With the increasing use of Social Media marketing as opposed to traditional marketing, it is becoming an interesting discussion to gauge how integral social media is today, to overall marketing success. Firstly, it is important to understand not to equate number of followers with a successful social media strategy. Followers may in fact not be translating to increasing buying of the product. Coca Cola, for example has over 2.76 million followers on Twitter, and yet is experiencing falling sales as consumers continue to switch to healthier drinks.
Social Media should complement the overall strategy of the brand, and cannot be a replacement. At least not yet until the platform continues to mature. If the overall marketing strategy is not innovative enough, social media may not be enough to save a sinking ship.
The impact of Social media can be multifaceted if utilized properly. Taking the recent examples of Indian election campaign in which PM candidate Narendra Modi effectively utilized social media channels like twitter, Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp to reach millions of voters in shortest possible time at the least cost. Media channels act as a platform to engage and influence the voters. The dedicated team was managed by professionals and the target was to influence the voter behavior.
Similarly 2014 Delhi election saw the highest usage of social media campaign by all the competing parties. The largest vote was garnered by the AAP party which had dedicated departments comprising of experienced social media managers to manage the campaign.
On the other hand, there exist several situations where campaigns were extremely successful in social media, leading to huge number of likes/ posts/ comments/ tweets etc. But there was not a big change in the sales figures post the campaign. For example, in March of 2014, Samsung, in collaboration with Ellen was responsible for creating the record for the most re-tweeted message in history. During the 2014 Academy Awards, Samsung had Ellen take a selfie with her Samsung Galaxy along with a host of other stars which generated a huge amount of buzz for Samsung, and, incidentally, for Twitter. If, however we look at Samsung Galaxy sales before and after the Award ceremony, it is hard to say that there has been a huge jump in sales for Samsung.
Engaging in social media strategies is definitely worth doing, building relationships and dialogue with existing and potential customers can only be a good thing, also considering the limited spending required in Social media as compared to traditional marketing. Companies however need to keep in mind that Social Media is an ongoing conversation and benefits may be better realized over the long term. Social Media leads to not only direct sales increase but an overall awareness and buzz about the brand.
In terms of reach and impact Social media is gaining momentum; currently it can complement the existing channels of marketing but in long term with increasing internet penetration, mobile connectivity, speed of communication social media would definitely end up surpassing the traditional media.