Social media is an intellectual and technical trend that is currently permeating many features of business including consumer marketing among others (Kaplan & Haenlein 2010). Social Media brings together people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, and thus it has become a marketing tool for many businesses (Kontu & Vecchi 2014). Given the widespread nature of social media usage across the world, companies can ride on that advantage to create awareness amongst the many users, who are potential consumers. The interactive nature of social media sites enables marketers to interact with prospective customers and gain insight concerning the likes and preferences of their customers. However, for a business to achieve its marketing goals successfully through the social media, it has to design its strategies to fit in the seven blocks that make up the social media ecology (Kietzmann et al. 2011). In this era that is dominated by new technology, firms need to make decisions on the policies to adopt in their marketing. Organisations need to adopt different strategies for different sites depending on the nature and characteristics of the users in that particular site. This paper will analyse the seven social media building blocks and shed light on marketers concerning how they could use the blocks successfully to manage social media marketing. The paper will use examples of businesses that have employed social media successfully to boost their sales.
The identity block denotes the extent to which social media participants reveal their identities. Conventionally, the term identity refers to name, age, sex, residence, occupation, and other information that may assist marketers in identifying and gaining information about the social media users. Research indicates that the majority of social media participants use their real names in their profiles. In addition, the majority of the emerging social media service providers, for example Facebook, have come up with an innovative way of capturing the users’ identity through encouraging people to set up profiles that contain information about them including individual photos. Information about an individual or a group of social media users is important to marketers and if such information is well managed, it may lead to the success of marketing strategies directed towards Internet marketing. Marketers of different products and services may use information about users to gain insight on their tastes and preferences (Berthon et al. 2007). Using tools such as Retaggr, social media marketers may create social media profile cards. The aforementioned profile cards work in the same way as the traditional business cards and they enable other users to follow them easily. For marketers to maximise their followers, they ought to assure users of privacy regarding their identity.
The conversations block, according to Kietzmann et al. (2011, p. 224), refers to ‘the extent to which social media users interact with other users within the social media setting and the majority of social media sites are designed in such a way that they only facilitate communication amongst individuals and groups’. Such conversations pool together individuals and groups sharing similar interests. Conversations enable marketers to gain insight about customers’ likes and preferences. The majority of social media sites today encourage comments from marketers and customers. Facebook is one of the social media sites that encourage response from users. Marketers can learn from comments and likes from other users in response to a post. It is highly recommended for marketers to create their own apps within the social media to enable interaction between them and their prospective customers.
An organisation should be careful on the kind and nature of interactions to post over the social media. The interactions must be relevant to the product or services they are offering in the market. The firm ought to make decisions regarding the content and the frequency of such posts. Employees should be consulted on the best way to present the firm in the media and be encouraged to act as ambassadors for the firm in social media sites (Nan & Faber 2004). Employees identified as having the ability to create emotionally moving conversations should be encouraged to do so (Boone & Kurtz 2013). Regular appraisals of such conversations should be conducted in order to ensure compliance with a firm’s marketing policies (Boyd & Ellison 2008). Conversations ought to be integrated with YouTube videos where appropriate in order to attract the users’ response.
Reputation denotes the extent to which users of social media can trust a dealer or marketer. Creating reputation within the social media will benefit the marketer since customers will tend to express their trust by responding positively to ads posted by a certain company. Reputation can be determined through identifying the number of followers. A good example of a marketer who has successfully managed to create good reputation within the social media is Guy Kawasaki, who has more than 292,000 followers in his Twitter account. Certain social media sites such as LinkedIn have come up with an innovative way of building one’s reputation based on recommendations by others. Creating accounts with such media sites and encouraging employees and other stakeholders to endorse the firm will boosts the reputation of a company significantly. Such reputation will automatically translate into increased sales. It will also provide incentives for extra followers to join the already existing ones (Kietzmann et al. 2011). Increased followers will mean increased knowledge on the products through comments. Basing decisions on the comments expressed by the followers will enable the marketer to make informed decisions, thus leading to the success of the marketing strategies.
