Due to the popularity of social media use at the personal level, many organizations, including small and midsize businesses (SMBs), use social media as a marketing tool. Organizations can use social media as a marketing tool to build brand/fan communities, increase traffic to their websites, inform current customers, attract new customers, hear consumer preferences, get new product development ideas, advertise new products, share promotional campaigns, increase donations and encourage event participation. Thus, organizational use of social media marketing has become a global trend.
Although it is very common for organizations all over the world to use social media as a marketing tool, factors such as the organization's size (e.g., SMBs vs. big corporations), type (e.g., B2C, B2B or nonprofit) and structure (e.g., domestic organization vs. global organization) may affect its use of social media marketing. Furthermore, demographic variables such as gender, age/generation and income may affect consumers' use of social media. There is no one-size-fits-all social media marketing strategy.
To communicate effectively with different groups or segments of customers and successfully run social media marketing campaigns in different countries and regions, organizations really have to customize their social media marketing strategies. But how do you do that? I would like to provide some suggestions.
1. Customize for your markets.
Research your markets and customize your social media platforms for different international markets if your organization plans to reach or already has international markets. With the help of social media, organizations of different sizes, including SMBs, can easily advertise products in different social media platforms and sell products to consumers in different parts of the world.
However, there are cultural differences in consumer behaviors, including social media usage behaviors. Some social media platforms are global, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram. Facebook is the most popular social media platform worldwide (except for in a small number of countries, such as China and North Korea). However, there are also international social media platforms that are popular in specific countries or regions. For example, most global social media platforms, except LinkedIn, are banned in China. Therefore, if your organization is interested in the Chinese market, you may use WeChat or Weibo to communicate with Chinese consumers. Line is popular in some Asian markets, such as Japan and Taiwan. Global social media platforms are not banned there. You may use both global social media platforms, such as Facebook, and Line as marketing tools in Japan and Taiwan.
2. Personalize for your target audiences.
Consumers in different demographic groups may have different preferences for social media tools. Pew Research Center's (2018) research findings suggest that there are generational and gender differences in using social media platforms in the U.S.
Generally, Facebook is widely used by consumers in different gender and age groups. However, Instagram and Snapchat are frequently used by the younger generation. If your organization would like to reach a wide range of customers in diverse demographic groups, Facebook is a good choice – or you can choose specific market segments based on gender, age or lifestyle if you advertise on Facebook with paid advertisements.
If you would like to sell products to the younger generation, you may use Instagram as a marketing tool. There are also industrial differences in social media use. Many fashion companies, such as clothing companies, post product pictures on Instagram. The key is to choose the right social media platforms to reach your target audience.
3. Modify your social media marketing goals.
Different types of organizations have different organizational missions and goals – and therefore different social media marketing goals.
I conducted an online survey to explore organizational use of social media marketing and compared different types of organizations' social media marketing goals and use of social media marketing tools. The research findings were presented at the 2018 Association for International and Intercultural Communication (IAICS) conference in Chicago, Illinois. The complete research report will be published by China Media Research in 2020 (Wu, 2018; Wu, in press).
The research findings suggest that more business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations than business-to-business (B2B) companies and nonprofits use social media to listen to the customer voice, increase sales and build brand/fan community. More nonprofit organizations than B2C and B2B organizations use social media to increase donations and to encourage event participation. Furthermore, more B2B organizations than B2C and nonprofits use LinkedIn to deliver informative content and demonstrate thought leadership (Wu, 2018; Wu, in press).
It's important that your organization's social media marketing goals are consistent with your organization's missions and overall business objectives. For example, if your organization is primarily a B2C company, you may use social media to hear the voice of the customer.
Your customers' social media comments can provide valuable feedback and insights about your products and services. Their suggestions may also help you generate new product development ideas. If your organization is a nonprofit, you may use social media to encourage your supporters to attend your organizational events and donate online.
4. Tailor your video content.
Today's consumers are very visual. You may consider posting video content in your social media sites. Seeing is believing. One video may be worth 1,000 words. I would suggest customizing the length and content of your online videos for different social media platforms.
YouTube is the most popular video-sharing site. Thus, you may produce creative videos to show your products, services and events. If you would like to educate your customers or potential customers on how to use your products, YouTube is a good platform for your organization to use. YouTube videos can be longer than most social media videos, allowing you to post detailed product demonstration or customer education videos.
Other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, also allow users to post videos. Again, though, Facebook and Instagram videos should be shorter than YouTube videos. I recommend posting short and sweet videos (less than one minute) on Facebook or Instagram. The content of the video should be creative and relevant to your target audience. Speak your target audience's language, and make sure that the content of the videos fits their lifestyles and satisfies their informational needs.
5. Choose appropriate social analytics tools.
There is no single best way to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns. Many organizations simply look at the numbers, such as the number of followers, likes and comments. Many platforms have built-in tools, such as Facebook Insights and LinkedIn Page Analytics, which are free and easy to use.
There are also other social analytics tools that organizations commonly use. For example, some organizations use Google Analytics to track social media traffic and engagement across platforms. If your organization would like to analyze electronic word of mouth on social media sites, you may use social sentiment analysis tools, such as Hootsuite, to identify the keywords of your customers' social comments and evaluate what percentage of these comments is positive, negative, or neutral.
You may choose the appropriate social analytics tools based on what you want to know, your social media marketing goals and your budget. These tools can help your organizations track the effectiveness of your social media pages or posts and whether you can achieve your social media marketing goals.
In conclusion, organizational use of social media marketing is a global trend. Social media has been adopted and used as a marketing tool in different industries, types of organizations and countries. There is no single best way to use social media as a marketing tool. Factors such as consumer demographics, cultural differences, organizational structure and governmental regulations may affect organizational use of social media marketing. You have to customize your social media marketing strategies.
Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2018, March 1). Social media use in 2018: A majority of Americans use Facebook and YouTube, but young adults are especially heavy users of Snapchat and Instagram. Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018.
Wu, M. Y. (2018, July). Exploring Organizational Use of Social Media Marketing: A Global Perspective. Paper presented at 2018 International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies (IAICS) Annual Convention, Chicago, IL.
Wu, M. Y. (in press). Exploring Organizational Use of Social Media Marketing: A Global Perspective. China Media Research.