While firms strive to survive by gaining a significant market share and to position their products in the market with the ultimate aim of generating sufficient profits to sustain their survival, research has demonstrated that the marketing approach adopted by these firms underlies the strength of their positions in the market today. That has driven a significant number of firms in the world to invest a significant share of their revenues to conduct the marketing of their product using direct marketing strategies on the best media that has in the recent past unveiled itself, social media. Typically, that is because the internet has virtually merged the real world with the virtual world and its presence in the whole world is overwhelming. Unlike, therefore, the traditional marketing strategies that focused on segmentation with the 4Ps underlying concepts, a radical departure in the recent past where social media is increasingly taking the place of social media has been the trend. However, the implications and future trend share that firms have to fully get into the internet and use social media as one of the best strategies of direct marketing to reap the benefits of direct marketing strategies to generate higher company revenues.
Direct marketing using the internet has been an observable trend that marketers have adapted to access and reach their target audience in a world where the virtual world and the real world seem to merge seamlessly. Typically, the rationale underpinning the use of the internet is the rapid growth and use of the internet virtually in every form of communication today (Jantsch, n.d; Boyd & Ellison, 2008). That has been the driving force behind the direct marketing strategies companies find compelled to adopt to meet their marketing strategies and more specifically their revenue generation expectations (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). That said it is worth mentioning that companies are compelled to use the internet as a direct marketing platform to address a number of expectations besides revenue generation. These include the need to reach a wider audience making a significant number of people aware of the products and services offered by companies in real time, which leads to a larger market share and strong market position. However, it is crucial to note that the customers only get a virtual feel of the product and services offered by a specific firm in the market (Bryan & Farrell, 1996).
Typically, the direct marketing strategy eliminates some descriptive elements that include smells, touch, taste, sound, and some evaluations on the product being sold. Despite these drawbacks, direct marketing on the internet has taken an unprecedented growth with many sites recording significant growth and profit generation over the online sales (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). Typically, using social media like Facebook and Twitter provides direct channels for online direct marketing. Other forms of direct marketing include the use of mails which include brochures, etc., direct response broadcasting, and many other forms of direct marketing. However, the current study focuses on the use of direct marketing using social media and other forms of online communications. Typically, the current study focuses on Social media marketing strategy as a form of direct marketing, the current, emerging trends and future implications of direct marketing using social media.
The aim of the current study is to establish the benefits associated with using social media as a marketing strategy that firms have adopted in the recent past and the underlying expectations in the form of revenue generation, market position, and product promotion, planning, pricing, and place strategies.
The main objective is to understand the benefits of direct on-line social marketing strategies and their impact on company’s revenue versus off-line (traditional) methods.
Many companies have trended toward adopting the use of social media as direct marketing strategy to reach a wider market audience, gain a strong market position, and accelerate higher revenue generations. However, many are still in a dilemma to invest in social media as a direct marketing strategy due to limited information and projections on the impact of social media as a direct marketing strategy in profit generation, despite the current trends when compared with traditional direct marketing strategies.
- How is social media used by firms as a direct marketing strategy?
- Why do firms use social media as a direct marketing strategy?
- What is the social network revenue generation cycle against time?
- How can firms create an interactive marketing strategy to position their products and services using social media?
- What statistical data is available showing the trend in using social networking as a direct marketing strategy?
- What are the current trends and future trends?
- What is the difference in trend between direct marketing using social media and traditional direct marketing strategies?
- What are the social networking sites and their usage?
To answer the research questions, a detained study of available literature and a quantitative data collection and analysis provided answers to the research questions.
To answer the research questions, literature on the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy, current, emerging trends, and future implications of the direct marketing strategy using social media was analyzed forming the source of qualitative study to complement quantitative statistical data to answer the research questions.
Research studies have shown marketing as the backbone of firm if in its strategy it has to attain the main objective of generating sustainable and sufficient revenue to cover expenditure and generate sufficient profits (Dewey, 1975). That is the case with social media.
Marketing on Social Media
According to Stelzner (2009), marketing on the social media platform underlines the positioning of a firm’s products and services in the market, provides a channel to reach audiences with different demographic characteristics and buyer behavior (who decide on when, how where, why to buy a service or product), and provide relevant information about their products and services, and specifically support and a firm’s branding strategies (Van, Strazzieri & Woodside, 2001). One of the crucial direct marketing strategies, based on market intelligence reports is the use of social media in direct marketing (Bryan & Farrell, 1996; Vogt & Knapman, 2008).
