What Is the Major Impact of Social Media?
Last updated on 14th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog
Social media can be very influential on society in both positive and negative ways. It gives people a way to stay in touch with people who live far away. It lets people share fun, interesting and informative content. It gives businesses a way to engage with customers.
One of the problems, however, is that anybody can share anything, including material that may not be accurate. In some cases, real harm is done when people spread inflammatory, unverified or outright false information. This can harm private individuals, as when someone is bullied online. It can also have a harmful impact on society as a whole. The 2016 presidential election, however, gave us many examples of this problem.
What is social media?
Definitionally, social media can be thought of in a few different ways. In a practical sense, it is a collection of software-based digital technologies—usually presented as apps and websites—that provide users with digital environments in which they can send and receive digital content or information over some type of online social network. In this sense, we can think of social media as the major platforms and their features, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We can also in practical terms of social media as another type of digital marketing channel that marketers can use to communicate with consumers through advertising. But we can also think of social media more broadly, seeing it less as digital media and specific technology services, and more as digital places where people conduct significant parts of their lives. From this perspective, it means that social media becomes less about the specific technologies or platforms, and more about what people do in these environments. To date, this has tended to be largely about information sharing, and, in marketing, often thought of as a form of (online) word of mouth (WOM).
Building on these definitional perspectives, and thinking about the future, we consider social media to be a technology-centric—but not entirely technological—ecosystem in which a diverse and complex set of behaviors, interactions, and exchanges involving various kinds of interconnected actors (individuals and firms, organizations, and institutions) can occur. Social media is pervasive, widely used, and culturally relevant. This definitional perspective is deliberately broad because we believe that social media has essentially become almost anything—content, information, behaviors, people, organizations, institutions—that can exist in an interconnected, networked digital environment where interactivity is possible. It has evolved from being simply an online instantiation of WOM behaviors and content/information creation and sharing. It is pervasive across societies (and geographic borders) and culturally prominent at both local and global levels.
Throughout the paper we consider many of the definitional and phenomenological aspects described above and explore their implications for consumers and marketing in order to address our question about the future of marketing-related social media. By drawing on academic research, discussions with industry leaders, popular discourse, and our own expertise, we present and discuss a framework featuring nine themes that we believe will meaningfully shape the future of social media in marketing. These themes by no means represent a comprehensive list of all emerging trends in the social media domain and include aspects that are both familiar in extant social media marketing literature (e.g., online WOM, engagement, and user-generated content) and emergent (e.g., sensory considerations in human-computer interaction and new types of unstructured data, including text, audio, images, and video). The themes we present were chosen because they capture important changes in the social media space through the lenses of important stakeholders, including consumers, industry/practice, and public policy.
In addition to describing the nature and consequences of each theme, we identify research directions that academics and practitioners may wish to explore. While it is infeasible to forecast precisely what the future has in store or to project these on a specific timeline, we have organized the emergent themes into three time-progressive waves, according to imminence of impact (i.e., the immediate, near, and far future). Before presenting our framework for the future of social media in marketing and its implications for research (and practice and policy), we provide a brief overview of where social media currently stands as a major media and marketing channel.
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Social media at present
The current social media landscape has two key aspects to it. First are the platforms—major and minor, established and emerging—that provide the underlying technologies and business models making up the industry and ecosystem. Second are the use cases; i.e., how various kinds of people and organizations are using these technologies and for what purposes.
The rise of social media, and the manner in which it has impacted both consumer behavior and marketing practice, has largely been driven by the platforms themselves. Some readers might recall the “early days” of social media where social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster were popular. These sites were precursors to Facebook and everything else that has developed over the last decade. Alongside these platforms, we continue to have other forms of social media such as messaging (which started with basic Internet Relay Chat services in the 1990s and the SMS text messaging built into early digital mobile telephone standards in the 2000s), and asynchronous online conversations arranged around specific topics of interest (e.g., threaded discussion forums, subreddits on Reddit). More recently, we have seen the rise of social media platforms where images and videos replace text, such as Instagram and Snapchat.
