Social Media Marketing Defined

Solomon Thimothy - August 6, 2012

To define social media marketing, we have to first understand its foundations. Social media platforms are comprised of social networks, without social networks social media marketing would not exist. Social networks are social structures made up of individuals known as ties, and having a close social network can encourage healthy online behavior. Social networks are the foundation of social media marketing.

An article published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication defines a social network site as “Web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they have a connection and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.”  Essentially social network sites are the websites that allow individuals to connect, engage with their social networks.


Facebook is a social networking site because it allows individuals are able to connect with family, friends, co-workers and others, it also allows individuals to meet new people and add new people to their social network.

Twitter is another example of a social networking site allowing individuals to connect and engage with their social network and add new people to their social networks as well. Twitter is a popular social networking site for many reasons; one of the main is because people can connect with celebrities or people with prestige/clout as well as popular brands that they may never be able to connect with in the real world. Twitter allows individuals to add celebrities and brands to their “social network” online even if they are not really a part of the real life social network.

Other examples of social networking sites include: Linked In, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr and countless others. It is important to understand this structure of social networks and social network sites in order to understand how and why social media marketing works.

Why does social media marketing work?

It is clear that social media marketing when done right does work. Many businesses both large and small have had great success using social media marketing. While content and strategy are two of the main factors for running a successful social media marketing campaign social media marketing works because of its structures and architecture.

Architecture: The Internet in its architecture encourages a participatory or social aspect. Online behavior encourages one to participate, to navigate in order to reach their end result. In “The Architecture of Participation” the participatory nature of the Internet is explained, “Any system designed around communication protocols is intrinsically designed for participation” (3). The communication aspect of the Internet opens it up to be participatory.

Fifth P: Based on this position, we can make the claim that special media marketing works because it is social. Traditional marketing focuses on the four Ps; product, price, place and promotion. Social media marketing incorporates a 5th “P” of marketing; people. As stated earlier social networks are comprised of individuals, and since people are social this is the primary reason that makes social media marketing work. Social media marketing works because of the connections that are made within the social network between the brand and its consumers and fans.

Social Influence:  There has been a lot of research done on social influence that is extremely helpful in explaining why social media marketing does work. Wikipedia defines social influence as something “that occurs when one’s emotions, opinions or behaviors are affected by others”, while this is true, there is more to be said about social influence. According to Robert Cialdini& Noah Goldstein in their article “Social Influence: Compliance & Conformity” there are two motives that drive social influence; compliance & conformity.

Compliance: To put it simply compliance is a request; the user is requested to do something. Cialdini& Goldstein say this about compliance “compliance refers to particular response acquiescence—to a particular kind of communication—a request”. It is important when looking at compliance to understand that in social media compliance can be a good or bad thing. If the request is to give money to a charity, most in society would consider that good compliance on the other hand if we were being asked to make bombs, the majority of us would not comply with that request. Requests for compliance may be explicit or implicit but the desired response is always clear.  Whether answering a fill in the blank question on Facebook, or retweeting on Twitter the compliance aspect of social media urges us to respond in some way to the information that is presented to us.

Conformity: According to Cialdini& Goldstein “Conformity refers to the act of changing one’s behavior to match the responses of others”. This simply means that in social situations people will sometimes match their behavior to someone else’s. Most of the time individuals conform in order to feel a sense of belonging within a particular group or community. It is important to realize conformity can and does occur in the online space; just as compliance can produce positive or negative results so can conformity.

Why use social media marketing?

There are many reasons to use social media marketing. Social media has many benefits including but not limited to; increased exposure, increased traffic, provided market insight, generated leads, developed loyal fans, improved search rankings, growth in business partnerships, reduced marketing expenses, and improved sales.

Case Study

Many companies have experienced many of these benefits because of their social media engagement. A prime example of a social media campaign that experienced many of these benefits is Old Spice. Old Spice launched their social media campaign in July 2010 and for three days, their brand personality “the Old Spice guy” Isaiah Mustafa directly spoke to fans consumers in 30second videos on YouTube. This social media campaign lasted for only 3 days, but it resulted in lasting effects. As a result of this campaign, Old Spice increased their website traffic by 300%, received over 100million views on their YouTube channel, gained over 80,000 Twitter fans in two days, and their Facebook fans reached nearly 750,000. Based on these statistics it is clear that Old Spice’s social media campaign resulted in increased exposure, increased traffic, improved sales, and developed loyal fans.

While Old Spice is a well-known brand and company this is not the entire reason why their social media plan worked. Old Spice’s campaign worked because they engaged their consumers and fans on a personal level. The personal aspect, entices consumers to engage, participate, and connect with the brand and others within the social network. Regardless of the industry, companies can experience the benefits of social media marketing by engaging with their consumers and fans on a personal level. Social media marketing works because of the connections that are made within the social network.

In conclusion, social media is made up of social networking sites that allow individuals to connect with their social networks in an online space. Individuals and groups within these social networks can influence others in the network to support a business, buy a product, or get involved with a cause or organization. Social media marketing can help any business meet its goal and objectives if used successfully

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