The meaning and purpose of social media marketing

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Social media is not just a platform for interpersonal relations. It is a cult dominated by entrepreneurs, organizations, celebrities, business moguls and the world’s billionaires while consumers play the minority role (Koporcic & Törnroos, 2019). While companies strategize to explore social media platforms as a legitimate channel to connect with consumers and the local/global market, there are unanswered questions relating to brand awareness, intent data, censorship, and ownership of the social media space. Elon Musk owns Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp whereas Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. This dominance by the oligarchy has stirred widespread concerns that social media ownership is no longer a safe environment due to issues such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the recent lawsuit between Elon Musk and Twitter Board of Directors, which underscore danger to freedom of speech (Olof Lagrosen & Grundén, 2014; Stojanovic et al, 2018).

However, social media is a source of intent data for digital marketing purposes. The internet-based communication platform has significantly increased brand awareness by providing advertising opportunities driven by data analytics and other AI-powered systems. In other words, social media offers individuals and corporate brands a chance to be seen and heard by a larger audience—especially consumers using devices with internet connectivity. According to Statista, about forty-three million Nigerians used social media platforms in 2021. Although the staggering number is a staggering 7 percent increase from the previous year, the website estimates with data-based analytics that up to 103 million Nigerians would be active on social media by 2026. As of January 2022, the most popular social media platforms ranked by the number of active users are Facebook (2,910 million), YouTube (2,562 million) and WhatsApp (two million). On 21 June 2022, Statista reported that there are 4.7 billion active social media users globally, with a penetration rate of 58.4% — an unprecedented record in the digital communication world (Gamage & Ashill, 2022). In a 2022 publication, Sprout Social confirmed through a survey that the most popular uses of social media to organizations are:

  • To increase brand awareness – 80%
  • To increase community engagement – 65%
  • To increase web traffic – 54%
  • To generate sales / leads – 41%
  • To distribute content – 30%
  • To increase brand advocacy from consumers – 25%
  • To support customers – 20%
  • To develop influencer marketing program – 15%

Social media is a great marketplace for building and sustaining relationship with consumers. As a channel for brand awareness creation, organizations depend on social media for intent data, which is distilled to improve brand marketing efforts, customer experience and revenues. In summary, social media enables engagement with consumers, content promotion, product advertising and social sharing. Social media channels used for brand awareness creation are: (a) visual images (b) videos (c) blogs (d) online streaming, and (e) podcasts. Revolution in the social media space has totally transformed the communication landscape—for both individuals and organizations—and is steadily churning out new, innovative launch pads that gain instant global admiration (e.g., TikTok and Snapchat, among others) (Varela-Neira et al, 2022). The increasing benefits of social applications like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others in marketing communication and, more importantly, on consumers’ awareness has opened more doors for business development professionals—especially marketers. As consumers spend more time with digital devices, whether online or offline, companies have more interactions with consumers who are directly or indirectly exposed to free or subscription-based marketing campaigns. Thus, through digital technologies, consumers have changed from being passive participants in marketing to important players due to their active engagements as creators and influencers (Balkan, 2021). Social media has also shared digital marketing benefits between brands and consumers, and this paradigm shift from the traditional one-way communication to peer-to-peer, two-way and multi-dimensional pattern highlights the growing power of consumers. But the reality is: companies with access to intent data and a strong financial base will always stay ahead of consumers due to the cost implications of integrating advanced technologies in brand marketing (Hassan et al, 2022; Xin & Yingxi, 2022).


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