In the contemporary world, there is no business without communication. To most entrepreneurs in the 21st century, social media use in business is seemingly the ‘next big thing’. The emergence of an online technology that allows reaching of big crowds without necessarily meeting them has presented a temporary yet essential fad that ought to be appropriately made use of while it is still in the spotlight. To this group of entrepreneurs, reaching out the virtual market has presented itself as a stepping-stone to, not only establish their brands, but also to make it earn acceptance in the market (Beth 2014). Others have even gone further to establish online shops where customers can easily order and wait for their products to be delivered without having to necessarily visit the product stores. Unfortunately, however, there exists a population to which social media marketing is a buzzword without any practical advantage and steep. They envision it to be a complicated learning curve that further makes their business life unexpectedly complex. With regards to the different approaches to social media, this paper will look at both the negative and the positive aspects of using social media as a tool for running business operations (William & Ferell 2017).
Advantages of Using Social Networks in Business
An efficient way of conducting business involves reducing costs and increasing income. Social media offers such an avenue as advertising is done at a very low price as only an internet connection, an electronic device, and electricity are required. Unlike other forms of advertising where one needs to make extra costs to have their advertisement aired on TV or radio program, everything on social media is free. With the correct audience, social media save a company the highly invested in marketing budgets that require inputs for promotions and salaries for agents among many other expensive expenses. For a business, for example, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle or Telegram channel is sufficient to make advertisements without going to the field to meet the potential market. The emergence of phones with high power cameras, on the other hand, has made it possible to take pictures, which can be easily uploaded just by a click (Lawrence 2012). With such technology in place, one no longer needs to have an expensive budget for marketing but rather only resilience in getting online followers, which will in turn translate, to high returns with low marketing expenditures.
Increased audience in business set up translates to increased sales. Which businessman doesn`t desire to have their brands known to as many people as possible? Any post made on Facebook has a potential of reaching up to 4.1 billion users, while twitter, Instagram and Pinterest present audiences up to 313 million, 500 million and 110 million respectively (William & Ferell 2017). With social media, one can attract a huge lot of followers both at the local and international market. Unlike the media houses which are limited in the scope of airing advertisements due to boundary and connectivity issues, social media offers no such boundaries. By simply creating an online page, one can reach people from multiple countries, which give an advantage to advertising one's brand across different boundaries. Also using multi-channel advertising, one can air the same advertisement across different channels attracting more clients to like a particular product. By posting relevant and compelling content, one can grab the attention of potential customers hence increasing brand visibility. Continued brand exposure then attracts more clients and raises their interest in the product, and the overall effect is increased sales as everyone wishes to have a taste of what is trending online. Although one doesn't need to necessarily utilize every social network platform, creating accounts in one or selected few social media tools exposes one to millions of people around the world.
Once a social media channel achieves a reasonable number of followers online it becomes recognized by internet search engines. Social content posted in such social media web pages can indirectly boost links to official company websites by appearing in official search results hence improving online sales and search traffic. Such links also increase brand visibility as searches made by customers direct them to company websites that offer easier alternatives for sales and deliveries.
Social media platforms offer an excellent avenue for continuous brand improvement. Facebook and twitter handle, for example, are social media channels that allow continuous feedback from customers. Such feedback is a very crucial source of data as a careful analysis can be used to come up with emerging trends on the brand product and possible deviations from the expected quality. With such information, a company can then optimize the said product to meet the customers’ expectations which will, in turn, attract more customers to purchase the product. The social media channels also allow easy communication with customers hence making it easy to respond to complains that may arise in the course of service delivery. Also with a feedback system, a company can realize the different aspects of the competitive market in which they operate. Customers’ comments also enable one to understand how different competitors are doing which in turn offers an opportunity for improvement in a bid to meet the customers’ demands (Jayson 2017).
