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Social Media is a new age concept which has taken world by storm; companies are trying to promote products actively on social media and interact with customers. This research paper includes the findings of the research based on the hypothesis that Social media marketing has a positive impact on sales and brand image. This research paper highlights the increasing trends of social media marketing, how brands are being affected and what impact theses tactics have on the sales of the respected companies. A sample of 50 respondents was taken into consideration as primary research. It consisted of a good mix of people across gender, age groups and income demographics. The study aimed to analyze the awareness and acceptability of social media marketing by measuring the different factors that are associated with branding and PR; and conclude whether social marketing enhances sales or not.
The objective of this research is to understand and identify the various methods of e-marketing with respect to social media. It is essential to identify the changing trends in branding with the advent of blogging sites, Twitter, Facebook and other networking options. With more advancement in technology; everyone uses this facility for multiple purposes, moreover the concept of the online community and interconnectivity has changed the way people share views. Therefore the prime purpose of my research analysis is to facilitate the study of various social media trends that affect branding and online marketing. It has been analyzed whether social media is a mere feedback facility or an actual revenue enhancing tool.
Social media is a promotional tool and connectivity medium for companies; there is a need to determine whether it is effective in enhancing sales or not.
H0: Social media marketing has a positive impact on sales and brand image.
H1: Social media marketing does not affect sales, it enhances brand image.
The sample size of the research consists of a total of 50 individuals whose ages range between 15-25, 26-35 and 36 above. All respondents belonged to SEC A+,A, A-, B+ and B; with an educational level to understand the study.
DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES
Primary Research: Questionnaire & interviews.
Secondary Research: Literature Review
Social marketing is the new age concept in the world of branding and business. With advent of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc the way we communicate has changed. It has surely evolved from being a teenager’s space to a global phenomenon for social interaction. Mark Zukerberg has been named person of the year by Times for instilling unlimited possibilities in the world of communication.
A national survey of reporters and editors revealed that 89% use blogs for story research, 65% turn to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% utilize microblogging services such as Twitter (George-2010). While the use of social media sources by journalists is growing rapidly, the reliability of such information remains an issue, as “the survey also made it clear that reporters and editors are acutely aware of the need to verify information they get from social media
Nearly half of all Americans are now members of at least one social network, double the proportion of just two years ago. While social network use is highest among the young, it’s not limited to this age bracket: two-thirds of 25- to 34-year-olds and half of those aged 35 to 44 also now have personal profile pages. Among the world’s 100 largest companies, two-thirds are using Twitter, 54% have a Facebook page, 50% manage at least one corporate YouTube channel and 33% have created company blogs. Overall, 79% of Fortune 100 companies are using at least one social media channel. (Pick-2010)
Social media has enabled business leaders to create marketing opportunities which were untapped before. PepsiCo uses social networks to reach millions of entrepreneurs at the Superbowl. Whereas Leaders like IBM’s Sam Palmisano, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Carlson’s Marilyn Nelson, and Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria (George-2010) are all active social network users. This transformation in business is possible today because these social networks are a unique way of broadly communicating real-time messages to the audiences they want to reach. They can write a message anywhere, anytime, and share it with interested parties without any public relations meddling, speech writers, airplane travel, canned videos, or voicemail messages people. The business area it has affected the most is marketing, a new promotional weapon adding new dimensions to consumer awareness.
Social media is an interactive forum to reach the consumer at a personal level. Consumer marketing companies are lining up to use these networks to reach their tailored demographics with highly personalized messages, social channels give a chance to the consumers to share feedback readily about products and services. It is not just brand awareness but a chance to build a strong relationship with the customer. A major contribution are the blogging sites, astonishingly the fate of leading brands may be reliant on comments of regular bloggers. This may be seen as a positive by a lot of branding experts since it can lead to endless business growth. Social media is user-controlled, which means that sociologic components play a large role in any company’s social media business strategy. The limits of social media are only set by the limits of the technology of social media tools (Hobsbawm-2009). At one time, companies had a monologue with its customers. Companies put out television commercials or print ads about its products and waited to see whether the sales rolled in to determine success rates. Now, social media allows companies to have a dialogue with its customers and gain valuable feedback and input as it creates the message. Information and messaging for a company was once controlled by its marketing and sales departments. Now, with the democratization of information, no one owns the message about a product or company. Every company must become part of the conversation or risk letting users become the voice of the company.
Customers are using social channels to instantly share positive and negative feedback about products and services, influencing countless other people. Word-of-mouth marketing has existed since the dawn of man, but today, it uses a massive megaphone to extend farther than ever. People exchanging feedback, ideas, recommendations and more are changing the way customers shop and the way businesses produce. The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by SAS, the software vendor, suggests that social media is making the relationship between companies and their customers much more transparent. In particular, customers are more likely to try to deal with C-level executives through social media than through other channels. Businesses should respond, the report suggests, by integrating the “multichannel” feedback from blogs, community sites and social networks with their conventional marketing and market research data.
