Information Communication Technology [ICT] has undergone remarkable transformation over the past decade due to increased research and development by institutions and individual entrepreneurs in the sector. The research and development in ICT has led to the emergence of diverse Internet-based technologies that businesses can adopt in their quest to attain competitiveness (Rooma & Fowdar 2013). Miller and Lammas (2010) corroborate that social media has increased the consumers’ ability to generate and control communication.
Social media is one of the most notable examples of Internet-based technologies that have transformed how organisations conduct their marketing activities contemporarily (Bernoff & Li 2008). Social media has connected consumers in the global market, hence they are in a position to share data and establish links with other customers. Stelzner (2013) is of the view that a significant proportion of consumers spend a substantial amount of time chatting with friends and playing games on social networking sites.
Despite this growth, most business start-ups, small, and medium sized enterprises have not fully exploited the benefits that they can attain by adopting social media in their marketing processes (Farooq & Jan 2012, p. 627). This achievement has been limited by lack of knowledge on the most effective social media tactics to adopt, how to engage audience on social media, the best social media tool to use, how to formulate a social media strategy, and how to assess success in utilising social media (Stelzner 2013). Therefore, contemporary organisations have an obligation to implement effective customer contact channels. The customer contact channels impact organisations’ ability to create customer loyalty (Baran & Galka 2013).
Miller and Lammas (2010) assert that marketing communication has undergone extensive shift from the use of traditional media to emerging internet-based applications. The emerging internet-based communication technologies continue to play a vital role in enhancing organisations’ marketing efforts, for example developing strong customer relationships. Duan, Deng, and Corbitt (2012, p. 292) assert that organisations ‘adopt technology when there is a perceived performance gap or to exploit a business opportunity’. The perceived benefits can either be direct such as reduction in the cost of operation or indirect, for example, increase in the size of customer base.
The ability to benefit from adopting internet-based technologies such as social media is determined by the commitment of the top management team in exploiting the technology (Li 2007). Therefore, the top management should create an environment that fosters utilisation of social media. The adoption of technology in marketing is also subject to the external pressure such as changes in consumer behaviours (Kotler 2000). In an effort to assess how social media benefits businesses, this study’s conceptual framework will be based on the technology-organisation- environment model.
To evaluate the various ways through which social media benefits businesses in their marketing processes.
The study will be based on the following research question: how can social media benefit businesses in marketing?
Attaining competitiveness is a critical aspect especially in profit-oriented companies. Therefore, organisational leaders have a duty to drive their organisations’ competitiveness through effective strategy formulation and implementation. Bulankulama, Ali, and Herath (2014) argue that organisational managers should take into account three main categories of factors that influence their ability to achieve competitiveness. These factors include individual, external, and internal factors. Acar and Polonsky (2007) assert that the internal factors include the factors that are within the organisational and technological context. The organisational context involves factors such as the organisations’ size, internal resources, and managerial structure. Conversely, the technological context entails an organisation’s internal technologies. Bulankulama, Ali, and Herath (2014) emphasise that internal technologies are implemented with the objective of assisting organisations to attain pre-determined business strategies.
Numerous changes have occurred with reference to how organisations create awareness to their target customer groups. Kotler (2000) asserts that new technology has led to the emergence of a raft of different communication platforms. The digital technologies and the Internet have led to the emergence of interactive forms of communication. Subsequently, the marketing communication mix has been reinforced. Social media is cited as one of the most effective technologies that organisations can utilise in executing their marketing strategies. Stelzner (2013) defines social media as the internet-based applications that are based on the technological foundations of Web 2.0. The web-based applications benefit organisations from User Generated Content [USG]. Mangold and Faulds (2009, p. 358) suggest that social media ‘should be considered as a hybrid component of the promotional mix, and thus be incorporated as an integral part of the organisation’s integrated marketing communication strategy’.
According to Demers (2013), investing in social media will cease from being a luxury and become a necessity. Developments in social media networks have led to the emergence of numerous social media platforms that businesses can adopt. The social media platforms vary from country to country. For example, some of the common social media networks in China include Qzone, Tencent Weibo, Wechat, Douban, Renren, and Kaixin 001. However, the common social media platforms globally include Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (Demers 2013). The choice of social media platform affects the degree to which an organisation succeeds in attaining competitiveness. Acar and Polonsky (2007) argue that it is critical for marketers to stand out from the current media clutter by establishing their own niche. This goal can be attained through effective market segmentation and targeting. Doyle (2007) asserts that effective targeting of customers is paramount in order to exploit the opportunities associated with social media.
A study conducted by Forester Research Incorporation in 2007 cites different categories of social media users. These categories include jointers, collectors, critics, spectators, creators, and the inactive (Li 2007). Creators generate diverse content on social media platforms while critics respond to the content generated by other social media users. On the other hand, joiners usually connect in social media networks while spectators consume what is generated in social media platforms (Li 2007). The image below illustrates the major segments of social media participants.
Companies are increasingly adopting social media in an effort to create sufficient market awareness. This trend has been enhanced by the high rate at which consumers are utilising social media. A study conducted in 2010 shows that 142.1 million citizens accessed social media networks in the US and 46.6 million in Japan (Miller & Lammas 2010). On a global scale, 80% of the 1.5 billion social media users interact through social media regularly (McKinsey Global Institute 2012). This trend depicts an opportunity for businesses to improve their competitiveness by creating awareness of their products and services to a large number of potential customers hence increasingly the likelihood of profit maximisation. Moreover, companies gain additional marketing intelligence from the user-generated content that can be used in their marketing efforts. However, a substantial number of businesses have not yet understood how to create value using social media tools (McKinsey Global Institute 2012).
The objective of this study is to explore the benefits that businesses can attain by investing in marketing through social media. In the quest to develop a better understanding of the benefits associated with social media marketing, this study will conduct a case study on how large, medium and small enterprises are utilising social media in their marketing processes. The review will intend to identify the benefits gained. The study will adopt mixed research approach, which means that qualitative and quantitative research designs will be used. Qualitative research approach will enable the researcher to conduct an in-depth research on how social media networks are benefiting businesses. On the other hand, quantitative research design will aid in analysing the data collected from the field.
The study will rely on secondary sources of data. Subsequently, the researcher will collect data by conducting intensive literature review. The researcher will collect data from online sources such as published company annual reports and published articles. However, the researcher will specifically utilise articles from credible sources in order to gather relevant data. The data collected will be presented using graphs, charts, and tables. These tools will enable the researcher to increase to condense the research data.
The researcher will ensure that the stated research methodology is effectively followed in order to improve the results of the research study. This goal will be achieved by observing various research aspects such as reliability and validity during the data collection and analysis process. Moreover, conducting a case study on the application of social media by firms in their marketing processes will aid in developing a better understanding on the benefits of integrating social media in marketing processes.
Findings of this study will enable marketers to understand the significance of integrating social media in their marketing activities. Moreover, businesses will appreciate the importance of selecting the most effective social media platform in their marketing processes. Thus, the findings of the study will stimulate adoption of social media in businesses’ marketing activities by highlighting the benefits associated with social media marketing.
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