The Evolution of Social Media Marketing

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In its infancy, social media was dismissed by many as just another ‘flash in the pan’. However, as people gravitated towards the sites, which at that time were attracting young people to chat about and share music, or share personal stories online, marketers began to recognise the opportunities that such platforms presented; a captive audience with a disposable income.

The Start

Before the launch of social media, netizens met on social networks like dating sites and online forums. Six Degrees, Livejournal, and Friendster were some of the earliest forms of social media sites.

Between 1995 – 2002 the‘dot com’ bubble propelled the Internet from a fascination to an essential tool, and marketing opportunities followed. Search marketing prompted brands to create websites to establish an online presence. As Google, Yahoo and MSN’s search engines evolved, companies turned to SEO strategies to remain at the top of search results.

When web 2.0 sites – blogs in particular – increased in popularity, marketers began to recognize the potential of content marketing. Inbound marketing, where more value is added for the customer and business is earned, started replacing the “buy, beg or bug” outbound marketing strategies of old.

In 2003 – 2004, Facebook, LinkedIn and My Space changed the way people were using the Internet, moving people from individual users to socially interactive extroverts. Businesses fast noticed how their presence on social media sites influenced sales and brands started creating their own profiles on popular networking sites.

Businesses changed their marketing approach from the more aggressively-proactive outbound marketing to more reactive inbound marketing because of the response they were seeing on social media. In some ways, it has been the consumer dictating to marketers how to sell to them, what they want in return for their loyalty and how they can be influenced.

Nowadays, over 90% of marketing executives include social media as part of their marketing strategies, and successful businesses utilize social media marketing for branding, lead generation, customer retention, research and eCommerce. Not only does social media significantly reduce marketing expenses and time, but it also increases the effectiveness of marketing strategies and overall customer satisfaction rates. The majority of customers who post complaints on a brand’s social media page get a reply almost instantly. This has helped companies retain more customers and improve customer standards across many industries.

Capitalizing on the Internet

There are an estimated 2 billion people online at any given time. Around 23% of the total time spent on the Internet is spent browsing or interacting on social media sites. At least 53% of individuals who are active on social media sites such as Facebook are following a brand. It is expected that all businesses have an online presence, at the very least a social media page, but better if they have a website and multiple social media accounts.

Brands have integrated themselves into the social media platforms we view so seamlessly that we don’t even notice that most of what we are viewing is clever advertising, disguised a high-level content. As long as people feel that there is worth in what they are viewing, this will continue to be the case; our screens flooded by impossible images and illusions designed to open our wallets and empty our minds.

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