Within just a few years, social media has become an indispensable component of integrated marketing communication and provides companies with numerous different online platforms that allow for interaction between internet users and sharing of user-generated content. This includes:
- communication platforms like social networks, blogs, newsgroups, forums and instant messengers
- platforms for collaboration and knowledge management in wikis, social bookmarks and tagging as well as rating and information portals
- Multimedia platforms with photo and video sharing portals, livecasts and podcasts
- Platforms for entertainment including virtual worlds and online games
Each of these different approaches focuses on the users and their activities and thus provides very unique opportunities and potential for marketing activities. According to Social Media Examiner’s annual report, which includes a survey of 3,000 marketing managers from companies around the world, 79% of the companies have already integrated social media in their marketing activities. According to benchmarking by the “Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs”, 91% of companies in the U.S. are placing emphasis on content marketing in the B2B sector. Based on another study performed by the SMB Group, around 35% of American companies are even replacing other communication forms like direct mailing, company magazines and email marketing with social media. The social network facebook takes the lead at 92% among these companies, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Youtube, Google+ and photo sharing platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.
According to the “German Social Media Consumer Report 2012/2013” published by the Marketing Center of the University of Münster, 93% of German internet users are registered in social networks. On average they even use three different platforms at the same time. Social media now has an impact on 7.6 percent of purchasing decisions and thus achieves values similar to television commercials (7.8 percent) or traditional direct marketing instruments (7.9 percent).
Only 37 percent of the marketing managers consider their own activity on facebook to be effective according to a study carried out by Social Media Examiner. More than ever before, success in social media requires targeted procedures including analyses, strategy planning, goals and evaluation. If existing capacities and possibilities are used in combination with clear goals, then social media’s potential is entirely independent of the company size.