SMEs Best practice social marketing strategy
Academics analysed the best practices related to the use of social networks as strategic marketing tools that give SMEs a competitive advantage. They conducted an analysis of the literature on the use of social networks in business. They then conducted an exploratory study to find out the best practices on the use of social media in SMEs.
They found that marketing strategies focused on the customer have grown rapidly in recent years. This has led to an increase in the number of users of social networks, forcing SMEs to consider these technological systems as tools to attract, maintain and manage customers, as well as resources for obtaining information on the behaviour of the market and the consumer.
Reviewing the social network literature
The researchers first analysed about 75 articles, of which 37 were directly related to the topic of interest.
SMEs Best practice social marketing strategy here are some findings:
Social networks are web-based marketing tools that offer competitive advantages
Social networks are web-based marketing tools that offer competitive advantages to companies and users. An example of a business using social networks are airlines that promote exclusive last-minute offers via Twitter. Starbucks has restricted certain promotions to only Facebook followers, helping it to gain millions of Facebook fans. YouTube has helped companies transmit and post videos with marketing and customer-service goals – for example, US blender manufacturer Blentec posted videos that showed how the Blentec blenders were able to crush a variety of items such as iPods, golf balls and CDs.
Media participation allows to create marketing advertising
Media participation allows social media users to create marketing advertising. For example, Gillette created a contest in which participants had to produce a short video showing their abilities in ball sports, and these videos were posted on YouTube. With its Go Social initiative, American Express allowed its merchants to co-create through Facebook to the end customers. Through Facebook, the merchants distributed American Express deals to generate sales, which translated to increased credit card use for American Express.
Social networks can offer real-time and transparent information to companies through viral marketing. Social networks are now able to provide diverse and specialised communication channels to niche markets. The emergence of internet-based social media has made it possible for one person to communicate with thousands of other people about productsand the companies that provide them.
Social network shifts power to customers
Social network shifts power to customers, who can become intermediaries and influence other customers’ behaviours. Through social networks, technology-enhanced word-of-mouth advertising creates the impression of peer-determined credibility and achieves an economy of scale that is elusive to traditional marketing. Companies commonly employ several types of word-of-mouth marketing activities. The major categories include viral marketing where communication through entertainment or information messages are passed on electronically and are valuable for building traffic. Secondly, referral programs allow satisfied customers to refer friends who could have a similar interests. Finally, there is community marketing, which can be created around niche segments in which people who have similar interests form a community. A study made with data from Cyworld, an online social networking site in Korea, showed if a ‘friend’ purchases a product there is a positive effect on the probability of other users making a purchase.
Advantage of Facebook and digital engagement opportunities
An advantage of Facebook is that it offers opportunities like fan pages to promote products. Facebook also allows applications made by third-party developers to play games and interact with other users, and pages where users can create their own groups of users and communicate with them. One of Facebook’s disadvantages, though, is that it proves not to be as influential as brand pages due to the fact that the amount of members cannot be taken as a consistent number because a user might join thegroup but diminish its visits, as it becomes less interesting. The lack of face-to-face contact on Facebook can also create a perception of uncertainty and risk for the buyer.
Best practices on the use of social media in SMEs
The researchers also conducted quantitative and qualitative research to discover the best practices on the use of social media i· n SMEs. They surveyed 186 SMEs. Here are some of the findings:
- Most employers believe social networks are powerful tools that will complement traditional marketing strategies.
- 90 per cent believe it is essential to have a clear social network strategy.
- While about half the respondents believe it is necessary to have a specialist to manage their social networking, they are not yet ready to hire their services.
- 57 per cent agree that the purpose of being present in social networks is to sell. This shows that many still believe social networks are a communication tool only between family and friends.
- However, 93 per cent agree that the purpose of being present in social networks is to generate brand positioning. They see that through social networks they can position their brand thanks to viral marketing and word-of-mouth spread.
- 87 per cent use Facebook for most of their social network marketing.
- 93 per cent of repsondents agree that it is essential they understand their consumers in order to create an online strategy.
- When it comes to tracking the effectiveness of marketing efforts in social networks, some measure it by the number of sales achieved in a period determined by social networks. The vast majority of companies rely on statistics that Facebook generates.
Social Network Qualitative analysis
The researchers also conducted interviews with 30 entrepreneurs. When asked, “What are the social networks used by your company?” respondents pointed to Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, Pinterest, Word Press, Flicker, Foodspotting and Instagram were also mentioned. When asked about how much money on average the company intended to budget for social networks, most entrepreneurs said they don’t have a defined budget. They agreed that traditional marketing is a good tool to grow their businesses, and despite the benefits of digital marketing, they would rather find free options. The researchers found two marked tendencies in relation to who was responsible for managing social networks – companies that use internal staff and those who hirean outside agency. In the first instance, the owner of the company usually handles social media. External agencies are contracted by SMEs to add content, track questions or comments, and upload a promotions.
Best practice and social networks
The results indicate that SMEs are unaware of the wide range of possibilities is the use of social networks provide. For those who do, there are some best practices they can follow in order to use social networks effectively and for competitive advantage. Factors SMEs must consider are:
- Developing a strategy that recognises social media and social networks as valuable marketing tools.
- Using these tools to deliver real-time information through viral marketing.
- Engaging users to co-create publicity materials.
- Engaging users to co-create publicity materials.
- Being aware of the disadvantages of this kind of marketing that might cause uncertainty in the minds of the consumer.
To develop a strategy, SMEs must:
- Identify the target consumer, which will include an analysis of the traditional marketing mix.
- Strategically select the platform (such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter) the company will use to market its products and engage social network users.
- Apply the following concepts and best practices in the use of socialnetworks:
- Social networking tools are web-based marketing tools that provide competitive advantages, which means saving resources through interaction between users and the company, and can serve as generators of traffic and potential customers.
- Social networks can provide valuable information in real time, thanks to the convergence of viral communication, which consists of massive and rapid dissemination of a message over the web that the users transmit. The information flowing through the network presents a challenge for the marketing of products as the company has little control over what is being communicated.
- The involvement of the media allows users of social networks to co-create advertising. It involves the company, the buyer, brokers and the general public through competitions, exchange of information ordirect suggestions, always according to the policies of the social media.
- The social media can empower users to influence the behaviour of others through word of mouth.
- Facebook and other social media can create advantages and disadvantages which would cause uncertainty and risk to the consumer, which means that both companies and consumers need to plan sales strategies in order to significantly reduce the risk.
SMEs and missed opportunities
The researchers discovered there are huge opportunities to educate small businesses about how good social media strategies can generate business. Many SMEs have no knowledge of the existence of tools that could be useful in their daily operations to promote their products, reach customers, monitor and measure the effectiveness of their strategies, and help with brand positioning. The findings show that in Mexico there is a technology gap in the use of new communication technologies, marketing and advertising technologies, resulting in a loss of national and international competitiveness.
The strategic use of social networks as an additional tool of traditional marketing can offer a greater competitive advantage. Social networks open up the possibility of co-creation and can influence consumer behaviour through information dissemination.
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Mangold, W. G. & Faulds, D. J. (2009). “Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix.”