The Power of Social Media as a Marketing Tool

McKinsey reckons over a trillion dollars of untapped productivity lies within a more effective use of social media. The consultancy firm claims most gains can be made through better internal and B2B social media efforts, but what about its use to promote products and services externally? Social media is now one of the most popular marketing tools for creating and retaining brand attention and recognition. But why do these campaigns work so well?

They’re cheap. Marketing methods are not normally ranked according to bang-for-buck, but when they are, social media marketing is the runaway winner. Traditional Above The Line (ATL) marketing campaigns are expensive, with print, broadcasting and real estate (e.g. billboard space) costs following traditional Supply and Demand economics. Physical space and airtime are limited resources and priced accordingly. Social media marketing turns this dynamic on its head: its resources are infinite. And it’s arguably better than free: when you make a social media marketing page – like a Facebook page – you are building out a social media provider’s space – they may even reward you for doing so with promotional benefits, or credits towards more traditional resource-limited advertising (like targeted banner ads).

It’s incredibly easy to convert prospects to promoters. Traditional marketing relies on capturing the interest of ‘prospects’– potential customers for a product or service – and gradually converting them through ‘stages’ (including ‘shopper’ and ‘owner’) into a ‘promoter’. A ‘promoter’ is someone who will tell their friends and family about their positive experience with the product or service, and this is widely regarded to be the most effective form of marketing. ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ buttons placed strategically on websites – both in static pages and at point of purchase – make for a very effective way of expediting this process. 

Social media oils the cogs of larger campaigns. Take, for example, KFC Australia’s ‘Good Times’ campaign asking consumers to post ideas about what makes Australia great on their corporate Facebook page. Twin brothers Benji Madden and Joel Madden of American band Good Charlotte will use these ideas to write a hit song. Facebook account holders – a huge market of prospects – are encouraged to ‘Like’ the promotional page, or comment on a thread. Since Facebook account activity is broadcast to friends and family (according to the vast majority of users’ privacy settings), members instantly become campaign promoters, regardless of whether they’ve recently eaten a KFC meal.

They’re quick to deploy and easy to track. Social media marketing delivers results fast – much more so than traditional marketing campaigns. They’re extremely easy to set up and maintain, and most platforms will give you some sort of official analytics tool to get insights into the progress of your campaign (something you might otherwise have to hire an external marketing agency or consultant to do). Even better, there’s now a host of third-party applications that facilitate easier tracking of more complex marketing concepts such as ‘sentiment’ (consumer attitude towards the product or service), ‘engagement’ (consumer activity around your product or service – a good indicator of consumer ‘awareness’) and ‘virality’ (the ability of your product or service to ‘spread’ across the internet or social media service).

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