Why Social Media is Critical to Success of Marketing Strategy in the Modern Day

Marketing has undergone a number of changes as it aims to keep pace with the changing customer preferences in the modern day. Such transformation can be traced to the mid-1950s when a customer-focused rather than a mass-market concept of developing products was adopted (Wright, Khanfar, Harrington & Kizer, 2010). In these years, businesses started making products that were destined to meet specific customer needs. Prior to such a focus, the production concept, that argued that as long as the price was right, and the products available, the customer would get to buy existed (Keller & Kotler, 2009 as cited in Wright et al., 2010, p. 73). After such concept, the product concept that argued that customers preferred higher quality products that were competitively priced emerged (Wright et al., 2010). After the product concept, the selling concept that encouraged aggressive selling to push customers to buy products came into being (Wright et al., 2010). Ultimately, this concept has been replaced by the marketing concept that envisages consumer engagement in addition to providing the right product (Wright et al., 2010). Such has for instance led to the aspects of relationship marketing that encompass forming long lasting attachments with the customer rather than an one –time transactional attachment (Gronroos, 2004).

With the changing characteristic of marketing, organizations are becoming more receptive to a consumer-centric approach to marketing. However, most promotional activities still take place in a way customers perceive as the selling approach to marketing (Wright et al., 2010). For instance, in any medium of communication, customers are increasingly becoming bombarded by advertisements that at times become overwhelming (Wright et al., 2010). Such could lead to a tendency to shut out advertisements, yet marketers need a way through which they can reach out to their existing and potential customers. Radio programs that are free of advertisements have, for instance, received high audiences, technologies that help consumers filter out ads and commercials from their internet visits and program watching (e.g. browser add-ons and TiVo) have gained immense popularity, and cities are formulating new codes to get rid of excessive banner placement in buildings (Wright et al., 2010).  Such changes in customer behavior means that a marketing strategy focused on the aggressive selling concept may fail to achieve the desired reach (Wright et al., 2010). Further with various media (e.g. radio, TV, newspaper, and Internet) competing for the attention of customers, the traditional focus on mass media may be losing its effect (Wright et al., 2010). As the consumer behavior has shifted towards the preference of customized information, the days of marketing strategies targeted to all consumers are passing by. Such an environment has necessitated the segmentation of the market into customer groups that share common values, and reaching out to individuals who can establish and sellout the entity’s brand within such groups (Wright et al., 2010).

Probably, what lays bare the critical role that social media can play in the success of an organization’s marketing strategy is what Gladwell (2000) presents in The Tipping Point. In the book it is suggested that the source of big trends is usually small groups of people who when availed with the power to communicate, provide information and influence one another within the society. The book for instance cites an evolutionary biologist, S. L. Washburn, who noted that “most of the human evolution took place … when men lived in small groups, on a face-to-face basis”, to buttress the revolutionary power behind small groups that are empowered with a means of communication (Gladwell, 2000, p. 77). Accordingly, Gladwell (2000) identifies three types of people to whom the success of social, political, and fashion trends can be attributed – Connectors, mavens and salesmen. It is argued such people, through their word-of-mouth skills, can dictate what tastes, fashions and trends exist in the greater society (Gladwell, 2000).

In this classification, Gladwell (2000) notes of connectors as those who have the gift and skills to bring people together through such ways as innovative ideas. Taking such a perspective it is worthy of note that connectors in modern era thrive in social media forums since face-to-face interactions may be hard to achieve with demanding schedules of the modern day. Wright et al. (2010) for instance advance that any media technology that has the ability to connect individuals usually has other individuals whose role is that of steering the other individuals towards a particular direction that is of interest to them. The second group, the mavens, according to Gladwell (2000), comprises individuals who are keen on knowing new deals and spreading information about such deals. Wright et al. (2010) observe that such people have the charisma and social skills needed to start effective word-of-mouth trends. Such individuals become critical to the marketing process when, for instance, marketers need to create publicity around a new product being launched (Wright et al., 2010). As a result of their thirst for information, such people would want to sign up to areas where they can obtain information on a first-hand basis. Wright et al. (2000) note that such an area can be provided for by establishing systems which give these people information on aspects such as product upgrades, as they become due, thus making them feel valued by the entity. The third group, the salespersons, according to Gladwell (2000), is made up of individuals with persuasive skills. Due to their persuasive skills, the sales persons, as envisaged by Gladwell (2000), are not the typical strategists of the selling concept, but rather individuals with the ability to create a rhythm that guides the type of relationship that takes place. Such people, similar to mavens have the ability to affect the decision-making processes of the consumer based on their word-of-mouth activities (Wright et al., 2010).

The characteristic of social media to provide tools for organizations to target such people noted by Gladwell (2000), is what has made it a crititical marketing asset. Mangold & Faulds (2009), for instance notes that social media promotional role in the market place is two folds – allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and, secondly, allowing such customers to engage with one another; a process that could benefit the company if such communications are positive. When appropriately designed, social media can also be a way through which customers talk to the company, by providing such aspects as feedback on the changes they would want the company to make on its product offerings (Mangold & Faulds 2009). This may be exemplified by a strategy Starbucks utilizes to get customers propose their ideas on its My Starbucks Idea website and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, that saw it being ranked as the most engaged brand in 2009 (Wetpaint & Altimeter 2009). Accordingly, Social media tools have become a major factor that influences aspects of consumer behavior such as “awareness, information acquisition, opinions, attitudes, purchase behavior, and post-purchase communication and evaluation” (2009, p.358).  This critical role of social media is what has made it an important component of effective marketing strategies. Go to part 3 here.

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