Social media presence is a fundamental today, ranging from business to fortune 500 corporations. However social media marketing is a savior for small businesses. Its cost effective and they can easily Tweet new offers or update Facebook fanpage for latest offers. Moreover companies like Dell have used twitter to increase sales by $1 million in the past one year (Henry-2010). This whole social community allows your company’s name and brand to be viewed by a significant amount of people. Continuous use of social media over time creates brand awareness and thus helps to increase sales. Competitions on social networks and interactive sessions are a new promotional tool being used, for example “Top bartender” page on Facebook by Absolut Vodka or Apple’s blogging on “ipods dirty little secrets”. What companies need is a financial justification, ROI on social media marketing has consistently been high, with Addidas having upto 70% returns.
There are a total of 13 million internet users in Pakistan including Broadband, dial up, and mobile. Figures given by the PTA regarding internet users is that of 19 million from which face book consists of 2.2 million, (Pick- 2010) Yahoo around 4 million, MSN around 4 to 5 million and You Tube around 4.5 million. Based on these figures internet marketing is highly lucrative.
Businesses in Pakistan have been marketing their products, brands and businesses using social media but still the industry has to come out. There are number of brands that have used such websites to promote their brands but still the results of such marketing tool in Pakistan are yet to achieve. Though, our neighboring country India has been using these websites as a marketing medium and they have been able to get positive results from using promotional campaigns. There are at least 500 companies with a Facebook presence. Brands like Ego, HSY, Gunsmoke etc rely on Facebook advertising. An average ad costing Rs. 10000 to Rs. 35000 on other mediums can only cost 3 to 10 cents on this site. (Syed-2010)
Julie Roehm parses out the numbers from the Pew Internet and American Life study that were mentioned in the New York Times article, finding that there’s a great disparity in how different generations consume content and that the older we get, the more likely we are to spend time on longer form content. Where will this lead us? Are we doomed to sound bites, tweets and trite self-absorbed updates for the foreseeable future?
The viral effect that social media has in marketing is shaping a new face of branding. Moreover social media is the place people trust for seeking information. Be it feedback, product information search or tackling PR disasters, social media has it all. Social media would evolve into a decision making tool in future when mashed with other online options; making brand equity highly vulnerable to social verdicts. What lies ahead is a fierce branding battle which can be won with innovative social marketing solutions. The addictiveness can be cashed by generating a mix of the virtual “society” and physical customer support banded together.
Many of the people involved in this study believed that information they have seen on social networks didn’t influence their purchasing decision. On the surface, we would agree with them because most information you see on social networks isn’t shown to you when you are in the process of making a buying decision. The real power of Social Media Marketing is the brand building and the longevity of the content a company adds to a social community (Baekdal-2009). A statement made by a company and picked up by someone you Follow on Twitter can impact a purchase you make at a later point but you wouldn’t necessarily correlate that with your buying decision. There may also be content that was created on a social network that gets displayed in the results of your Google search that may influence your decision to purchase a product but you also may not realize that the information is even coming from Social Media Marketing.
The lesson to be learned here is that marketing doesn’t always correlate easily to direct sales. We have become too dependent on measuring your ROI from Internet Marketing. Marketers need to understand and respect the long term value of building a brand through the web and just because you don’t see instant revenue from a marketing campaign doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be effective. (Pick-2010)
Large companies and small businesses who have used social media to promote their products and services could attest that they have experienced remarkable increase in sales. Exposing your brand in social media can be an excellent way to make the existence of your business known to the public. It is a fact that members of social media are pouring in and is still constantly increasing. So, you can just imagine the number of potential views your business can get simply by being a part of these social networking sites (Gunelius-2009). Whether you are just starting out or your business is already a multinational corporation, there are many social marketing tools available to provide the needed marketing exposure of your business. And another good thing is that most of these tools are for free therefore giving you an edge especially if your marketing budget is limited.
If one is wondering how sales can be increased with social media, the answer is simple: Social media can reach millions of people worldwide. Anyone with an internet access can view your advertisements online. With TV commercials, only those people watching at the time can see broadcasted advertisement and interaction is not possible. Social sites, on the other hand, allow you to post blogs or tweets about your product and surely your company will get noticed resulting to increased sales. At the same time, you can interact with customers and gather insights on what they expect from you and how you can improve your products and services to meet the demands of your market. As observed by most companies that use social media for marketing purposes, the effect is truly viral. The case is especially true for Facebook and Twitter where friends tell each other about the products offered by small companies by word of mouth. With the tweets, recommendations and positive reviews, your company and your brand will be made known to a significant number of interested people. (Henry_2010)
Before conducting the research, I expect that my Null hypothesis that is “Social media marketing has a positive impact on sales and brand image” will prove to be true.
The above table shows the demographics of the survey that around 44% were male candidates and 56% of them were female. This also shows that the sample size was ideal as the percentages of both male and female are taken in consideration for survey
The above graph shows the Age demographics that from each age bracket what percentage of people were taken in consideration. 68% were young adults forming the largest usage segment, followed by 22% of users between age of 26-35 years of age. The survey also included 10% of middle aged users.