According to Vogt and Knapman (2008), social media plays a significant role in establishing direct access and relationship with the customer. That has been due to the current global rise in the use of internet as a communication platform based on its characteristic that includes its presence, immediate access, real time communication capabilities, and ability to reach the target customer any time of the day (Weber, 2009). Wu (2003) argues that social media provides interactive support and direct negotiation between the customer and the product based on consumer behavior, needs, and the buyer decision making process which is characterized by problem recognition, searching for information on the internet using social media, evaluating different product alternatives, making a decision to buy a specific product, and evaluating post purchase behavior based on the black box model (Wu, 2003).
Typically, social media provides a platform for information search based on the web presence in many parts of the world coupled with ease of access at low cost in any part of the world (Shimp, 2007). Accordingly, Shih (2009) compares with traditional forms of communication and for the fact that current trend show that the internet or online communication has seamlessly been merged the virtual world with the real world, making both complimentary to the other (Barefoot & Szabo, 2010). The trend certainly leaves organizations with no option other than to adapt to the current trends of communicating and directly accessing the market and expected markets. Thus, communication forms the underbelly of any marketing strategy (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). The nature of social media is exemplified below.
Prominent Social Sites
According to Bodkin & Perry (2004), studies have shown prominent social networking sites that many firms use to conduct their direct marketing and for branding their products to include Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedln. Each of these sites provide the flexibility for the marketer to directly and interactively reach the client online without having using the traditional direct marketing strategy (Jantsch, n.d). Typically, these sites provide the platform for bloggers. Bloggers provide an environment and flexibility to allow readers make comments in the fabric of direct marketing (Ofcom Office of Communications, 2008). Typically, that allows people to access information about particular services and products using search engines hosted on the internet (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). Typically, Pagon and Quigley (2007) affirm that the blogger provides the flexibility used by the marketer to provide information online about a specific brand while making it possible to update content in different ways and to add content the appropriate site (French, 1997; Jantsch, n.d; Pitta & Fowler, 2005; Shih, 2009).
Statistical evidence shows that the sites mentioned above occupy a significant portion of the world market in terms of usage and access throughout the world. That said, estimates indicate a significant share of access on a daily basis to constitute 2.5 billion people on the daily basis with a typical example of a visit that was made to the sites constituting 2.5 million visitors in 2009 alone (Ofcom Office of Communications, 2008).
However, it is worth mentioning that the sites mentioned above are a little less accessed in terms of the number of visits in a year when compared with Google and yahoo being the most frequently visited sites in the world today. However, projections show that social media has provided such competition in terms of access rates compared with Google and yahoo. Typically, that results, hypothetically, in a rising trend in the use of social media and a marketing platform and powerful tool to enable the growth of business and the market position of any firm offering products and services to the target customers. It has been argued that if the revenue generated by these sites are compared with the income levels of different countries in the world, it is possible to rank social media with the equivalent of a fourth position in the income level of the rankling of all countries (French, 1997).
That gives a clear and distinct view of the level of usage of social media as an interactive platform being exploited by firms to conduct sales of their product and services online with the direct marketing strategy playing a significant underlying role. However, it is crucial to establish the approach used to access the market which has many characteristics. One such tool used as a direct marketing tool is blogging, in the current direct marketing approach (Jantsch, n.d). However, it is curial to note that social media for marketing purposes is characterized by blogging that ranges from shallow to deep engagements as illustrated in the diagram, below.
While figure 2 above is true, the current marketing trend, bloggers contribute significantly to the current trend in direct marketing based on social media include the ability to provide pages to add content about a particular product or service, enable readers to interact directly with the marketer for different subscriptions, and search engines to enable content delivery directly to the target market audience (Dewey, 1975). Thus, marketers are able to directly access the customer and provide detailed descriptions about product content, context information about the market, and other market variations, and related information. In addition to that, other means of communicating with the customer interactively include social networking, and encouraging social search using social media as a tool that provides a rich ground for fulfilling a firm’s marketing objectives (Jantsch, n.d).
It is crucial to mention that firms are compelled to use social media as a platform for reaching the market characterized by different demographic distributions to attain their marketing objectives (Dewey, 1975). These objectives are wide and vary according to each firm’s marketing strategies and goals. It is however, worth mentioning some of the objectives, which include the need to spread marketing information, work with other firms that provide collaborative support in the growth of business, build a community of customers from around the world, and provide information about specific products and services to build strong brands (Jantsch, n.d).
