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Introduction

This research investigates the role of social media in marketing in order to determine whether companies should focus all their marketing efforts on social media platforms. The term social media is used to refer to a group of internet based web 2.0 applications that enable users to interact, communicate and share content including video, text and graphics. Popular social media applications include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, photo sharing sites like Instagram and Flickr, social tagging sites such as Digg and video creating and sharing sites such as YouTube.

Social media marketing leverages the potential of social media applications to promote a company and its products or services. Social media marketing is a trend that is growing rapidly as companies begin to realise the strategic importance of social media as a tool to engage consumers, create relationships and develop brand loyalty in a cost effective and efficient manner. Given the advantages of social media marketing, there is growing pressure on companies to adopt social media marketing.

In order to determine if companies should focus all their marketing efforts on social media, this research will discuss the advantages of using social media as well as challenges of using it.

Advantages of social media marketing

The use of social media in marketing presents compelling arguments that companies cannot afford to ignore. These include social media marketing as a cost effective way to reach a wider audience, the shift from transactional to relational marketing and the exponential growth of social media.

Social media marketing is cost effective

Social media marketing is a cost effective way to reach a wider target. Kirtiş and Karahan (2011) have argued that in the post-recession era, companies are focused on cutting costs, particularly advertising costs. Social media allows companies to reach a wider target in a timely, more efficient and cost effective manner than would be achieved through traditional communication tools, such as T.V. In the US, a thirty second advert during the Super Bowl costs $4.5 million dollars and has the potential to only reach a certain percentage of the American market while the same amount of money could buy four days of Facebook Reach Blocks with a potential audience of 100 million (Johnson, 2015).

Kaplan and Haenlein (2011) argue that social media has enabled viral marketing which allows companies to promote their products and services with a very low budget and still achieve levels of awareness similar to those that can only be achieved by expensive TV advertising. These researchers present the case of Proctor and Gamble, which in 2010 uploaded a 30-second video via YouTube to promote its Old Spice brand. The video was viewed 23 million times in 36 hours. For companies like Proctor and Gamble which operate in competitive global markets, it would be extremely expensive to achieve this kind of awareness through traditional media like TV because they would have to advertise in each individual country. Social media transcends national boundaries and presents a single interface to reach every corner of the globe. No social media application illustrates this point more powerf