fastest growing marketing channels online. Its rise mirrors the rise of social media as a communication, reputation management, networking and entertainment tool. As social networks have grown from niche communities to massively popular platforms, SMM has become crucial for the success of a business.
So what exactly is social media marketing? What is its reach? And most importantly, why should your business care about it?
We’ll answer all these questions below.
Social Media by the Numbers
To give you an idea of the tremendous reach of social media, here’s a list of the top social networks and their user base:
- Facebook: 5 billion
- Twitter: 320 million
- LinkedIn: 380 million
- Instagram: 400 million
- Pinterest: 100 million
- Snapchat: 200 million
Of course, there’s significant overlap across networks in terms of their users, but by a conservative estimate, there are close to 2.13 billion social media users across the world (including region/language specific networks such as Vkontakte.ru, WeChat, Sina Weibo, etc.).
According to Pew Internet Research, as of January 2014, 74% of Americans were on social networking sites. This has grown from just 7% of adults in 2005. Altogether, 28% of all time spent online is now spent on social media.
With numbers like these, it is impossible for any business to ignore social networking sites. From business users to moms and millennials, nearly every one of your customers is either already on social media, or will be on it in the next few years.
For any forward thinking business, it is crucial to invest in social media, regardless of target audience or industry.
Social Networks and Marketing
From the statistics above, we now know that social media has a massive reach. The process of connecting and engaging with this audience is called social media marketing.
SMM is a very broad term that covers a range of activities. Every time you send a tweet from your company account, or write a blog post that gets shared on LinkedIn or Google+, you are doing ‘social media marketing’. It doesn’t matter whether the tweet or blog post itself has zero commercial content; the very fact that you are creating it with the eventual intent to grow an audience means that it qualifies as SMM.
Which is to say, any kind of activity on a social network done by a business or individual related to that business is, in a way, a form of social media marketing. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the tweets you share or the pictures you put on your Facebook page contribute to your overall brand perception.
From a business perspective, it is crucial to grow an audience on SMM since it plays a large role in business decisions today, even in the B2B space. According to one study, 46% of users explore social media platforms before buying. 37% of Twitter users also buy the products of companies and brands they follow on the social network.
This is one of the big reasons why B2B marketers are spending an increasingly larger share of their marketing budget on social media. One study estimates that B2B spending on social media marketing is set to grow from 13% today to 21% within the next five years. Most of these marketers (83%) use social media to increase brand exposure, while 69% used it to increase web traffic.
Examples of Successful Social Media Marketing Campaigns
Now that you know how important social media is for modern businesses, let’s take a look at some successful SMM campaigns:
- “Friendsy” Facebook campaign by AirAsia: This contest to help Facebook users charter a flight filled with their own friends helped AirAsia increase fan base by 30% and reach over 2.2M people on Facebook
- “No Make-up Selfies” campaign by Cancer Research UK: The campaign to take pictures without make-up to promote and educate people about cancer earned Cancer Research UK an additional 2M GBP in donations with over 59,000 posts on Instagram in 24 hours alone.brands exercise Social Media Marketing tricks to elevate their brand image, maintain customer loyalty and push sales.
- “Social Listening” campaign by Avaya: The American communications giant stepped up efforts to monitor social media for mentions of Avaya. One of these mentions ended up getting the company a $250k sale.
This should give you an idea of how immensely profitable social media marketing can be for businesses. Perhaps this is why marketers are reporting ROIs as high as 1,000% on some campaigns.
Little wonder that nearly all your favorite brands, from Coca-Cola to Amazon are active on social networks.
The Future of Social Media Marketing
In 2015, American businesses spent $12.3 billion on social media marketing. Forrester estimates that this number will more than double in size to $27.4 billion by 2020 – a CAGR of 17.4%.
And these are figures for the US alone. Throw in the billions of additional internet users (especially on smartphones) across the world, and you’re looking at a social media market that’s worth tens of billions of dollars.
With social media ‘eating the world’, it is crucial for a business to invest in this channel. These are still relatively early days for social networking; the competition might be hard, but it is only going to get harder in the coming few years. Investing in a strong social media marketing campaign right now will reap rich dividends for years to come.
Social media marketing is one of the brightest spots in the marketing world. It is growing at a tremendous pace and promises exceptional returns for little investment. Savvy businesses have already embraced it as the marketing platform of choice. Isn’t it time you started a SMM campaign as well?