Across platforms, historically and to the present day, the dominant business model has involved monetization of users (audiences) by offering advertising services to anyone wishing to reach those audiences with digital content and marketing communications. Prior research has examined the usefulness of social media (in its various forms) for marketing purposes. For example, work by Trusov et al. (2009) and Stephen and Galak (2012) demonstrated that certain kinds of social interactions that now happen on social media (e.g., “refer a friend” features and discussions in online communities) can positively affect important marketing outcomes such as new customer acquisition and sales. More recently, the value of advertising on social media continues to be explored (e.g., Gordon et al. 2019), as well as how it interacts with other forms of media such as television (e.g., Fossen and Schweidel 2016, 2019) and affects new product adoption through diffusion of information mechanisms (e.g., Hennig-Thurau et al. 2015).
Although the rise (and fall) of various kinds of social media platforms has been important for understanding the social media landscape, our contention is that understanding the current situation of social media, at least from a marketing perspective, lies more in what the users do on these platforms than the technologies or services offered by these platforms. Presently, people around the world use social media in its various forms (e.g., news feeds on Facebook and Twitter, private messaging on WhatsApp and WeChat, and discussion forums on Reddit) for a number of purposes. These can generally be categorized as (1) digitally communicating and socializing with known others, such as family and friends, (2) doing the same but with unknown others but who share common interests, and (3) accessing and contributing to digital content such as news, gossip, and user-generated product reviews.
All of these use cases are essentially WOM in one form or another. This, at least, is how marketing scholars have mainly characterized social media, as discussed by Lamberton and Stephen (2016). Indeed, online WOM has been—and, we contend, will continue to be—important in marketing (e.g., in the meta-analysis by Babić Rosario et al. 2016 the authors found, on average, a positive correlation between online WOM and sales). The present perspective on social media is that people use it for creating, accessing, and spreading information via WOM to various types of others, be it known “strong ties” or “weak ties” in their networks or unknown “strangers.” Some extant research has looked at social media from the WOM perspective of the consequences of the transmission of WOM (e.g., creating a Facebook post or tweeting) on others (e.g., Herhausen et al. 2019; Stephen and Lehmann 2016), the impact of the type of WOM content shared on others’ behavior (e.g., Villarroel Ordenes et al. 2017; Villarroel Ordenes et al. 2018), and on the motivations that drive consumer posting on social media, including considerations of status and self-presentation (e.g., Grewal et al. 2019; Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004; Hollenbeck and Kaikati 2012; Toubia and Stephen 2013; Wallace et al. 2014).
While this current characterization of WOM appears reasonable, it considers social media only from a communications perspective (and as a type of media channel). However, as social media matures, broader social implications emerge. To appropriately consider the future, we must expand our perspective beyond the narrow communicative aspects of social media and consider instead how consumers might use it. Hence, in our vision for the future of social media in marketing in the following sections, we attempt to present a more expansive perspective of what social media is (and will become) and explain why this perspective is relevant to marketing research and practice.
Overview of framework for the future of social media in marketing
In the following sections we present a framework for the immediate, near, and far future of social media in marketing when considering various relevant stakeholders. Themes in the immediate future represent those which already exist in the current marketplace, and that we believe will continue shaping the social media landscape. The near future section examines trends that have shown early signs of manifesting, and that we believe will meaningfully alter the social media landscape in the imminent future. Finally, themes designated as being in the far future represent more speculative projections that we deem capable of long-term influence on the future of social media. The next sections delve into each of the themes in Table 1, organized around the predicted imminence of these theme’s importance to marketing (i.e., the immediate, near, and far futures).
What is the Impact of Social Media on Commerce, Business Society?
With the emergence of social media, we have seen a considerable amount of change in information and communication technology. Social media has played a key role in this transformation.
Let us have a look at some of the stats that demonstrate the power of Social Media:
- From the 4.2 billion users, Social Media has 3.03 billion active users
- More than 90% of the global brands use at least 2 Social Media Accounts
- Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp is responsible for handling around 60 billion messages every day
The process of change is not over yet and we are still witnessing ongoing changes in this sector.
