What is 'Social Media Marketing (SMM)'

Social media marketing (SMM) is the use of social media websites and social networks to market a company’s products and services. Social media marketing provides companies with a way to reach new customers, engage with existing customers and promote its desired culture, mission or tone. Also known as "digital marketing" and "e-marketing," social media marketing has purpose-built data analytics tools that allow marketers to track how successful their efforts are.

Breaking Down 'Social Media Marketing (SMM)'

Social media websites allow marketers to employ a broad range of tactics and strategies to promote content and have people engage with it. Many social networks allow users to provide detailed geographical, demographic and personal information, which allows marketers to tailor their messages to what is most likely to resonate with users. Because Internet audiences can be better segmented than more traditional marketing channels, companies can ensure that they are focusing their resources on the audience that they want to target.

Social media marketing campaigns have the advantage of appealing to a broad audience at once. For example, a campaign could appeal to current and prospective customers, employees, bloggers, the media, the general public and other stakeholders (such as third-party reviewers or trade groups). Some of the metrics used to measure the success of a social media marketing campaign include website reports (such as Google analytics), return-on-investment (by connecting marketing to sales activity), customer response rates (how much customers post about a company), and reach/virality (how much customers share content).

Social Media Marketing Strategy

A major strategy used in social media marketing is to develop messages and content that individual users will share with their family, friends and coworkers. This strategy relies on word of mouth and provides several benefits. First, it increases the message’s reach to networks and users that a social media manager may not have been able to access otherwise. Second, shared content carries an implicit endorsement when sent by someone who the recipient knows and trusts.

Social media strategy involves the creation of content that is “sticky,” meaning that it will get a user’s attention and increase the possibility that he or she will conduct a desired action, such as purchase a product or share the content with others. Marketers create viral content designed to spread between users quickly. Social media marketing should also encourage customers to create and share their own content, such as product reviews or comments (known as "earned media").

While social media marketing can provide benefits, it also can create obstacles that companies may not have had to deal with otherwise. For example, a viral video claiming that a company’s product causes consumers to become ill must be addressed by the company, regardless of whether the claim is true or false. Even if a company is able to set the message straight, consumers may be less likely to purchase from the company in the future.

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