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Impact of Social Media on Business Marketing

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The subject of this report is the impact of social media, cloud computing, and video conferencing technologies on business marketing. The purpose of this report is to provide research for these three technologies and recommend how each one of them can be applied to our firm's marketing efforts.

Nine out of ten companies indicate that their social media activity has led to increased exposure, and according to research, half of them recognize improved sales (Holmes, 2015). Further, 92% of marketers conclude that the use of social media is critical to their business (Demer, 2015). Per Kevin Akeroyd of Oracle Marketing Cloud, cloud technologies require minimal capital outlay since servers and other hardware do not need to be purchased, updated, or maintained, cloud vendors update their software often, which improves adaptability, and integration with other cloud-based applications is usually streamlined (Springer, 2016). Findings from a 2015 Aberdeen survey confirm the advantages of video conferencing, as technology users were deemed to have 74% more success in engaging current sales prospects and were able to collect more new leads than non-users. The survey also found that those companies who employ video conferencing technologies as part of their overall marketing strategy enjoy 30% greater efficiency (as cited in Chang, 2016).

I recommend that our firm establish a presence on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In today's day and age, with the incredible number of consumers using social media, and the time that they dedicate to interacting on the platform, I believe it makes perfect sense for our firm to utilize the marketing capabilities of this medium. Research has shown that most companies already employ social media in their overall business strategies, and those that do, have made gains in exposure, improved sales, and enhanced customer loyalty and conversion rates. These facts dictate that our business use social media as well to remain competitive.

I recommend our company use an e-mail marketing application provider. It is my belief that we should approach this technology conservatively, beginning one application, so we do not commit too much of our marketing efforts or capital to marketing cloud applications. The e-mail service will prove beneficial, as it offers us an avenue to directly market to our current customers and leads, drive traffic to our website, and will save the firm in terms of print and mailing costs. The ability to automate this function will save our staff time, and the capacity to directly track the success from our e-mail advertisement will provide our marketers relevant information and help in determining if further marketing cloud application expenditures could be necessary and beneficial.

I recommend that our company provide all marketing and sales personnel with video conferencing capabilities, including any necessary hardware and software. With this technology, marketers will be able to facilitate a face-to-face meeting with clients, prospects, each other, and sales staff from any location, and from nearly any internet capable device. This will save the company in the form of travel expenditures, as well reduce the amount of unproductive time spent traveling to meeting locations. More people will be able to be involved in key meetings and productivity of these meetings will improve, as an important aspect of communication, non-verbal cues, will be displayed. It is my belief that this technology is an important offering to our current and prospective clientele in terms of convenience. For instance, a client or prospect will be able to clearly view a product demonstration and ask any necessary follow-up questions from his or her home computer, as opposed to traveling to our office or some other meeting site. This may lead to improved customer relations. Further, as studies indicate, the employment of video conferencing technology in our marketing strategy can increase success in current and new lead engagement.

The subject of this report is the impact of social media, cloud computing, and video conferencing technologies on business marketing. The purpose of this report is to provide research for these three technologies and recommend how each one of them can be applied to our firm's marketing efforts.

Social media utilization has provided increased exposure to firms, which has positively affected marketing efforts and correlated with improved sales. Also, social media marketing has also shown to improve customer conversion rates. Cloud marketing technologies are vast and companies are employing them for cost-effective, customizable advertising. Many providers are offering cloud-based applications to manage each facet of a company's digit marketing efforts. Finally, video conferencing technology is valuable when used as part of the marketing strategy. Research is showing that face-to-face interaction increases marketing productivity, decreases associated travel costs, and helps to more effectively engage customer leads.

Social Media

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are being used by businesses as modern-day tools to network with and target consumers. Per a Pew Internet Project, seventy-five percent of adults in the United States, with access to the internet, are on some form of social media. Additionally, according to the Global Web Index, social media users log in an average of about 12 hours per week (as cited in Holmes, 2015). As detailed by Ryan Holmes (2015), these statistics are driving nine out of ten businesses in the U.S. to engage in social media marketing. Holmes (2015) notes, "90 % of businesses see increased exposure and more than half report improved sales from social media". In 2014, more than nine out of ten marketers said that using social media for marketing was critical in their business and eight out of ten believed their efforts on social media enhanced traffic to their websites. According to DeMer (2015), social media marketing has exhibited the ability to increase brand recognition and loyalty, facilitate additional opportunities to attract new customers, and improve customer conversion rates. In fact, according to some studies, social media's conversion rate, is 100% greater than that of traditional marketing (DeMers, 2015). Further, the barrier to entry in social media marketing is insignificant, as it is normally free to create an account, and social media affords marketers the chance to monitor consumer behavior, such as user comments, which may yield very precious feedback about their business.