The impact of social media has witnessed heavy growth with the advancement of mobile technology. People spent a large share of their time on mobile devices. Mobile devices provide you with ease to connect with anyone at anywhere and at any time.
This has been a prime reason behind the great upsurge in the use of Social Media. Let us have a look at the number of users that different Social Media platforms have-
Number of Social Media Users
Number of Social Media Users
- 1. Facebook: 2.072 billion users
- 2. YouTube: 1.5 billion users
- 3. Instagram: 1bn users
- 4. Flickr: 90 million users
- 5. Google+: 111 million users
- 6. LinkedIn: 562 million users
- 7. MySpace: 15 million users
- 8. Periscope: 10 million users
- 9. Pinterest: 200 million users
- 10. Reddit: 542 million users
- 11. 4Chan: 27.7 million
- 12. Airbnb: 150 million users
- 13. Snapchat: 186 million daily users
- 14. Twitter: 326 million users
- 15. Wechat: 1.12 billion users
- 16. Weibo: 600 million users
- 17. WhatsApp: 900 million users
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The Rise of Fake News Sites
Social media has made it very easy to spread information quickly. Because Facebook and Twitter timelines move so quickly, viewers don’t often verify what they’ve seen. A great deal of content is also spread through images and memes, which may or may not be based on valid information. Of course, many memes are created to be funny, cute or outrageous. Others, however, are intended to influence our thinking. Even links to real articles can be misleading. It’s safe to say that most people who see a headline and link never read the whole article.
Huffington Post recently published an interesting experiment that highlights this problem. In the article Bernie Sanders Could Replace President Trump With Little-Known Loophole, Matt Masur illustrated the problem of people sharing content that they didn’t bother to verify or, in many cases, even read. In the second paragraph, Masur reveals that the claim of the headline is false. Thousands of people, however, shared the article on social media without reading that far.
Of course, most fake news stories don’t tell you that they’re fake. There are now several categories of what might be called fake news sites. There are satirical sites that publish parodies of news stories. The best known of these is The Onion. However, in the last few years many other sites have appeared. Many don’t make it clear that they are satire sites, leading to confusion on the part of readers. As more and more satirical news sites crop up, it can be hard to tell whether a story is real or fake. Of course, when you actually read an article you can usually tell. The problem, however, is that on social media many people just glance at headlines and share links.
Many websites publish fake news simply as clickbait. They want people to click on shocking headlines in order to get clicks so they can sell more advertising. There are also sites with a strong ideological slant. These may be extreme right wing, left wing or conspiracy sites. Many of these sites aren’t very discerning about publishing “news” stories that back their point of view.
A professor named Melissa Zimdars recently published a controversial list of fake news sites. This list mentions several categories of fake news sites that are often linked to on Facebook. Of course, any such list is bound to be incomplete, as new sites are constantly appearing. In some cases, there’s also a question of who is qualified to determine what is real and what is fake. Zimdars list has already come under criticism for being biased against conservatives. The fact remains, however, that there are now at least hundreds of fake news sites circulating false information over the internet.
The Harmful Impact of Fake News
In some cases, false information can have a strong impact on society. During the previous election, for example, many questionable or fake news stories circulated. One example of this occurred close to the election, when a story that tied Hillary Clinton to a pedophilia and human trafficking ring was widely shared on Facebook. It turned out that this originated with a single unsubstantiated post on a conspiracy forum and was then reposted on thousands of other websites.
Social media stories, whether true or not, often go viral. The more outrageous and newsworthy something is, the more likely that many people will share it. During a highly-polarized election, people are motivated to share anything that supports their candidate or, more likely, attacks the opposing candidate. This can result in false stories widely circulating. Even if false stories are discredited and recanted, the damage is already done. By the time a retraction is published, millions of people may have already seen the story.
