The interactive power of this medium, which takes on various forms such as social blogs, weblogs, forums, podcasts, wikis, posting, rating, chatting, video and pictures continues to penetrate the business world. Facebook has around 3 billion visitors every month, Twitter has roughly 200 million and LinkedIn has 70 million. With these kind of numbers, social media presents great marketing opportunities for businesses of all sizes:
• to promote their business and the name of their brand;
• to tell their customer about their goods and services;
• to find out what their customers think of their business;
• to attract new customers;
• to build stronger relationships with their existing customer base.
Using social media as a marketing tool has many advantages:
• widespread audience – it can reach millions of people from all around the globe;
• can target specific market segments – many forms of social media allow businesses to target particular consumer groups and niche markets, even in particular locations;
• low cost – the paid options of many forms of social media are normally low cost, whilst many of them are free for businesses;
• personal – businesses can communicate with individual customers of groups of customers on a personal basis;
• efficient – information can be distributed quickly to reach many people at once through a myriad of devices including laptops, iPhones, iPads, smartphones, tablets, computers.
• easy – participation in social media does not require high level skills or computer equipment and is accessible to the average person with a standard device.
On the other hand, marketing through social media also poses its risks:
• wasted time and money for little or no tangible return
• undesirable or wrong information – businesses could inadvertently post incorrect information, or people with negative experiences about the company or product could post negative reviews with spread rapidly (sometimes faster than positive feedback)
• legal issues – businesses may face problems if they do not follow the laws regarding privacy, spam, copyright and other online issues.
Some key social media services suitable for different marketing activites:
• Facebook – a social networking site that allows a business to have conversations with their customers, promote special offers, post videos and photos, and more;
• Twitter – customers and potential customers can receive short messages from and to the business through this micro-blogging service;
• YouTube – a business can make use of this online video hosting service to provide information and advertise its products;
• Coupon Sites – businesses can offer discount coupon for their goods, events and services through these websites.
• Customer review sites – websites such as ‘tripadvisor.com’, which feature customer review of goods and services.