Firms find it crucial to use social media as a direct marketing strategy based on the their projections on the return on investment, growth of revenue and particularly a focus on profits that provide firms with the financial health to remain in the market (Bryan & Farrell, 1996).
Statistical data showing the significance of social media as an important tool for direct marketing is evident with many firms. One of the successful examples which include CMO which has consistently used social media as a direct marketing strategy has shown significant revenue improvement. One of the strategies used by CMO to tap into the potential for online direct marketing included investing in social media and encouraging interactive marketing focusing more on the customer. “The survey was conducted among 133 CMOs in September 2009” (Jantsch, n.d). The “industries included software/hardware (17%), finance/insurance (9%)” (Jantsch, n.d). Typically, it included industries with respective percentages including “travel/hospitality (9%), media/publishing (9%), consumer goods (8%), and retail (7.5%), among others” (Jantsch, n.d). On the other hand, the “Annual revenues of CMO companies ranged from $6 to $50 million (25%), $51 to $999 million (42%), and more than $1 billion (23%)” (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). Thus, showing evidence of the growth in business for many of the firms engaged in online direct marketing (Jantsch, n.d).
Typical examples are shown in the chart below
Figure 1 shows typical current trends that demonstrate that many firms have been compelled to move toward embracing social media as a direct marketing strategy based on the benefits associated with the use of social media as a marketing platform. It is also evident that many of the firms have invested a significant amount of money to drive their marketing online to access the customers. Typically, many firms have experienced a rise in social spending with a rise in social tracking (Jantsch, n.d). It has been reported that “In 2009, the top metrics tracked for social media initiatives included site traffic (90%), number of page views (85%), and number of fans (83%). In 2010, CMOs expect top metrics to track more closely to P&L business goals, not just web-related goals.
The fastest-growing metrics for 2010 include revenue, conversion, and average order value, which grew 333%, 174%, and 150% respectively” (Weber, 2009). Thus, the current trends demonstrate a need to evaluate the differences between social media and traditional marketing strategies and the use of social media as direct marketing strategies firms have used (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). Other statistics that show the implications of using social media as a direct marketing strategy are summarized figure 2 below.
Traditional Marketing Strategies
Traditional direct marketing strategies provided marketing functions for the marketing of product and services to the intended customer. It is a strategy that targets one specific audience or market and focuses on the end user focusing on the use of the famous 4Ps. These 4Ps included an underlying concept defined by the price of a product, the specific place to sell the product or service, the promotional activities on the product or price, and the product characteristics. These were the underlying drivers characterizing traditional marketing. However, using social media as the current trend in direct marketing, one is convince of some modifications that the 4Ps are still significant factors in the new trend in direct marketing using social media with a radical departure demonstrated in the segmentation component used in the traditional marketing strategy. Typically, the different between traditional marketing and current trends using social media is in market segmentation (Bryan & Farrell, 1996). However, the marketing strategies to position products are summarized in diagram 5 below.
According to Day, Shocker & Srivastava (1979) and Crittenden, Crittenden and Muzyka (2002), segmentation (characterized by occupation, gender, income levels, economic determinants, family, media, product, psychographic lifestyle, pricing, geographic distributions, and morbidity) is a crucial component of the traditional marketing strategy (Dibb, Simpkin, Pride & Ferrell, 2001). Thus it is crucial to examine its role segmentation plays in traditional direct marketing as exemplified in figure 5 below.
Different studies have shown that segmentation draws on dividing a target market identified with a specific product into segments and sub-segments based on geographic, demographic distributions, market behavior, and psycho graphic characteristics (Griffith & Pol, 1994). Each segment is characterized by a given homogeneous behavior and with some sections of the market considered as niche markets. However, Green (1979) identifies a radical departure from the direct marketing strategy using the social media strategy as demonstrated in the type of research and investigations that are done before a product is launched (Jantsch, n.d). On the other hand, in social media, everyone is free to peruse through a catalogue of products and select from a range of products without the restrictions of a market segment (Green, 1979).
Thus, as opposed to traditional marketing where a product is produced and made available to the market, it is crucial to note without exception that using the social media as a direct marketing strategy does not lay emphasis on a particular product, but every product is disposed for the customer to select from a variety of products despite buyer characteristics (Bryan & Farrell, 1996; Goller, Hogg & Kalafatis, 2002). However that is typically, influenced by consumer charcteritics that are exemplified in figure 6 below.