It’s even possible that the outcome of the election was swayed by fake news stories. The Washington Post recently published an interview with Paul Horner, someone who admits to writing many fake news stories about the election that were widely circulated by Trump supporters.
How to Guard Against Social Media Misinformation
It’s really the widespread sharing of fake stories that causes harm on social media. If you’re a person or business that shares lots of content, perhaps with the aid of social media software, you should be extra careful. It only takes a minute or two to verify something you see on social media. Consider the source of the story. If you’ve never heard of it, Google it and see if it’s reputable. If you don’t have that much time, it’s best to ignore it, especially if it has the appearance of something that could be satire, clickbait or propaganda. By not sharing questionable material you can help to cut down on the proliferation of misinformation and fake news.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to crack down on fake news. Google has expressed similar intentions. It remains to be seen how effective such efforts will be. Given the scale of social media today, it’s probably not possible to completely eradicate false information. It’s ultimately up to social media users to be more discerning about what they read, believe and share.
Why social media is important for business?
Social media has greatly transformed the business landscape. It is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing, which provides incredible benefits that help reach millions of customers worldwide.
If you are a CEO or a small business owner, it is very important to know why you need to be on social media and how it is going to affect your business.
There are several questions you must ask yourself before you plan your social media strategy
- What are the channels where my customers are present?
- What are the ways to target my audience on those channels?
- What are my objectives and the RoI of the social media strategy?
So it is evident that how social media can have an immense impact on your business and can be one of the most powerful marketing channels to reach out to your audience.
In a nutshell, social media helps businesses in three key areas;
Brand building – Social media is one of the most profitable digital marketing platforms that boosts your brand visibility among potential customers, allowing you to reach a bigger audience. By applying a social media customer service strategy, you significantly increase your brand recognition.
Omni channel engagement – Research shows, 60% of US millennials expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands online, in-store, or by phone. Social media strategies boost user engagement across channels in order to engage customers and deliver better omni channel customer experience.
Business growth – Social interaction between businesses & customers is a growing trend that increases sales and improves brand loyalty. SMM report says, more than 65% of businesses are on social media to increase leads.
So, let’s look into the positive effects of social media on businesses.
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Positive effects of social media for business
Social media impact businesses positively and offers an opportunity for your audience to find you on social media. It helps to reach to your targeted audience, stay engaged with them, and respond to their queries instantly. It is a great way to evaluate your competition by monitoring their social media pages.
Social media has multiple positive impacts on business in terms of brand recognition, customer engagement, revenue, and customer service. It also is a great tool to evaluate your competitors and how they are using social media for their growth.
Here are 9 positive ways of how social media impacts businesses.
1. Social media adds a new dimension to your omni channel customer service
Today’s customers choose social media as the main source to interact with a brand as they get instant attention. Research says that 42% of consumers expect a response on social media within 60 minutes.
Social media is a powerful channel to engage customers who reach out to you through different social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Whatsapp to deliver a seamless omni channel messaging experience.
Providing omni channel customer service is an important aspect of a business. However, it is even more important to use the right tools, system which can help your business to deliver an omni channel experience across the customer lifecycle.
In order to deliver omni channel customer service, you can use certain tools. One such tool is REVE Chat, which is a multi channel live chat platform that streamlines customer conversations across website, social, mobile and messaging apps to deliver great customer service and increase team productivity.
Social media customer service example – Nike
Nike followed an excellent customer service strategy. It has one of the strongest customer service accounts on Twitter. They feature a dedicated Twitter account, Team Nike, which provides support seven days a week and in seven languages.
When a customer mentions Nike’s main twitter handle, @teamnike responds instantly. This shows how dedicated the brand is to solve their customers’ problems.
- Pay attention to all customer service issues and be kind to them in all scenarios. Passive complaints that are left unaddressed can easily cause a rift between the vendor and the customer.
- Manage your social conversations promptly in order to deliver superior customer service.
- Enhance your customer experience by being available across all the touchpoints that customers prefer to contact you to deliver instant support.
2. Social media helps to reach out to a bigger audience
Almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic. It an ideal way to create brand awareness and stay in contact with your customers.
