This essay seeks to critically discuss the statement that “given the rise of social media marketing, companies should focus all of their marketing efforts on social media platforms”. The rapidly shifting topography of the social media landscape seems to create the impression that its associated platforms are a new concept, but they actually have a relatively long history in terms of the total lifespan of the internet. For example, Friendster was established in 2002 whilst Myspace and LinkedIn followed the year after. Two years later, 2005 saw the rise of some of the most famous social media platforms of the present day including a nascent Facebook, YouTube and Reddit, whilst Twitter became popular the following year (Luttrell, 2015). Over this period of time, marketers have become more comfortable with the realisation that these platforms offer new avenues for marketing efforts, with enhanced brand awareness and brand engagement being key metrics for the success of social media campaigns (Hoffman and Fodor, 2010). This work will evaluate the extent to which social media should be utilised as a marketing tool.
Concurrent with the aforementioned growth of social media platforms, consumers are now, more than ever before, turning to the internet as a source of information (Aiello, 2014). In a marketing context this trend seems to be driven by a number of factors, with consumers seemingly beginning to question the trustworthiness of traditional forms of advertising, meaning that many are leveraging the power of social media to seek out more reliable information relating to a product or service (Aiello, 2014). Evidence of the rise of social media marketing can be seen in the vast sums of money that are being spent on the platform as a means of disseminating messages. For example, previous estimations suggest that between 2010 and 2013, worldwide spending on social media marketing increased from $3.4 billion to $10 billion (Clark and Melancon, 2013). This trend is set to continue, with expenditure in the United States alone expected to double to $11 billion by 2017, with an imbedded sub-trend that will see mobile-orientated platforms rival and exceed traditional personal computer platforms for the first time (Glass and Calahan, 2014). The case for companies to continue this high level of investment in social media marketing is a sound one. Social media facilitates a strengthening of the relationship between a consumer and a particular brand by enabling people to express their loyalty, even in cases in which they may not necessarily be able to afford a given product or service (Clark and Melancon, 2013). Citing the work of Shaffer and Garnett (2011), Clark and Melancon (2013) state that 51% of Facebook users are likely to buy from companies which they follow whilst 84% of a company’s fans on that platform are returning customers. A potential mechanism for this activity is put forward by Laroche, Habibi and Richard (2013), who suggest that a sense of community around a particular brand, which is created through social media,