The above chart shows daily online presence of respondents, whether they are active users or passive users.
Reason for this question was to get the insight of the consumer that how much is the highest usage of internet and to what extent internet usage effects their life.
The result was 44 % of the sample use less than 1 hour a day, 36% use between 2 to 3 hours a day, 8% use between 3 to 4 hours a day and 12% use more than 4 hours a day. The results depict that most of the users use internet up to 3 hours a day.
The above pie chart shows the number of people effected by product branding while making a buying decision. The results help to determine whether it is important for marketers to enhance brand image to effect sales or not. 54% of the respondents believe their buying decision is dependent on branding while 26% believe it is not. Whereas 20% are not sure if branding can impact purchase decision.
The chart above shows the usage of social media sites by respondents. Out of the 50 most of the respondents are present on more than 1 site. Most of them are on Facebook followed by a heavy use of Youtube. Whereas; presence on Twitter and blogging sites is almost equal. This shows socializing and content viewing both are important aspects of social media experience.
The above chart shows consumer insight on information search, which medium is most used for product information search. 56% relied on word-of-mouth which in turn highlights social media importance. Moreover 15% relied on TV, 11% on newspaper and magazines and 18% on internet.
The above pie chart shows results on buying decision of a friend’s Facebook status update and Tweet. Whether, people consider this feedback or not. 42% said ‘yes’ they did 36% said no however 22% were somewhat influenced.
The above chart shows if people would purchase a product because of positive social media response. 43% said agree, that they would purchase a product. 28% disagree, they would not buy a product because of social media influence whereas 26% were neutral.
The above pie chart shows if negative feedback through social media would affect respondents
Brand loyalty. 58% said yes, 32% said no and 10% being affected to a limited extent. The results depict the dependence of brand loyalty on feedback.
The above chart shows if people consider social media to be best source of promotion. 36% disagreed, 32% were neutral whereas 22% agreed. The results identify the importance of social media as promotion tool, which according to the results is not very strong.
The above pie chart shows which factor most influences sales, 32% said product features and 29% said price whereas only 6% said feedback. This shows that social media feedback may not directly influence sales of a product.
The above analysis show the different factors influencing sales, brand image and consumer loyalty. Is can be depicted that sales is most affected by price and features and brand image is affected mostly by company PR and promotion. Moreover consumer loyalty is also dependent mostly on PR and product features.
The conclusion derived from my research report is that my null hypothesis being: “Social media marketing has a positive impact on sales and brand image” did not prove to be true. People prefer word-of-mouth (56% respondents) as the best source of information search; moreover feedback on social media may affect their purchase decision. But at the same time feedback was not rated as the most important factor in purchase decision, it is believed that sales are affected by product price and features (32% respondents). My research also depicted a key consumer insight which identifies brand presence on social media for image building and consumer loyalty is important. Consumers may not purchase anything because it is praised on social media but also be disoriented if a lot of negative feedback is received. Social media is also crucial for interacting with consumers, hence aiding the process of customer care. The research also analyzed that brands today need social media for promoting and reminding consumers about the product, but it is true that consumers do not rate social media as a major influence of purchase decision.
Therefore, the inductive hypothesis of ‘social media only affecting brand image and not sales’ stands to be true. Social media in today’s internet age is online presence of a brand, just like any person. Brands need to intervene in feedback, captivate consumer preference and enhance brand image. However relying on social media for increasing sales is not viable.
E-marketing is a really effective mode of communication and advertisement which is overwhelming the traditional means of promotion and PR. E-marketing is a very convenient way of promotion and conveying the message to the public. The rate of internet penetration has increased by more than 100% since the past few years resulting in more access to web by the new generation.
The recommendations brought forth by my research findings include that presence on social media is a must. Social media content may include pages on Facebook, regular tweets on Twitter by employees and content available on Youtube. Now a days company’s readily upload latest advertisements on Youtube and at times their corporate documentaries. Blogging is also a very important mode for interactions, consumers turn to these sites for answers, regular blogging may enable marketers to attain consumer insight and simultaneously discuss product related issues.
It is recommended that social media marketing should be used as a secondary medium of promotion following the conventional promotion mediums as primary. Sales may not be directly affected by social media presence however companies may cash on brand equity in the long term. Social marketing may prove to be ideal for small and medium sized businesses. Where spending a lot on promotion may not be feasible, social media may prove to be a blessing. Today more than 500 businesses have a mere Facebook presence in Pakistan, it is also the cheapest and most interactive forum for such companies.
Social media is considered the next big idea by some marketers whereas others consider it to be a mere fad. Now organizations need to analyze the fact that today social media marketing may prove to be beneficial for brand image but return on investment is a crucial factor to be considered. Investment in social media marketing has to be regulated according to future needs of the company and product itself. Internet usage is part of life but modes of interaction have dynamically changed, hence to conclude ideal scenario is to build a strong brand support through social media to have a long lasting impact on the future.
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