Social media platforms are becoming the main source for people to learn more about businesses – latest information about new products, services, advertisements, deals or promotions.
Here are some tips to expose your brand to a broader audience.
- Segment your audience – Prior heading up to the social platforms make sure that your target audience is on the platform or not. It’s not at all wise to blindly follow other brands.
- Make use of visuals – Once you have segmented your audience make use of attractive visuals along with content to grab immediate attention and boost engagement.
- Initiate conversations – Involve yourself into the social platforms not only by listening but also by building great conversations by tagging or mentioning others.
- Measure your efforts – It is very important to measure your social activity by using external tools. Gain insights and channelize your efforts and strengthen your brand image.
The social channels allow share business news and even post related photos or links to stories/studies in their industry. It also builds trust with their customers and showcases themselves to a new demographic of potential clients.
- 1. Identify your target audience, their patterns, behaviors and then choose the right social media channels for your business.
- 2. Social media is a place to forge connections and bring a voice to your brand. Ensure that your tone is consistent, friendly, and suits your business that you are trying to showcase.
- 3. Visual and engaging content is key. To publish relevant, quality content and involve your audience – ask questions, use polls, and host events.
3. Social media creates word of mouth
Social media does, in fact, help to get the word out about your business. With the arrival of interactive and social media, the patterns, role, and impact of word of mouth have evolved. Due to which new online communities are shaped.
Such changes affected the ways businesses can leverage the power of word of mouth for marketing purposes and, vice versa, the impact of word of mouth on businesses. Research shows that 72% of people see online reviews in the same light as personal recommendations made by friends and family.
Great word of mouth marketing example – Threadless
Threadless is an online community of T-shirt designers and a platform where they assembled to submit and vote on T-shirt designs. The designers were paid 20% in royalties, and either Threadless gift cards or cash.
The members were happy to promote their designs and bring more people to the site by good word of mouth.
- Offer an incentive such as a discount, a free product, an extended service to your customers so that they take their quality time to promote your business.
4. Social Media Marketing (SMM) is economical
Many businesses are jumping into the Social Media Marketing (SMM) bandwagon as its positive impact on brands and promises profitable success when done properly. Social media marketing techniques target social networks and applications to spread brand awareness.
Social media marketing is perceived as a more targeted type of advertising and therefore it is very effective in creating brand awareness. Social media engagement campaigns produce a lot of shares, generate more views and publicity for your business – all for a one-time cost.
Social media marketing campaigns usually center around:
- Establishing a social media presence on major platforms
- Creating shareable content and advertorials
- Cultivating customer feedback throughout the campaign through surveys and contests
A single person sharing or re-tweeting a message from your company could reach hundreds or even thousands of people for virtually no cost! Businesses that miss out on this with social media strategies that don’t generate engagement are losing a major opportunity.
- If you are a startup or small business social media marketing to promote your business and save the business money.
5. Social media allows collecting first hand customer feedback
Social media is a potent ingredient of customer feedback cocktail.
Social media platforms allow collecting first-hand feedback from customers to improve brand image, reputation, and relationship with the customer. The customer must feel like they are heard, valued and this makes them happy.
So, respond to every post, comment, suggestion and make the best use of it for your brand development. Businesses that engage with customer service requests via social media earn 20% – 40% more revenue per customer.
This will allow you to showcase just how much you care about providing a memorable experience and will ensure that no customer feedback goes unnoticed. And by monitoring social media for customer feedback and offering a response, you can drive real business results.
- 1. Respond even if the user has not directly tweeted at you or asked for help. When you answer brand mentions or comments it shows you are paying attention.
- 2. Promote your customers by retweeting a happily resolved support interaction. It is like giving your customers a big thank you.
- 3. Give your customer service team a public face. Use a team photo or an agent spotlight. It’s nice to connect the face of the brand with the names behind it.
- 4. Try to follow-up a resolved interaction with, “How is everything?”