In a controlled, systematic study performed by Kumar, Bezawada, Rishika, Janakiraman, and Kannan (2016), the effect of "firm-generated content", that is firm-initiated marketing communication of a select company, was tested in relation to consumer buying behaviors and profitability. In it, two test groups were established. The treatment group, which consisted of individuals who chose to receive the selected firm's social media marketing content, and the control group, which consisted of those who chose not to. According to Kumar, et al., prior to the firm's social media marketing engagement, both group's participants and their spending and cross-buying habits were statistically similar. Weekly overall spending for both groups was within $0.17 and the number of different products purchased (cross-buying) was within .13. The study concluded that, after the firm had embarked on its social media marketing campaign, overall spending for the treatment group rose to $15.96 per week. This figure was now $1.43 more than the control group's weekly spending. Additionally, the treatment group purchased an average of .59 more products per week than the control group. Last, the study also presented that those customers who partook in the firm's social media contributed $1.02 more overall to the company's net profit (Kumar, Bezawada, Rishika, Janakiraman, and Kannan, 2016).

There are a few negatives to marketing with social media. One is that users are able to post whatever they want about your business, so marketers can lose control of their messaging very quickly. This can be disastrous if a group of angry, dissatisfied customers begin posting negative reviews about the company. Also, while the cost of entry to social media platforms is insignificant, time does need to be invested to properly nurture the marketing campaign. Depending on resources, this may prove problematic for some firms ("The Advantages and Disadvantages",n.d.).

Analysis: It is apparent that social media is a powerful, contemporary, multi-faceted tool for our marketing department to employ. Based on the sheer number of individuals utilizing the platform and the time they spend being logged in, social media activity can expand our firm's market through improved exposure. Also, as evidenced by the academic studies, social media marketing efforts can increase overall sales, profitability, customer loyalty, and the barriers to entry are insignificant. While there are a few potential pitfalls, it is clear that the advantages of social media marketing outweigh the disadvantages.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the process of storing and accessing data and programs via the internet. The term "cloud", in essence, is another word for internet. Cloud computing takes programs that are run on either a local PC or network server and migrates them to the internet (Griffith, 2016). The term "marketing cloud" refers to the combination of internet-based, digital marketing tool used to advertise to consumers and collect and manage their data. These tools range from a firm's official website and social media pages to powerful, online software suites that, in real-time, track consumer data, such as website traffic, and integrate these analytics with the company's website, social media, and e-mail management. Providers, such as Salesforce and Adobe, offer individual cloud-based applications and program bundles (suites), which can manage each piece of a company's digital media. When employed in unison, these suites provide marketers a place to access integrated customer profiles and present coordinated messaging across all digital marketing platforms (Kantrowitz, 2014).

There are thought to be several key advantages to cloud marketing. First, cloud marketing can be more cost-effective than traditional marketing, as the company message is delivered digitally, rather than by a printed medium, such as a brochure or newspaper ad. This saves money on ad placement, as well as mailing costs. Further, according Kevin Akeroyd of Oracle Marketing Cloud, cloud technologies require minimal capital outlay since servers and other hardware do not need to be purchased, updated, or maintained, cloud vendors update their software often, which improves adaptability, and integration with other cloud-based applications is usually efficient (Springer, 2016). Cloud marketing software is also scalable and customizable, so small businesses, who may not want or be able to afford a full suite of programs like those provided by Salesforce or Oracle, can choose an application that directly fits their needs, such as an e-mail marketing provider, which can automate e-mails to customers and leads and directly track conversion rates (Springer, 2016). Further, cloud marketing applications are convenient for employees who do a lot of traveling, as they can be accessed from nearly any device with internet capability (Kantrowitz, 2014).

Still, as some cloud marketing analysts note, there are issues with moving marketing efforts to the cloud. Depending on the amount of existing data that may need to be migrated, the time and monetary costs can be substantial. For instance, some companies have millions of customer records that may need to be moved (Kantrowitz, 2014). Also, the safety of data that is stored in the cloud is a concern, as customer data breaches have become a major issue in the digital age. This could subject sensitive customer data, such as credit card numbers and e-mail addresses, to theft. By some, on-site data storage is thought to be more secure. Also, companies need to have quality customer data and enough content to maximize the usefulness of these platforms. As analysts note, without specific content for the target demographic, the effectiveness of this powerful software diminishes (Springer, 2016).

