November 29, 2016

A QUICK COLUMN ON THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL MEDIA

     “When I hear people debate the ROI of social media? It makes me remember why so many business fail. Most businesses are not playing the marathon. They're playing the sprint. They're not worried about lifetime value and retention. They're worried about short-term goals.” - Gary Vaynerchuck

 

     The only thing that has spread as rapidly as internet since the turn of the century, has been social media. Some of the first big ones were MySpace, then YouTube, and as we all know shortly after both of those came Facebook, the social media giant that sets the bar for all others. It currently has over 1.5 billion users… that means that more than 20% of people on this planet have a Facebook account! Social media first began as a way for people to connect on a personal level; it still is for the most part but how and why has it expanded into so much more? To answer those questions you have to understand how we as a population have evolved as well in the last decade or so.

 

     It’s now the end of 2016, approximately a decade after Facebook began growing rapidly outside of the Harvard community. In the interim 10 years from 2006 to 2016, society has seen rapid advancements in other technology as well: TV technology, IT infrastructure, cloud computing, car technology, the list goes on and on. Not to disregard any of the other rapid tech growths during this time, however, phone technology and the accompanying services have dramatically advanced. The Razor flip phone by Motorola was the industry standard, then the Blackberry, and then eventually Android and iPhones came into existence to dominate the market. We went from regular cell service just to make calls and texts to getting upset when our phone doesn’t have 4G LTE service to browse the web while on a train or waiting in a doctor’s office. As mentioned, things have changed dramatically. With this change, humans have become accustomed to accessibility to information and networks concomitantly with high levels of mobility. Instead of having to log onto your computer when you got home from work or school to see the new Facebook status, message a friend on AIM, or browse a social network, it has become possible to do that all and more from a mobile device now. This constant connectivity is what helped pave the way for marketing and advertisement to enter the social media realm that we all know and love.

 

     Although there is not a specific date at which advertising and social media marketing began on these platforms, their prevalence began to rise in the last couple years of the aforementioned decade. Advertising with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and practically every other social media platform is possible now. Not only is it possible, but in 2016 it is prevalent. Many of the social media platforms have ways for you to set up your page or company as a specific business page to meet your marketing needs, drive marketing promotions farther, and then analyze the reports from platform generated statistics. In the last 5 years, the exponentially rapid growth of social media marketing and advertising has redefined the game of marketing and changed the way we look at and analyze return on investment when related to social media advertising. Businesses went from beginning to realize the value of social media to now stressing the importance of having a strong social media presence. Most small businesses wouldn’t survive without it.

 

     In the past 2 years, social media marketing budgets have doubled from 16 billion to 32 billion on a global scale. In the United states alone, industry expert forecasters are predicting the social media marketing budgets to eclipse 20 billion by 2020. This growth is expected to increase on almost all fronts as we deliver internet to more and more people each year, not to mention the upcoming advancements in technology and hypermobile characteristics we are displaying as a population. Many platforms in the last year or so have found unique ways to incorporate paid promotions into their systems seamlessly so they become native advertisements. Statistics recently have shown that consumers view native ads 50% more than banner ads and purchase intent is greater than 50% higher with native ads. In other words, marketers are finding more effective ways to advertise their products to their specific target market. As a consumer myself, I have too fallen victim to a native ad that was tied to a recent Google search I made.

 

     Last but not least, social media became a great way to advertise products and services because it is a low cost method of advertising, comparatively speaking. The low cost nature of social media marketing coupled with accessible analytics on promotion reach and impressions has made social media advertising a popular choice for not only small businesses, but massive corporations. If the prices remain relatively the same, we can expect to see more and more advertisements that would correlate with the projected growth rates and budgets of these marketing agencies and businesses.


     So where will social media marketing end up? Will all the advertising scare users away or will the native ads become smarter and more effective? Will this growth continue or is it only a small bubble? Will the low cost nature of social media marketing continue? No one can answer these questions for certain. However, due to the power of internet connectivity, advancements in technology, and growing mobility of society, we can foresee an unphased growth for social media marketing and also the growing importance for small businesses to create some kind of social media presence for long term success.

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