Kietzmann et al. (2011, p. 246) posit that this block refers ‘to the extent to which users of social media relate to each other’. Relationship in this context underscores the magnitudes to which users can interact with each other, share ideas, and recognise each other as ‘friends’. The relationship amongst users determines the kind of information shared. Marketers should work hard towards creating fairly formal and structured relationships with other users so that interactions are enhanced. Creating good relationship with the targeted customers will encourage more users to follow the marketer. In addition, marketers are encouraged to create pages within the social media sites and invite followers to like or comment on their ads. Creating a formal relationship between the marketer and the users will encourage conversations that will help the marketers in the decision-making processes. Marketers can use social media sites, such as LinkedIn, which provide a room for users sharing similar interest to create a network thereby reaching more customers (Boone & Kurtz 2013). By doing this, the marketer will be in a position to meet the target groups through a network that brings the marketer closer to the target group through friends of friends. Marketers should also aim at creating good relationship with the users so that they may interact with them through other mediums offered within the social media setting such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Skype). Interactions through the aforementioned mediums will create a personal relationship between the marketer and the users, and thus it will translate to good reputation.
This block represents the tendency by users to form communities and sub communities within a social media site. Marketers should aim at securing membership in groups with high number of members to increase their followers. The more the number of members in a certain group, the more attractive the group is to a marketer. Marketers should also aim at establishing their own groups within the social media and invite followers (target customers) based on the information in their profiles (Kietzmann et al. 2011). Most social media sites today permit the founders of different groups to choose the people they want to recruit into their groups. In exercising this mandate, marketers can create different groups and subdivide their members according to their age, gender, and likes. This way, the marketer will reach the targeted customers for a certain product or service that may be age or gender based. In most cases, groups consist of individuals who share similar interest, and thus the marketer will acquire reliable information regarding his or her products or services (Borgatti & Foster 2003). In addition, groups encourage less stringent conversations, thus creating a venue through which the targeted customers can air their interests and concerns freely.
Sharing is the degree to which users of social media can swap, share, and obtain content (Tsiakis 2013). This block determines the success of a marketing strategy based on the social media. If users are at liberty to share and receive content within the social media setting, there is a high likelihood of a product or service reaching many people. Firms should aim at creating their own websites where they share content with online customers. Sharing may be achieved through sharing YouTube videos. YouTube videos should be designed in such a way that they portray the ability of an employee or a group of employees at the site (Boone & Kurtz 2013). In addition, firms may seek consultants’ services where necessary. Consultants will advise marketers on the best ways to advertise their products, thus minimising risks and maximising profits. However, firms should be careful while using this medium as it has been noted in the past that people share contents they do not create themselves. For example, YouTube has been criticised for failure to observe the copyright law provisions, thus allowing people to share other people’s videos as if they are theirs.
This block highlights the extent to which users of social media can determine the accessibility of other users within the social media setting. It considers both the ability by a user to determine the geographical location of a certain user as well as his or her accessibility. The majority of the social media sites today provide a way through which other users can tell if a user is online or not. Others such as the Foursquare show the geographical location of a user (Waters 2013). Marketers can thus take advantage of such information to decide on the appropriate time to post an ad over the social media. The posting should be done when the majority of users are present so that many individuals can see the post. Information regarding the location of a user is equally important to marketers since it helps them to make decisions regarding establishing subsidiaries in locations where many customers come from. Higher presence of users is likely to translate into a lively conversation and attract many comments regarding the product or services offered by a firm.
The modern world is experiencing a technological revolution whereby different novel technologies are emerging every other day. Businesses have embraced these innovations in a bid to fit and reap from the emerging trends. Technology advancements that are being experienced in the contemporary times have changed the face of marketing entirely. Contrary to the traditional ways of executing business, marketing today is accomplished through the social media. In a bid to use social media sites optimally, salespeople have to make certain strategic decisions in order to manage and influence the social media to work in their favour. Every firm has to understand the seven building blocks of the social media ecology in order to market their products or services successfully through the media. Firms should develop different marketing policies for different social media sites. Social media facilitates interactions between the marketer and the prospective customers, and thus knowledge on the seven blocks is vital if marketing via social media sites is to be successful. If used appropriately, the seven blocks can become a springboard for companies to increase their sales via social media marketing.
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