Analysis: Marketing cloud technology offers an innovative set of tools for our marketers to use in expanding and solidifying the customer base. The scalability of cloud-based marketing applications is attractive us as a new business, as use can grow and expand as our company develops. Further, the reduction in physical marketing materials and associated costs and reduced need for large capital expenditures, such as servers, makes the marketing cloud a cost-effective option for our marketing efforts. There are a few legitimate risks that require examination before fully diving into cloud marketing, as data security is of extreme importance. Research of the different application providers and any history of past breaches should be performed.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is a technology that allows two or more individuals the ability to communicate, both visually and audibly, in real-time and from separate locations. The technology ranges from the broadcasting of static images and text between just two locations, to the transmitting of high-quality audio and video between a series of locations. With the greater availability of PCs and mobile devices with built-in cameras, and services which facilitate live video chat, the use of video conferencing has become pervasive in personal and business interactions (Rouse, n.d.). According to May Chang (2016), marketers are leveraging the advantages of video conferencing technologies in many ways. Video conferencing is being used by marketers to reach clientele and team members who are on the other side of the country and possibly world. Some of the premier modes of marketing utilization include live product demonstrations for prospects, web-based educational seminars, and on-demand marketing presentations. This enhanced form of communication results in boosted productivity and can translate into more success by the sales team. Findings from a 2015 Aberdeen survey confirm some the advantages of video conferencing, as technology users were deemed to have 74% more success in engaging current sales prospects and were able to collect more new leads than non-users. The survey also found that those companies who employ video conferencing technologies as part of their overall marketing strategy enjoy 30% greater efficiency (as cited in Chang, 2016). Further, the face-to-face nature of video conferencing, with introduction of non-verbal cues, provides for richer communication between teams that cannot be in the same physical location. This is key, per Chang, as meetings where marketing strategy is discussed can be very intricate and passionate. This type of productive communication allows marketers to more quickly advance, comprehensibly define, and carry out their strategy (Chang, 2016). Finally, video conferencing technology can save marketers in terms of travel and other associated expenses, as meetings are able to be held from any internet-enabled location.

While there are plenty of advantages to video conferencing technology, according to Loveleena Rajeev (2016), there are a few negatives for marketers to consider. One of the main drawbacks is technical difficulties that conference participants may experience. This can be the result of low-internet bandwidth, power outages, or software or hardware failure by any of the parties involved in the communication. Further, while communication is technically face-to-face, the lack of physical, personal interaction may hamper the effectiveness with which marketers can connect with their prospects or team members. As Rajeev notes, "A handshake and an eye contact are essential aspects of many business meetings". Finally, depending on the extent of features required or desired by a firm, cost may be prohibitive, especially for small businesses and start-ups.

Analysis: Video conferencing technology is a resource that our marketers can utilize on multiple levels. As research indicated, live, face-to-face communication can help our marketers more successfully pursue contacts and leads, as well as develop new prospects without having to travel. This saves our firm in terms of a host of marketing travel expenses. Furthermore, because video conferencing can provide deeper, clearer levels of communication, I believe that the technology can help our firm's marketing department to more proficiently and successfully interact with each other, current customers, and leads. This, in turn, can positively affect our productivity and sales. While there are a few noted negatives to the technology, I believe, overall, it can prove as an advantage in our marketing efforts.

Recommendation for Social Media: I recommend that our firm establish a presence on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. To implement this recommendation, a committee will be formed to better define our overall social media strategy and goals. Once clear goals are in place, the partners will interview current staff to determine if any individual has the knowledge and desire to undertake creating and managing each account or if a consultant may need to be contracted. Finally, an assessment of the firm's current technology will be performed to confirm that we have all technical capabilities in place to move forward with the social media plan.

Justification: As the number of consumers using social media has soared, and the amount of time that they spend on the platform increased, it has become necessary for businesses to develop a social media presence. As researched, many of the companies that market to consumers through social media recognize an upsurge in exposure, improved sales, and enhanced customer loyalty and conversion rates. Furthermore, the initial cost of social media marketing is minimal, as it is free to create accounts on most platforms. Finally, because we know that much of our competition will be using social media to develop and maintain their market, it is imperative that we do so as well.

Recommendation for Cloud Computing: I recommend our company use an e-mail marketing provider. To implement, the partner's will contract with an IT specialist to review the various application providers and their costs. The firm's marketing department will consolidate all client and lead e-mail addresses on an Excel spreadsheet and present the partners with advertising content conceptualizations. Once a platform has been selected, webinars will be scheduled to train our marketing staff on how to properly set-up and utilize the application.

Justification: While there are a myriad of cloud marketing options available to our company, and certainly research to indicate their advantages, at this point we are in the growing stage, and it is my belief that we should operate conservatively, begin with one application, and not commit too much of our marketing efforts or money to the marketing cloud applications. The e-mail service will provide us an avenue to directly market to our current customers and leads, drive traffic to our website, and will save the firm in terms of print and mailing costs. The application can be accessed from any internet-enabled location, which makes for convenient access to our staff. Further, the purchase can serve as a stepping stone to other marketing cloud applications. As our business continues to grow and stabilize, we can analyze the success of the e-mail service provider and determine if more cloud marketing applications might be beneficial to operations.

