Social Media Marketing Merits and Demerits
Advancements in information communication technology (ICT) are occurring at an unprecedented pace in the 21st century. Parallel to innovations in personal computing and mobile technology, the prevalence of social media applications skyrocketed over the past 10 to 15 years (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017). The widespread use of social media is not only changing how people communicate with each other, but it is also compelling substantive changes in the way businesses interact with consumers (Villanti et al., 2017). At its core, social media marketing encompasses the strategic approach companies employ to harvest traffic, attention, and interest from social networking users toward their products and services. The advent of social media marketing is a relatively new phenomenon, yet most businesses understand that designing and maintaining a successful social media strategy is imperative in the contemporary business environment (Alharbie, 2015). This essay comprises a discussion regarding the unique characteristics, merits, and demerits of social media marketing by examining recent and relevant scholarly studies from the extant literature.
Merits of Social Media Marketing
According to a recent report by Pew Research Center, approximately 69% of U.S. adults use social media (Poushter, 2017, p. 1). However, results from a large-scale study regarding the prevalence of social media among U.S. adults aged 18 to 24 indicated a 90% penetration rate (Villanti et al., 2017, p. 1). It is also worth noting the population of social media users increased by approximately 20% over the course of 2016, thus indicating social media prevalence is not limited to a handful of countries (Kemp, 2017, p. 3). Based on these findings, one of the first and most obvious merits of social media marketing encompasses the sheer size of the customer bases behind the subscribership of social networking companies. The ability to connect with prospective consumers and existing customers via social media applications is not only an attractive proposition from a volume standpoint, but is also useful from a learning perspective as well.
Another reason social media marketing makes sense pertains to the quantity and quality of information available on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and many others. Most social media applications prompt users to maintain comprehensive profiles regarding their interests, hobbies, goals, background, profession, and social network (Carlson & Lee, 2015). Consequently, companies that garner connections with users successfully can leverage social media marketing to collect valuable information from their base of prospective and existing customers. Practices of this nature are referred to often in the literature as big data and marketing analytics, which essentially allows businesses to design marketing campaigns that are more targeted and specific because they extend from empirical research (Paassavanti et al., 2016; Kumar, Anand & Song, 2017). As such, social media marketing strategies are relatively meritorious when compared to other marketing channels because they stem from data that is relevant and evolving continuously.
The accessibility characteristics of social media applications are tremendously valuable and useful to marketing experts. Compared to conventional marketing strategies involving radio, television, and print advertising, social media marketing approaches enable businesses to interact with target consumers in unique ways. Votes, likes and mentions, comments, reposts, and location tracking capabilities are just a few of the interactive tools businesses use to collect, share, and harvest business intelligence through social networking sites (Paassavanti et al., 2016). Alas, another unique merit of social media marketing is that social networking sites allow companies to collaborate with consumers and customers, instead of using one-way advertising conventions (Schaupp & Bélanger, 2014). Insights cultivated from these efforts can not only propagate improvements in the advertising and branding campaigns companies use to market their products and services but can also lead to innovative discoveries on how to improve features of their offerings as well. In other words, the interaction opportunities afforded to companies through social media marketing can help expedite product enhancements and competitive advantages.(Soltani & Navimipour, 2016).
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Demerits of Social Media Marketing
While the accessibility characteristics of social media marketing help businesses nurture deeper insights about their customer base, there is a growing level of concern regarding the need for stricter consumer rights and privacy laws. By electing to utilize social media marketing channels, businesses gain the ability to interact with consumers on a more direct and intimate level. On the surface, this approach makes sense because it simply allows consumers and companies to share information and interact regarding products and services of mutual interest. However, there is a reason to believe quite a few consumers are unaware of the behavioral and emotional consequences surrounding experiential marketing, which reigns supreme in social media marketing strategies (Paassavanti et al., 2016).
Experiential marketing characterizes an immersive experience between consumers and products, where products evolve continuously and conjunctively with consumer preferences, thereby forming a type of codependency (Conick, 2017). Put simply, businesses understand this cycle all too well, yet they continue to practice experiential marketing through social media to cultivate demand for their products and services. Similar evidence is available regarding the potential for negative effects side effects to occur among adolescents exposed to experientially-oriented social media marketing (Barcelos & Rossi, 2014; Montgomery, 2015). If left unchecked, codependency between consumers and products can coalesce into addictive behaviors and psychological distress (Alves, Fernandes & Raposo, 2016). As such, social media marketing can be potentially significant for consumers and businesses alike, but the possibility of overuse and the psychological distress it can cause comprise demerits that warrant consideration.
The pace of innovation is liable to accelerate throughout the 21st century as an increasing number of consumers and businesses gain access to social media applications and commensurate technology. In quite a few ways, social media marketing emerged out of necessity so that businesses could interact with consumers in ways that were more meaningful than those offered through conventional television, radio, and print advertising. The ability to harvest deeper insights about prospective consumers while engaging in collaborative discussions with customers is enabling companies to design, market, sell, and innovate their product and service offerings much more efficiently. Social media marketing is centrally important to these capabilities, thus making it an invaluable mode of marketing. On the other hand, businesses must practice exemplary corporate social responsibility as they engage in social media marketing to ensure the safeguarding of consumers’ rights, privacy, and well-being.