Is Social Media Marketing the best digital marketing strategy for you? Why should you consider it over other strategies like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?
Social Media Marketing involves using social networks to create, curate and share valuable content with a targeted audience in order to market a company’s products and services. The goals of social media marketing are to increase brand awareness, build online communities, attract leads and generate revenue.
The leading social media platforms where social media marketing takes place include Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Increasingly, new platforms and social media apps like TikTok, Telegram and WeChat have started to make their presence felt around the world.
A wide range of online apps and tools are also available to assist your company in your social media marketing efforts.
These tools can help you to create quality content or optimize your social media advertising efforts – the good thing is that most of these tools are available for free.
Why Social Media Marketing is Important
So why is Social Media Marketing so important for businesses in the digital age? Here are some reasons to consider.
Extensive Reach of Social Networks
There are currently more than 3.5 billion users on social media around the world, and together all users represent approximately 46 percent of the total population. That means that virtually every other person whom you meet on the street has a Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, WeChat, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media account!
Here are the number of users of some of the most popular social networks around the world:
- Facebook: Over 2.45 billion monthly active users (source)
- YouTube: Over 2 billion monthly active users (source)
- WhatsApp: Approximately 1.60 billion monthly active users (source)
- WeChat: Approximately 1.1 billion users (source)
- Instagram Over 1 billion monthly active users (source)
- Linkedin: Over 610 million users (source)
Time Spent on Social Media
Having many users on social networking sites isn’t the full story. Many people spend many hours on social networking websites too.
According to Statista, users spend on average 2 hours and 23 minutes on social networks every single day. In some countries, that probably represents the bulk of their free-time on screens, with users in the Philippines spending almost 4 hours a day on social media networks!
Lower Trust in Traditional Media Channels
Beyond the time spent, social media channels like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can also be powerful personal communication channels.
Consumers are more likely to trust a recommendation from someone whom they know on social media compared to an ad that they see on television, a bus-stop shelter, newspaper or magazine. This powerful Word-Of-Mouth (WOM) effect of social media also means that you can use social proof (ie the number of likes, comments and shares on a post) to help to reach a larger number of people on social media.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing?
Now that you’ve learned about the importance of social media channels for your marketing efforts, the next thing you need to know are the advantages of social media marketing relative to other marketing strategies.
|Advantages of Social Media Marketing||Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing|
|Ubiquity among Users||Difficulty in Measuring ROI|
|Mobile-First Social Networks||Control Handed Over to Consumers|
|Less Technically Challenging||Slow to Achieve ROI yet Time-Consuming|
|Relatively low to no cost (compared to other digital marketing strategies)||Easy to Start – Difficult to Master|
|Relatively untapped in Singapore||Government influence on social media|
|Gain market and audience insights||Recurrent algorithm changes on social networks|
|Great for brand awareness and consideration||Tight Competition|
|Complements off-page SEO efforts|
|Ability to trigger social sharing and virality|
|Ability to build brand affinity and thought leadership|
|Ability to foster brand advocacy and build community|
|Able to engage friends and family of users|
|Multimedia content formats (especially videos) help to improve brand storytelling|
|Simplify Complex Concepts with Visual Storytelling|
|Good for contests and other promotional campaigns|
|Ability to Deliver Customer Service|
Advantages of Social Media Marketing
Ubiquity among Users
The pervasiveness of social networks among close to half of the global population means that it is relatively easier to reach your target audience through a social network than through any other online or offline channel.
This is especially important given the increasingly fragmented attention span of the average consumer – especially the younger generations.
Mobile-First Social Networks
Virtually all social networking websites and apps – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok – are optimized for smartphones. Given the preference for consuming social media content on a mobile phone relative to other screens like desktops and tablets, the mobile-friendliness of social networks make them powerful platforms for marketing.
Less Technically Challenging
Comparatively speaking, social media marketing has a lower technical barrier of entry compared to other digital marketing disciplines like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, Marketing Automation, or Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
While it is strongly recommended that websites should form part and parcel of your digital marketing arsenal, social media marketing allows any user to tap on his or her company or individual pages to reach new customers.
Relatively low to no cost (compared to other digital marketing strategies)
Membership to virtually all social networking websites is free. You can set up an individual profile or a company page on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter without paying a single cent. Ditto for creating a YouTube channel.
Relatively untapped in Singapore
While Singapore has a relatively high number of social media users (approximately 76 percent are active on social media), most companies are still laggards when it comes to tapping on social media to grow their business.
Gain market and audience insights
Every social network offers some form of analytics – from Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, to Instagram and Pinterest. Provided free to users, these metrics allow you to learn more about your customer behaviours as well as your competitor actions. In the case of Facebook, you can even see what ads your competitors are running, or to monitor how effective their posts over the past week were!
Great for brand awareness and consideration
Social Media Marketing is good for generating brand awareness and consideration – these are known as Top Of Funnel (TOFU) strategies in digital marketing. Thus, social networking websites like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn are ideal for new brands seeking to build greater awareness and affinity to a cold audience.
Complements off-page SEO efforts
While shares on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn may not directly contribute to the number of backlinks to a webpage, they can certainly help to indirectly improve the SEO ranking of the page through indirect methods. This may include making your content more discoverable and possibly increasing the likelihood of a high authority website linking to you.
