Challenges of Social Media Marketing

Despite its numerous potential to provide value to marketing communications, implementing a social media strategy could prove challenging. One such challenge has been providing a measure for the return on investment on social media marketing activities; a problem that has traditionally affected other marketing initiatives, thus limiting the degree of expenditure financial managers are willing to allocate marketing programs (Hoffman & Fodor, 2010; Fisher, 2009).  MarketingSherpa, for instance, cites polls that indicate lack of appropriate ways to measure ROI on social marketing activities as the reason behind their hesitance to adopt social media marketing approaches (as cited by Fisher, 2009, p. 190). With adverse economic environment, in addition to increasing competition, reducing the extent to which business can make good returns, all business activities have been urged to move towards providing a measurable return on their investment (Fisher, 2009). Accordingly, marketers pushed to provide such measures for social media activities, have found themselves resulting to faulty metrics, necessitating frequent revisions (Fisher, 2009). Hoffman and Fodor, exemplify such a scenario noting that application of traditional marketing metrics that are characterized by narrowly defined ROI to social media campaigns, short-term benefits for the brand rather than customer motivations or long term benefits necessary for organizational growth result (2010, p. 49). Such becomes a significant deviation considering the fact that social media effectiveness is determined by offering customers, who have the ability to influence others, the motivations to engage in word-of-mouth activities that provide the desired influence (Gladwell, 2000; Wright et al., 2010). With such confusion existing in the metrics arena, it could prove difficult to establish a way, cheap enough for small businesses, to establish what their benefits from social media activities are.

A second challenge facing implementation of a social media marketing strategy is legal risks that could become amplified if the activities are not well managed. Landau and Hawkins (2010) for instance provide various legal risks to which organizations marketing through the social media may become susceptible. Firstly, just as the social media helps promote an entity’s brand; it could also facilitate the abuse of an entity’s trademarks and copyrights by third parties (Landau & Hawkins, 2010). If left to continue unabated, impersonation of business by third party could eventually result into more harm to the entity’s brand and reputation than the benefits that the entity sought to gain by engaging in such marketing activities (Landau & Hawkins, 2010). To avert such impersonation, Landau and Hawkins (2010) advise marketers to monitor whether their trademarks and copyrights are being utilized in an inappropriate manner that could lead to reputation loss, both in own social outlets as well as in third party platforms, for instance, using screening and tracking services. However, as social media platforms have become more refined, various providers offer terms and conditions prohibiting trademark and copyright infringement, and specific procedures for reporting such infringement (Landau & Hawkins, 2010).

Secondly, legal challenges could also arise with regard to provisions for dissemination of advertisements. For instance, advertisements are required to be truthful and accurate with adequate proof for the claims that they advance (Landau & Hawkins, 2010). Additionally, all material information concerning an offer the advertisement is making needs to be conspicuously disclosed (Landau & Hawkins, 2010; Thomas, 2010). Exemplifying such cases that have occurred in the recent past, Landau and Hawkins (2010) note of a class action suit that seeks to hold Facebook and its primary partner in offering games on the platform, Zynga, liable for alleged roles in disseminating deceptive ads alongside the games offered. Where terms and conditions of third party social media platform providers also restrict the extent of advertisement-oriented information that users may post, entities could also find themselves attracting suits related to violation of such terms (Landau & Hawkins, 2010; Thomas, 2010). Further legal risks include use of user-generated content in campaigns that could lead to such liability as libel, violation of privacy and deceptive advertising; failure to meet requirements set out for promotions that are characteristic of various advertising approaches; failure to meet requirements for endorsements and testimonials disseminated via the social media; and breach of privacy and data security aspects (Landau & Hawkins, 2010). Where organizations have no sound employee policy regarding the use of social media, the legal risks that an entity is faced with could become pronounced since misleading information emanating from employees, who are viewed as agents of the organization, would most likely put the employer at a liability (Landau & Hawkins, 2010; Cocheo, 2010). Such complexity of legal aspects affecting social media usage also curtail the degree to which small business organizations can use these type of media. For instance, small businesses could lack the manpower or access to technology that enables them monitor the usage of their trademarks and copyrights in such media. Go to part 5 here.

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