Product and Parent Company
On the other hand, Dibb, Simpkin, Pride, & Ferrell (2001) provide an additional perspective by arguing that traditional marketing lays emphasis and focuses on a product and its parent company. Typically, that allows the producer of the product, that is the parent company control any emotional attachments developed by the customers toward a product. It is a company controlled strategy. Typically, the traditional marketing strategy draws on the 4Ps in marketing and marketing segmentation (Jantsch, n.d).
Having conducted a literature review as a source of qualitative data, it was crucial to conduct a data collection and analysis of quantitative data using a number of tools to establish answers to the research study on using social media marketing strategy as a form of direct marketing, while establishing today’s emerging trends and tomorrow’s implications. Typically, that could answer the research questions as discussed in the findings and discussion sections. Among the tools to use are questionnaires and interviews that are discussed in the following sections.
Based on the current study on the use of social media as a form of direct marketing strategy, samples use in the study were collected across the demographic divide of the cohort of internet users. The general characteristics of the demographic distribution the population that buys using social media (buyers), different gender, consumers from different backgrounds (including income levels, occupation, gender, and race) who are influenced by factors that influence buyer behaviour. The population sample corresponds to the number of questionnaires issued as shown in the data collection table in the next section.
On the other hand, it was deemed wise to ensure the samples used in the study were well represented in the study. That required the use of different techniques to identify specific characteristics of the samples that were desirable to be covered in the study. Different techniques were employed to ensure accurate and fair distribution and representations in the sampling frame. These included ensuring that each element with unique characteristics was included in the study. In addition to that, each element identified in the study has to be included in the frame to ensure fair representations.
Typically, both, qualitative and quantitative data collection methods were applied to collect and address data requirements for the study. Both types of data are characteristically different. A significant number of scientific research studies generally agree qualitative research to be highly subjective. Qualitative research is subjectively naturalistic and produces results that do not rely on statistical methods to collect and analyze. On the other hand, quantitative data should be assigned numerical values depending on the, measurement scale and area of application.
Another tool, identified for use in the study was interviews. Different people participated in the interviews. In addition to that, a wide range of issues were considered when administering interviews. It was however, important to keep information provided with confidentiality to ensure that their privacy was preserved as agreed prior to the interviews (Odendahl & Shaw, 2002). Among those presented in the interviews were bloggers, company personnel, marketing executives, and customers from different market segments. However, it was crucial to establish the validity of the interviews in providing reliable data for the current study. Typically, the reliability of interviews is based on the fidelity and perspectives of the interviewer.
The interviewers in this case are the researcher or aany team member recruited into the research team. The interviewers were people taken for training before commencing the data collection exercise. The bloggers, customers, marketing staff, other company executives, and other third parties directly or indirectly affected by the study were among the sources of data used in the study. Typically, the population using the internet or social media to sell or buyer products online were used to identify the problems and benefits associated with the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy. Thus, it is important to conclude that that a number of problems can be associated with the use of interviews as data gathering instruments.
Typically, different authors concur on different problems that interviews present as data gathering instruments (Odendahl & Shaw, 2002). One of the problems is persistence of record noted to occur in the same direction. The argument is that the interviewer is usually subject to the subjectivity of the subject to interview. In the current study, observations showed that the initial use of interviews registered validity problems with a high degree of persistence. The persistence problem noted included a biasness on the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy based on interviewee attitude toward the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy (Odendahl & Shaw, 2002).
One of the critical tools used in the current study was a questionnaire. Questionnaires were administered on population that had been identified to capture the data critical to the study. Typically, data collection from the target population was characterized a range of elements that included interactivity of the social media, internet presence, and the response rates. Other items that were considered salient to the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy included features integrated into the social media sites that support interactivity and other functionalities, interactive use of the application, and the quality of input content. The data collected from the population identified in the study was critical to inform the study based on the elements that were used in the study (Odendahl & Shaw, 2002).
To obtain valid results, it was crucial to evaluate the questionnaire as a data-gathering tool to confirm its validity for use in the study. The questionnaire was identified as the most appropriate data-gathering tool for use in the study based on its relative advantage to the case under investigation. Among the benefits associated with the use of a questionnaire included its convenience in administering to the respondents.
Though questionnaires was the basic component in the study, interviews at various points were used to make significant contributions to the research in question. In addition to the use of interviews, document analysis formed additional backbone to the study as mentioned elsewhere in the paper. Questionnaires and interviews were used together to benefit from the synergy associated with using both tools in the acquisition of data.
