Facebook went live in 2004; YouTube, in 2005, followed by Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. Social media as a concept—spaces online that allow users to create and/or share content and connect with other users—is really only just now getting its driver’s license here in 2020. Yet social media marketing has become an absolutely key part of any brand’s marketing strategy, and for good reason: 97% of digital consumers have used social media in the last month.
In these last 20 years, definitions have changed. Companies are no longer solely physical locations; they can combine physical and online storefronts, and many businesses are now run remotely, using video to replace face-to-face meetings. A brand isn’t just a message coming from a business, either; professionals who market themselves as an independent business can also have a personal brand that represents what they offer.
For anyone trying to make a living in the increasingly competitive markets of today, a social media presence is incredibly important. However, it’s also important to understand what outlets are the most useful, and which sites may not be a good match for the business message.
The History of Online Marketing
Online marketing has grown as e-business has developed, starting in the 1990s when internet shifted from being a business-based commodity to a personal household connection. The late ‘90s saw the development of better web browsers, search engines, and security; in the early 2000s, development of the Wi-Fi connection and mobile personal devices made portable devices a new and significant player.
Before the development of social media sites, companies usually advertised online the same way they did on the tangible side: through our mailboxes. Businesses would send advertisements and coupons into email inboxes, up to the point where spam email became a common term.
As consumers learned how to use this internet and what they liked to do, advertising began to crop up, with sites selling ad space on their pages based on the number of views or number of clicks. Once social media sites began the rapid growth they’ve seen in the 2000s and 2010s, the usage numbers alone attracted potential business. Facebook began selling ad space only a few years after they went public, and the rest is history.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is specifically successful for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is its reach: social media is so popular, and so ubiquitous, that in 2019, users spent an average of nearly two and a half hours per day using social media. Around 27% of social media users discover new brands for purchase through apps and feeds, and 43% research potential purchase and products using social media.
Another reason social media marketing is successful is because of the number of things that can be learned by using it. When businesses put money into, say, a television commercial, they can easily find out how many individuals were watching that channel when the commercial aired, but they have very little idea on the demographics of who saw the ad and, more importantly, whether or not it was successful.
By their very nature, social media accounts often contain information about the users themselves, and this information can help companies determine who is seeing, or clicking on, their advertisements using facts like age, gender, location, and even occupation to sort through those who have engaged with an ad.
In addition, and as a correlation to the above, social media marketing can be extra effective if information is gathered about users and then used to tailor the advertisements they see. For example: consider a Facebook user who joins three Facebook groups about knitting. Facebook might offer this information to companies who make yarn, needles, or other knitting accessories, allowing them to specifically advertise to individuals with a declared interest in their product.
Likewise, an Instagram user who continually posts images using the hashtag #cars or #classiccars is likely to be more interested in advertisements relating to classic automobiles than, for example, knitting. Social media sites use this information alongside complex algorithms to try to tailor advertisements to their users’ specific interests.
Challenges In Social Media Advertising
With statistics like this, it should be obvious that most modern businesses need to consider their own strategy, approach, and budget for social media marketing. However, simply submitting a few ads to Facebook doesn’t at all guarantee success. The flaws in social media marketing are inherent in its own advantages: namely, that social media use is so prolific, and that there’s plenty of competition.
Since social media websites see so much traffic, it can be easy for a single advertisement to be overlooked. Keep in mind that in these cases, a company isn’t just competing with competitors in their product market — they’re also competing with other posts, other content, and other websites.
An ever-increasing number of users are looking for entertainment within their social media accounts, so a boring ad can be not just ineffective, but a negative mark against a company’s brand. This is where businesses need to understand the brand message they want to display across their ads and choose platforms accordingly to suit however they have crafted their advertisements.
Obtaining, analyzing, and acting based on this information can seem like an overwhelming job. Luckily, there are a number of companies that already create reports on this data; most of these can be purchased for a fee. In addition, a social media marketing agency can help a business craft their message to take advantage of the wide reach social media platforms provide.