Recommendation for Video Conferencing: I recommend that our company provide all key marketing and sales personnel with video conferencing capabilities, including any necessary hardware and software. To facilitate this process, the partners will determine who, in the marketing and sales departments, it will be critical to supply with access to video conferencing capacities. An IT specialist will be consulted to determine the most cost effective pairing of available hardware and software. Once this has been determined, we will contract to have all components properly installed and tested.

Justification: I believe the use of video conferencing technologies will be beneficial to our firm in many ways. First, our marketers will be able to facilitate a face-to-face meeting with clients, prospects, each other, and sales staff from any location, and from nearly any internet capable device. This will save the company in the form of travel expenditures, as well reduce the amount of unproductive time spent traveling to meeting locations. More people will be able to be involved in key meetings and productivity of these meetings will improve, as an important aspect of communication, non-verbal cues, will be displayed. Finally, it is my belief that this technology is an important offering to our current and prospective clientele in terms of convenience. For instance, a client or prospect will be able to clearly view a product demonstration and ask any necessary follow-up questions from his or her home or office computer, as opposed to traveling to our office or some other meeting site. Further, as studies indicate, the employment of video conferencing technology in our marketing strategy can increase success in current and new lead engagement.

As evidenced by my research, social media, cloud computing, and video conferencing are all technological tools that can be employed in some form to aid our marketing staff. Social media has proven to be a powerful outlet for company marketing efforts, with many business recognizing an uptick in overall exposure and customer conversion rates. Further, studies suggest those customers engaged in company generated social media content provide increased sales. Cloud computing has also become a popular technology for businesses looking to modernize their marketing function. The use of marketing cloud platforms is pervasive because internet-based promotional efforts are thought to be cost-effective, as physical marketing materials and expensive hardware are not required. The scalability of cloud-based application offerings is also attractive to small businesses, as programs and services can be purchased on an a la carte basis. Last, video conferencing applications have shown to be useful in firm marketing. Marketers have found, and studies have shown, that the face-to-face nature of meetings conducted via video conferencing allow for more productive communication and correlate to an increase in ability to court sales prospects as well as develop new ones.

I believe each of my recommendations will benefit the firm and our marketing efforts in meaningful ways. At the very least, the creation of a social media presence will provide exposure to consumers that we may not reach otherwise. Research has shown the ability to leverage that exposure into elevated brand loyalty, new customers and improved sales. No doubt, many of our competitors are already using the platform, and to maintain competition, we should as well. Our firm can benefit from the e-mail service provider, as the costs of physically distributed materials will decrease substantially. More, the ability to automate this function and track its success will provide our marketers relevant information, save our staff time, and help in determining if further marketing cloud applications expenditures may be necessary and beneficial. Finally, video conferencing technology will provide our marketing team with the ability to hold face-to-face meetings with each other, or clientele, from any internet capable PC or mobile device. This will save the firm in travel costs and curb unproductive time spent traveling to and from meetings. The use of video conferencing technology will also provide for more meaningful, constructive communication, which research has shown to translate into greater success in engaging current sales prospects, an increase in the capacity to generate new prospects, and a boost in our internal productivity.

References  

Chang, M. (2016, May 13). Why Best-in Class Marketing Requires Web/Video Conferencing. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from http://theworkspacetoday.com/2016/05/13/best-in-class-marketing-requires-webvideo-conferencing-to-drive-more-meaningful-results/

DeMers, J. (2015, September 20). The Top 10 Benefits of Social Media Marketing. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/11/the-top-10-benefits-of-social-media-marketing/#2da0fda91f80

Griffith, E. (2016, May 03). What Is Cloud Computing? Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2372163,00.asp

Holmes, R. (2015). Why Businesses Can't Survive Without Social Media. Fortune.Com, N.PAG

Kantrowitz, A. (2014). Pros and Cons of the Marketing Cloud. Advertising Age, 85(12), 30.

Kumar, A., Bezawada, R., Rishika, R., Janakiraman, R., & Kannan, P. (2016). From Social to Sale: The Effects of Firm-Generated Content in Social Media on Customer Behavior. Journal of Marketing,80(1), 7-25. doi:10.1509/jm.14.0249

Rajeev, L. (2016, August 13). The Various Advantages and Disadvantages of Video Conferencing. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-video-conferencing.html

Rouse, M. (n.d.). What is video conference (video conferencing)? - Definition from WhatIs.com. Retrieved March 18, 2017, from http://searchunifiedcommunications.techtarget.com/definition/video-conference

Springer, R. R. (2016). Is the Marketing Cloud Right for You?. Econtent, 39(5), 20-24.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2017, from https://www.webpagefx.com/internet-marketing/social-media-marketing-advantages-and-disadvantages.html


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