Data Collection And Findings
|Description(Target Population)||Sales personnel||Firm employees selling online||Families social media has influenced to buy online||Firms influenced to advertise and market products using social media||Medium income business organizations||Consumers below 50 years|
|Questionnaire used for analysis||93||63||52||79||55||73|
|% Response rate with respect to distributed questionnaire||96.97||94.03||100||90||100||90.59|
Based on the above statistical data, one observes that a significant number of firms use the internet to conduct their marketing basically, employing social media as a marketing strategy. In addition to that, a significant number of people have shown a trend of purchasing product from the internet based on a statistical significance of the use of the internet in which many people use the internet as a communication tool due to the presence of the internet, in particular social media. There was a good response to questions, while it was crucial to note the significance of marketing communication as one of the underlying elements in attaining the marketing objective of accessing the market and specifically interactive access to the market.
However, from the study, it was clear that the current trend is for firms to invest a substantial amount of budget in interactively communicating with the client and ensure a significant amount of presence in the market today. On the other hand, it is crucial to note that firms have embraced a radical departure from the traditional marketing model involving the 4Ps characterized by market segmentation strategies, a concept that has been dropped with the advent and use of social media as a platform to implement and increase their presence in the market using the direct marketing strategy.
Thus, the trend is toward the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy for firms and a radical departure from the traditional direct marketing strategies. The future implications, based on the study can be deductively concluded that each firm intending to penetrate the market and acquire a significant share to gain sufficient profits must make their full presence on social media as an interactive media and platform to reach the widest audience on the internet in the world today. However, it is recommended that further research be conducted to identify the impact of uncertainties associated with making payments for goods that are never delivered to the customer.
Discussion, Conclusion, And Recommendation
It has been demonstrated based on data collected from various sources the impact and significance of social media as a direct marketing strategy that firms have increasingly adopted as the most feasible current marketing trend and strategy to use in direct marketing in the world today. The rationale for companies to adopt the marketing strategy based on a number of underlying reasons are significant with the current trend showing that firms have no option but to shift toward the use of social media as a direct marketing strategy to adopt. That has shown a radical departure from the traditional marketing strategies which focused on product, prices, promotion, and place with the underlying principle being market segmentation. On the other hand, the strategy to use social media to market their services and products has enabled firms to radially depart from the traditional marketing strategies based on the significance of the presence of the internet, the benefits associated with the internet, and modern trends in marketing.
In addition to that, firms have shown significant increases in spending in direct marketing while other firms have shown an increase in revenue, superior brand presence, improved media performance in different forms of marketing with the aim of reaching and stimulating action and response from the customer, and a rapid increase in the use of social media as a platform for product offerings. One can also conclude that social media provides a platform from different firms to gain market intelligence reports on marketing strategies other firms use to woe customers, and strategies to maintain customers and win more customers, with the ultimate goal of enhancing customer loyalty, brand positioning, and higher revenue generation. However, it is recommended that implications and future trend is that firms have to fully get into the internet and use social media as one of the best strategies of direct marketing.
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The following is one of the questionnaires administered on respondents with the aim of studying social media marketing strategy as a form of direct marketing, today’s emerging trends and tomorrow’s implications. This presents a sample of the questions administered on the respondents.
This questionnaire is solely meant exclusively for the purpose of this study and shall not be used for any other purpose whatsoever. Any information provided will be treated with utmost confidentiality and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever, except at the express request of the respondent. Please take your time to answer the questions without any reservations whatsoever.
- What is your gender male_______female_____
- Do you have direct access to the internet? yes ___No___
- How often do you use the internet to communicate Daily___Once a weekl___ Once a month___
- Do you use social media to communicate Yes___No____
- Do you use the internet to purchase products Yes___No___
- Do you use social media as your platform to purchase products?—Yes No____
- Which of the social media is your most prominent site, state_____
- Do you recommend one to buy products using social media____Yes No____
- What is your profession________________
- Do you work for a business organization ?__yes___No______
- What position do you hold in the firm, if at all you work for the firm? _______________
- How does your firm conduct its marketing ventures___________________
- Whom do they target most_______________________________________
- Which kind of products and services does the firm offer for the target market? ____________________________
- Which marketing strategy does your firm use to reach its target market? _____________________________
- Does your firm use the internet to advertise their products and services? ___________________
- Does the firm use social media as a marketing strategy to reach its target market? __________________
- What is the firm’s presence on social media?
- Does marketing on social media have any impact on revenue generation on the income of the firm?
- Which is the impact? positive________ or negative___________
- What is the long term marketing strategy adopted by the firm? ______________________
- Has the firm used traditional marketing strategies? Yes ____No___
If yes, does it have plans to exit from that strategy? ___________