Ability to trigger social sharing and virality
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube are made for virality. This may take place directly on the platform itself through shared posts or retweets, or through shares made on instant messages.
Ability to build brand affinity and thought leadership
Social networks are excellent platforms to build brand affinity and thought leadership. You can do this by regularly sharing helpful content and offering insights and perspectives on the latest developments in your industry.
Ability to foster brand advocacy and build community
Heard of the term “Citizen Marketer”? Coined by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, it is used to refer to the phenomenon whereby power users of your brand take it upon themselves to promote your business – often without any form of payment or incentive. This is often mediated by social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, online forums, and Instant Messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram.
Able to engage friends and family of users
As highlighted earlier, social media provides a more intimate experience relative to other digital and non-digital channels. This allows your brand to trigger WOM effects more easily.
Multimedia content formats (especially videos) help to improve brand storytelling
From live video streaming, articles, photos, and videos, to creating ‘stories’, social networks like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube offer multiple ways to share your content. These rich multimedia formats help to make brand storytelling more compelling.
Simplify Complex Concepts with Visual Storytelling
In a related fashion, social channels can help B2B brands (and some knowledge-based B2C brands) to simplify esoteric and complex concepts, and break them down into easier-to-digest chunks of snackable content. This includes short video snippets, infographics, animated shorts, eBooks, and other visual content types.
Good for contests and other promotional campaigns
Nothing beats a Facebook or Instagram contest when it comes to gaining fresh eyeballs and new followers to your brand. While there may be some contest fatigue in recent years due to overuse, most brands still find some benefit in organizing the occasional giveaway to spike consumer interest.
Ability to Deliver Customer Service
The standard these days is for Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of companies to serve as customer service channels. Responding effectively to customers on these channels may win you new ardent fans – provided of course you do it right!
What are the Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing?
While social media channels may confer numerous benefits to firms that get it right, mastering the art and science of social media marketing isn’t just a walk-in-the-park.
Here are some of the challenges that you may face in using social networks to marketing your brand.
Difficulty in Measuring ROI
According to this article in Forbes, over 44 percent of businesses are unable to measure their ROI on social media. Apparently, only 20 percent of CMOs are able to accurately quantify the financial returns that they can glean from their efforts in social media.
Control Handed Over to Consumers
This is the age-old challenge that virtually all brands face in social media – consumers complaining and talking bad about your brand either on your page or on another platform. This could negatively affect your brand and result in the need for crisis management and damage control.
Slow to Achieve ROI yet Time-Consuming
If you think about the story of the Hare and the Tortoise, social media marketing is probably more akin to the latter than the former.
You not only have to spend a considerable amount of time to keep “plodding on” in social media, you’ll also need to consider the long-term goal of establishing trust, building a brand, and generating leads on social media.
This is backed by a study by Social Media Examiner, which revealed that 59 percent of small business users did not see ROI from their social media activities.
Easy to Start – Difficult to Master
It is virtually child’s play to shoot an Instagram story, add a couple of interesting stickers, or to conduct a poll on Facebook. However, getting results from your social media marketing efforts is another thing altogether. A study from Adestra and Ascend2 found social media marketing to be one of the most effective but difficult digital marketing tactics to execute.
Government influence on social media
Every day, you’ll hear or read about how governments around the world are clamping down on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Such sanctions may make potential customers shy away from social media, and this could reduce the effectiveness of using social networks for marketing purposes.
Recurrent algorithm changes on social networks
Social networking websites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn are constantly tweaking their formulas to maximise their profits and nudge brands to spend more on advertising. This means that your organic reach is likely to reduce further each year unless you invest time and effort to cultivate your social media following while strategically investing in the right type of ads to influence your followers.
Social networks are getting increasingly crowded. Ditto for advertisers.
In fact, it is a well-known fact that Facebook is running out of ad inventory – this could make it harder (and more expensive) to boost your posts or advertise on the world’s largest social network.
Social media marketing has grown in leaps and bounds in the 2010s and will continue to gain prominence in the 2020s. As a marketing platform, it is superior to many online and offline channels where it comes to affordability and reach. Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram also provide numerous benefits to brands, and are widely known as the “most viral” online channels.
However, social media marketing does come with its challenges. To the uninitiated, these disadvantages can be daunting – the way to overcome them is to ensure that you apply the best practices in social media marketing.
Ready To Learn More? Sign Up For Our Social Media Marketing Course!
What we have touched on above is just the icing on the cake.
In our two-day social media marketing course, we cover a detailed six-step process focusing on the most important social networks you need to know. You will be equipped with hands-on knowledge and valuable tools to strengthen both your skills and knowledge of social media marketing. Find out more about the course here.
Corporate storyteller, influencer, strategist, people developer, and change agent, Walter has 20 years of experience in brand development, content marketing, PR, social media marketing, strategic planning, industry development, and organisational management.
As the Chief Content Strategist of Cooler Insights, a bespoke content marketing, PR and social influence consultancy, Walter is an avid business and marketing blogger. He is also the lead trainer for Equinet Academy’s Social Media and Content Marketing courses.
Appointed by SPH to be a judge for the Singapore Blog Awards for 6 years (2010-2015), he has spoken and trained at multiple workshops and conferences on social media marketing, public relations, citizen engagement and branding.