6. Social media improves user engagement
No matter businesses are on social media or not, customers follow their social media accounts every day. With the average person spending just under two hours per day on social media, social media engagement is essential to make sure your brand is capturing enough attention.
Setting up a social media presence, building and engaging them effectively with quality content is a big effort. But the biggest benefit you can glean from your investment in social media is to reach out to your potential customers wherever they can be found across the globe.
Social media engagement is positive as the reputation it generates for your brand but on the other hand, a single negative tweet can bring bad publicity overnight, which is difficult to reverse. Below are a few best practices for engaging users.
- Keep your brand at the top of the newsfeed by posting witty and engaging content regularly.
- Images increase the interaction rates so use images.
- Try being personal with your audience. Make them feel there are real people behind the brand.
7. Social customer service is the new marketing
Providing stellar customer service is likely already a top priority for every business. But along with the two-way communication that social media provides, it also offers a unique opportunity to step up your customer service game and provide instant gratification to your target audience.
WhatsApp, for example, is the most popular channel for customer service on a global front. The numbers say there are more than 1.5 billion monthly active users, sharing more than 60 billion messages every day, a huge amount of on-platform activity.
WhatsApp Business app, launched by Whatsapp enables business users to “interact with customers easily by using tools to automate, sort, and quickly respond to the messages”.
Hellmen is one of the best examples to show the impact of social media on business
Hellman wanted more Brazilians to cook using their mayonnaise and they thought of an interesting campaign using WhatsApp.
The campaign had the option to connect with a chef through WhatsApp. Once connected with the chef, they only had to click a picture of their fridge and share. Now the chef would plan a recipe out of it and cooked the meal together, staying connected through WhatsApp.
Social media best practices:
- You should be prompt in responding to online reviews. Customers share their positive as well as negative feedback over social media. Respond to your social media comments quickly. You need to respond to them as priority else it will affect your brand image.
8. Social media can be a driving force of growth tools
Social media offers opportunities for brands to increase conversions due to the interaction that they have with customers. When a brand chooses a proactive social media marketing approach, it will strengthen its marketing strategy.
Hubspot research social media marketing has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing. This data proves social media marketing critical for all brands, big or small, and especially those who are trying to increase sales revenue.
Twitter is a good example of this. According to MediaBistro, 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands that they follow. Besides, 42% of consumers learn about the products and services they are interested in through Twitter. This type of outreach cannot be ignored.
- Use targeted social media listening to understand what is happening in your industry.
- Get engaged in social selling (social selling combines the elements of social listening, social media lead generation, and sales practices).
9. Social media boosts your brand loyalty
“A brand is nothing but an expression of the customer’s loyalty and trust.”
Building and maintaining brand loyalty is one of the central themes of every business. Social media helps you to build relationships with your customers through social media, which increases loyalty and advocacy.
Brand loyalty matters due to the below reasons:
- 1. Resistance in competition – In this competitive market, brand loyalty is hard to come by. Customers have multiple options accessible that can lose them easily. Perception of your brand builds new customers but loyal customers add real value.
- 2. Meaningful engagement – Loyal social media followers are more likely to interact with your posts and create meaningful conversations. Real engagement is more valuable to your online image.
- 3. Brand advocacy – Loyal social media followers are high potential brand advocates. They’re very likely to talk about your brand positively, even without persuasion.
Developing brand loyalty ensures long term engagement over social media. Research shows, 66% of users between the ages of 18 and 24 years old are more loyal to the brands they follow on social media.
- 1. You should create a smart social media strategy that comprises a cohesive plan to keep up with your competition.
- 2. Share good quality content to inspire brand loyalty. Visual content gets easily noticed. So, use infographics, videos, screenshots, graphs, etc. to make content more appealing.
- 3. Ensure that you are not sidelining interactions as followers like humanized interactions, not bots or automated content.
The use of social media platforms to reach more customers, engage with your audience, and build brand awareness are some of the positive impact of social media on business. However, to avoid its negative aspects of social media on your business you can follow the suggested tips and be careful when sharing content over social media.
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