Social media platforms offer improved networking opportunities where people can connect with companies and other people serving in the same business. These networks offer ideal platforms for exchange of ideas which are crucial for the dev elopement of a particular business. Interaction with fellow businessmen also offers an opportunity for learning. In the manufacturing industry, for example, one can easily learn good manufacturing practices by easily going through a post by another company meant to reach the target audience. In addition to this, use of social media in business provides an opportunity to have one`s voice count in the large market they operate in. With a sufficient number of followers, all posts made to a social media channel offer a starting point for an online conversation. Such conversations then translate into trends that can then influence other people’s opinion about particular aspects of the said industry (Tracy 2017).
Customer engagement has never been easy as with the convenience offered by social media! In addition to increased exposure of a brand, social media has also proven to be a very significant tool in increasing customer brand loyalty. In a research conducted on social habits, it was proven that about 53% of Americans who follow/like brands in social platforms remain loyal to the particular brands. Unlike the public advertising strategy where the customer and potential clients are always on the receiving and listening ends, social media offers a two –way communication channel that allows the seller to build useful relations with current and potential customers. Such relations build trust and confidence with the clients which in turn encourages them to choose your brand in their future purchases (Jan Deborah 2015).
Disadvantages of Using Social Networks in Business
One of the major disadvantages of using social media for marketing comes from the freedom of speech protected by the US constitution. Just like an open book, the social media allows posting of anything by anybody. The social media users have made good use of the first amendment by enjoying the free rein to post whatever they want on their social platforms. As much as satisfied customers leave glowing reviews on a business` marketing pages, unhappy customers equally make use of the opportunity to leave angry rants about the business. In some instances, however, the negative feedbacks even come from within the organization when disgruntled employees decide to take revenge by tarnishing the organization`s name (Linda 2015). Such negative reviews not only make the organization look ugly but also have a potential of reducing potential clients as no one wishes to be associated with companies that have a bad image. Such instances make businesses to struggle to rebuild their image again, which might cost the organization especially in cases where strategies such as promotions are the only options available for building the company`s image.
A big audience translates to a big potential for embarrassment! Normally it is very easy to get caught up with social media and make posts without a thoughtful insight. Such not-well thought of posts can have huge consequences for a business considering the big number of followers where mistakes barely go unnoticed. Taking the Digino Pizza, for example, one of their social media controllers noticed the hashtag “#whyIstayed” was trending on twitter and jumped on board to make use of the rend by posting “#whyIstayed You Had Pizza.” Under normal circumstances, this is an ideal statement used for normal marketing. On realization that the hash tag was used to discuss the reason that makes victims of domestic violence stay in abusive relationships however opened the company for criticism from different ends (Internet Marketing Editorial Team 2017). While others translated it to mean that the company was taking pleasure in the agony of others, others directly quoted the company`s lack of information and carelessness in making online posts. The result was a massive embarrassment that signified the company`s lack of information.
Maintaining an interactive social media presence needs dedication by offering substantial effort and time. For a business with limited resources (both human and electronic), devoting the needed resources to social media can be a marketing limiting factor. An active social media marketing site requires constant monitoring of each of the social networks, responding to clients and potential client’s questions and keeping the audience engaged by posting valuables updates after a particular said period. Social media users are often dynamic in their approach hence maintaining them requires making eye catching and attractive posts that will keep them yearning for more. This, however, requires a high degree of creativity which is not always freely existent among different individuals. Although this is considered a drawback, investing time in social media can see a business achieve major milestones as it is crucial in creating lasting relationships that will see customers come back again over a period (William & Ferell 2015).
Great exposure to the online, market presents potential risks such as information leak, hacking or even cyber bullying. If one is not careful, the information they share on social media platforms can be used by their competitors against them hence tarnishing the overall brand image. The online market is also not secure, and I subject to hacking b various interested parties. In either case, customers always play innocent and are unable to distinguish between a hacked system and a genuine post. The unauthorized access to social media platforms by third parties always leads to unexpected ends where customers are exposed to misleading information, or the hacker gets useful information crucial for bringing the business to its knees.