Social media, is defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content”. User generated content is district characteristic of social media and Web 2.0 as seen in the definition. Web 2.0 allows generations of contents and software by all social media users. This definition is supported by Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy and, Silvestre who write that social media allows people’s interaction by providing its users sharing and generating contents in the social media platforms. As seen in this definition, it enables to its users communicate and interact with others. Similarly, Safko and Brake define social media as interactive communication between group of people who use online media channels to utilize each other’s experiences and knowledge. It connects people, helps effectively communicate with others, and facilitates information sharing. Broadly define social media as “communication channel” and characterized it by its “potential for real-time interaction, reduced anonymity, a sense of propinquity, short response times, and the ability to ‘time shift,’ or engage the social network whenever suits each particular member”. Social media is the way of creating personal friends’ network and having interaction with them. People use social media in order to entertain, gain knowledge, post contents such as photos and videos, find new friends, reinforced communication with immediate surroundings, gain rewards, and express themselves. It is a channel where people give and seek ideas and opinions. Marketers use this channel to promote and sell brands’ products since allows marketers to reach masses in a fast and easy way and get quick feedbacks from audiences. These reasons make social media crucial marketing tool for brands.
How does Social Media work?
Social media functions as an important communication instrument for individuals, consumers, influencers, and firms. Social media websites allow people to interact with others by connecting people. It enables to follow others’ social media profiles which have personal information about owners. With the growing usage of social media, brands have more opportunities to strengthen interaction with the customer through social media networks (Kelly, Kerr, and Drennan, 2010). Kaplan and Haenlein argue that social media interaction refers to dynamic communication between brands and consumers. According to Wang et al. Social media leads customers to socialize with others who is similar to themselves in three ways. First, social media networks help easily communicate with others.
Second, a high number of users enables interaction among users. Last, social media offers information and recommendations of others.
Social media platforms help this communication in their own way of communicate. In other words, all social media websites have different styles from each other’s and they offer distinct features to users. Some of them use images for communication, some focus on video posts. For example, Twitter uses limited character written text, YouTube offers videos, Instagram provides a presentation of both image and video, and Facebook offers a multiform of posts to its users. Zhu and Chen argue that there are two broad categories of social media, which are profile-based and content- based. Profile-based social media refers to personal social media accounts that encourage users to attach and communicate with others through social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram. On the other hand, content-based social media refers to content and comments on the social media posts which reflects users real like of post.
Why is Social Media important?
Social media is an important channel because it enables the communication between brands and consumers. Brands need to reach great among of audience since everyone is the potential customer of brands. In 2016, active social media users were
2.307 billion while this number increased to 3.484 billion in 2019. Social media websites have gained more power and have grown rapidly in recent years. This growth makes social media websites remarkable for marketers. The report showed that 41% of influencers bought something they saw on social media in last week. This high percentage shows the powerfulness of social media to reach potential consumers. The CMA Survey shows that social media spend has grown by 243% since 2009 and marketers expected to expand social media spend by 71% in next 5 years mostly for brand building and brand awareness. Even though social media is highly important for marketers, marketers are unable to measure and demonstrate the impacts of social media.
Social media is a useful source for also consumers because they get information about brands and products from social media and personal social media websites. They use social media for gaining knowledge about unknown and untried brands. Moreover, information on social media helps potential customers to gain knowledge from others who have experiences about product. Sharing information with a personal audience makes easy to get informed about product or brand and affects consumers purchase decisions Similarly, the social media report by MAVRCK shows that friends’ post is an important factor that affects people’s purchase decision.
Differences Between Social Media and Traditional Media
Although social media is a media channel, it is different than traditional media channels in some ways. Social media allows users to interact with each other where traditional media involve one-way communication. Engagement level of social media is higher than the engagement level of traditional media. Social media allows customers to share their experiences about brand where traditional media allows a brand’s expression about a brand or product. In social media, contents are created by users while in traditional media, contents are created by the brand. Moreover, social media has a higher probability of increasing awareness than traditional media.
However, the fact that both media types require customer’s evaluation of messages. There are two interesting reports that focus on consumers’ preferences and perceptions about both traditional and social media channels. The first report (Trust in Advertising) shows that, while trust on consumer opinion posted online is ranked 3, trust on ads on TV is ranked 5 for the gen X (ages 35-49) and millennials (ages 21-34). On the other hand, gen Z (ages 15-20) ranked trust in advertising on consumer opinions posted online as number 4 and ads on TV as number 7. The second report, shows that social media is determined as an important digital media channel for 79% of the survey participants where television is determined as an important traditional media channel for 51% of survey participants. 44% of participants agreed that digital media spent will grow in the future while 30% of participants agreed that traditional media spent will increase in the future. On the other hand, only 4% of respondents expect a decrease in the digital media budget and 44% of respondents expect a decrease in the traditional media budget