What Is Social Media Marketing?

Web-based media itself is an all encompassing term for applications and web-sites that may give fundamentally unique social activities. For example, Twitter is a social site intended to allow individuals to share short messages and media with others. Whereas; Facebook is a full blown site for networking that allows for sharing updates, pictures, joining events, online gatherings and an assortment of other things.

Breaking Down Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Social media websites allow marketers to employ a broad range of tactics and strategies to promote content and have people engage with it. Many social networks allow users to provide detailed geographical, demographic, and personal information, which will enable marketers to tailor their messages to what is most likely to resonate with users. Because Internet audiences can be better segmented than more traditional marketing channels, companies can ensure that they are focusing their resources on the audience that they want to target.

Social media marketing campaigns have the advantage of appealing to a broad audience at once. For example, a campaign could appeal to current and prospective customers, employees, bloggers, the media, the general public, and other stakeholders (such as third-party reviewers or trade groups). Some of the metrics used to measure the success of a social media marketing campaign include website reports (such as Google Analytics), return-on-investment (by connecting marketing to sales activity), customer response rates (how much customers post about a company), and reach/virality (how much customers share content).

Social Media Marketing Strategy

A major strategy used in social media marketing is to develop messages and content that individual users will share with their family, friends, and coworkers. This strategy relies on word of mouth and provides several benefits. First, it increases the message’s reach to networks and users that a social media manager may not have been able to access otherwise. Second, shared content carries an implicit endorsement when sent by someone who the recipient knows and trusts.

Social media strategy involves the creation of content that is “sticky,” meaning that it will get a user’s attention and increase the possibility that he or she will conduct a desired action, such as purchase a product or share the content with others. Marketers create viral content designed to spread between users quickly. Social media marketing should also encourage customers to create and share their own content, such as product reviews or comments (known as “earned media”).

While social media marketing can provide benefits, it also can create obstacles that companies may not have had to deal with otherwise. For example, a viral video claiming that a company’s product causes consumers to become ill must be addressed by the company, regardless of whether the claim is true or false. Even if a company can set the message straight, consumers may be less likely to purchase from the company in the future.

Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing (SMM)


  • Cheap
  • Direct engagement with customers
  • Able to learn more about customers


  • Time-intensive
  • Direct advertising is less effective
  • Increases risk of public criticism and hacks

Pros Explained

  • Cheap: Compared to other forms of marketing, social media is very inexpensive. It is free to create accounts and post on most (if not all) platforms. Those free posts have the potential to reach an audience that will (hopefully) share the message with other members of the social media community. There are also various paid advertising options to ensure that your message will reach an audience. Facebook, for example, offers comprehensive options for ad targeting, such as the ability to target members that reside within a specific geographic radius.
  • Direct engagement with customers: Social networks allow the business to engage the target audience and develop interactive relationships with customers. Instead of putting out a message and hoping an audience sees it, you can engage directly with people—commenting on their posts and starting conversations.
  • Able to learn more about customers: As you communicate and engage with customers, you’ll learn more about your customer base. Many people put personal details on their social media profiles, including information like tastes and preferences that are relevant to businesses.

Cons Explained

  • Time-intensive: The main problem with social network marketing from a business perspective is that it can be incredibly time-consuming. Social media marketing campaigns are not one-shot affairs; they need to be nurtured over time. While big businesses have been using this type of marketing effectively, they have the resources to task large numbers of staff with managing social media marketing campaigns. Many small businesses lack these resources.
  • Direct advertising is less effective: Businesses using social networks obviously want to sell their products or services. However, blatant advertising is fairly easy to spot on social media. Overt attempts to make a sale won’t be as effective as more subtle forms of promotion on social media. To use social network marketing effectively, businesses have to be perceived as members of the social media community. Original content and audience engagement could help to this end.
  • Increases risk of public criticism and hacks: Given the community nature of social media, businesses must be aware of the PR risks. A public social media page can face an onslaught of negative postings by customers, ex-employees, or competitors (whether true or false). Hackers could target your page to spread misinformation or sow chaos. Either situation can make it difficult to manage your company’s reputation. Even a harmless posting can turn into a public relations disaster. For example, in 2012, McDonald’s tried to engage with the social media community by posting a tweet under the hashtag “#McDStories”; customers responded by posting horror stories of poor McDonald’s experiences with the same hashtag, drowning out the original marketing content with negative publicity.

Key Takeaways

  • Social network marketing is the use of social media platforms to conduct business marketing.
  • Given the diverse nature of social media platforms, social network marketing can refer to a wide range of strategies.
  • The best social network marketing comes across as organic, and it effectively targets the customer base on the platform they use most often.