Social Media Policy Plan
The purpose of this proposal is to present a social media policy plan for Stone Goose Company. Before implementing the social media plan, it is crucial for the company to have an understanding of the profile of social consumers as they are the ones being targeted for the implementation of the social media plan. Social consumers are characterized by lack of trust advertisements, and promotions that are unwelcome; wanting two-way communication and engagement with the brand; rely solely on social channels to learn about products; are only interested in information they consider relevant; and the brand to the responsive to their queries. Based on this profile, there are numerous social media platforms that SGC can adopt to reach the consumer. The leading and recommended platforms for SGC include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. The expected benefits of adopting social media for SGC include increased brand awareness, online visibility of the brand, web traffic, brand exposure, and brand following, both offline and online. Therefore, SGC should proceed with the plan to implement its social media policy.
Social Media Policy Plan
Social media is one of the most powerful tools that contemporary businesses can employ to promote and market their brands and products online. The social media platform is free and they have paid advertising plans for business targeting needed to reach online audience better. However, businesses should exercise caution when adopting the social media by choosing and nurturing social media platforms that suit the business. The use of social media is becoming widespread in the business world due to its ability to enable businesses to initiate personalized communications with their existing and potential customers (Katz, 2014). Presently, an estimated 91 percent of retail brands have social media presence. In addition, businesses have embarked on increasing their social media budgets, which is an indicator of the important role these marketing platforms play. In fact, more and more companies are engaging their customers through various social media platforms. Another crucial trend that affirms why businesses can no longer afford to miss the social media craze is the fact that contemporary consumers are mostly social; hence, they are likely to check social media to gather any relevant information before making a purchase (Katz, 2014). Of equal important is the fact that social media is the top online activity; thus, it provides businesses with an opportunity to build their brand, attract new customers, and communicate with potential and existing customers. However, effective use of social media requires a guiding policy for the Stone Goose Company (SGC), which is the primary focus of this proposal.
The Profile of the Social Consumer
Effective usage of social media by the SGC needs an understanding of the nature of the social consumer. The trend of social consumer emerged because of the increase in the conversations that occur in digital marketing platforms, and particularly, in the social media. Social media gave birth to social consumers, and this trend has important implications for the ways the companies advertise and market their brands and products. The behavior of the social consumer has an impact not only on the platforms used in digital marketing but also on the content messaging needed for promotion of services and products in an effective manner. The consumers are inherently social, which makes them the best marketers. For instance, one is likely to attend a concert that is recommended by a friend. In the 21st century, people have a tendency to describe their experience with a particular product or service in social media, which means that the majority of people are essentially social consumers. Hunsinger and Senft (2013) provide the fundamental definition of the social consumer that is a consumer, who consults another reliable person via social media prior to making any purchasing decision. However, the purchasing decision of the traditional consumer entails considering the existing brands first and then assessing the pros and cons of each brand based on both the advertising information and the word-of-mouth information provided by individuals such as friends, family, and co-workers (Katz, 2014). However, the social consumer is capable of accessing vast consumer-generated information such as product reviews and experiences.
Hunsinger and Senft (2015) provide a profile of the social consumer. Firstly, this type of consumer does not trust advertisements and promotions that are unwelcome or intrusive. Secondly, they want a two-way communication and engagement with the brand, which means that they dislike the conventional one-way marketing and promotions wherein the company supplies them with information regarding its product offerings (Katz, 2014); instead, they prefer engagement in a dialogue with the brand and asking questions that the company should be ready to answer. Thirdly, they rely solely on social channels to learn about products. Unlike the conventional consumer, who depends on advertising and promotions initiated by the company, social consumer shows little concern regarding this type of advertisement; instead, the social consumers is more interested in information generated by other consumers such as product reviews and the views of others regarding their experience with a particular product (Katz, 2014). The fourth characteristic of the social consumer is the fact that they are only interested in information they consider relevant. Therefore, when engaging with social consumers, the message should be more specific and targeted, rather than communicating general information about the product/services offering as traditional advertising and promotions usually provide. Lastly, the social consumer expects the brand to be responsive to their queries.
The aforementioned habits of the social consumer have huge implications for SGC when developing marketing messages, communications and channels. Katze (2014) recommends provision of meaningful interactions in social media platforms coupled with personalized communications aimed at knowing the customer. In addition, it is imperative to introduce new services/products through social media platforms using only pertinent information. Another important implication for marketing brought by the social consumer trend is the need to gather feedback and respond to the questions posed by consumers (Hunsinger & Senft, 2013). Moreover, regular monitoring of ratings and reviews is recommended. The reviews and ratings can represent a crucial source of testimonials and identification of problems that need urgent attention. Another key consideration is the decision-making journey of the social consumers, which is covered in the next section. This is essential for the understanding of the channels that are most influential when targeting the social consumer.
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The Decision-Making Process of the Social Consumer
In fact, social consumers depend significantly on three important sources prior to buying, which include their previous purchases and decisions, trusted information sources, and word of mouth from friends and family. Besides, information obtained from online reviews, social networks, and search engines also influence their purchasing decision. An inference from this observation is the fact that social media is a key factor that influences the decision-making process of the social consumer, which underscores the need for SGC to have a sound social media policy. Social media has been proved to have a significant impact on social norms, brand attitudes and brand awareness. Through social media, social consumers ask their peers for recommendations or consult social media platforms like Yelp to review product evaluations prior to making a purchase. Additionally, social media can be helpful in eliminating the obstacles that consumers might face during the buying process. For instance, friends can provide assistance in locating the brands and encouraging the purchase. At the same time, social media is equally capable of imposing obstacles on the buying decisions, for example, through negative reviews. Another important aspect of social media in the buying decision is the post-purchase evaluations. Essentially, the role played by social media in influencing the buying decision is significant and SGC cannot underestimate it. For the first time, social media has empowered consumers to share their problems, thoughts and concerns, feelings and rewards on a public forum that can reviewed by all the people. Hunsinger and Senft (2013) assert that brands that accept this truth are more likely to listen to the conversations of their customers online and engage them in a personalized manner.
Thanks to the established significant impact of the social media on the purchasing decision, it is imperative for SGC to have an understanding of the social media channels that are most influential when targeting the social consumer. Since social consumers have endless sources of information, it is crucial for the company to select the most influential channels. Katz (2014) outlined the top five most influential channels for the social consumer that include social networking sites, search results, brand websites, news articles, and product review websites. The social consumer is extremely active and places huge value on the Internet as a source of information when making purchasing decisions (Hunsinger & Senft, 2013). Therefore, it is important for the company to provide helpful and relevant content in the right channels in order to build brand advocates and relationships. Referrals and word-of-mouth are still the most influential sources of information for the consumers; the only difference between them is the size of the network. By incorporating social media in the marketing strategy, SGC would exponentially increase the size of the network for referrals and word-of-mouth. The focus of this proposal is on the social networking sites, which are covered in the subsequent sections.
Using Social Media to Reach the Social Consumer
SGC can adopt numerous social media platforms to reach the consumer. The leading and recommended platforms for SGC include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (Hollebeek, Glynn, & Brodie, 2014).
Facebook is one of the most visited and popular social media platforms that has an estimated 1.57 billion active users as shown in Figure 1 below (Duggan, Ellison, Lampe, Lenhart, & Madden, 2015). Through this platform, the company can target everyone. Moreover, this platform is used for sharing all the kinds of online activities that makes it ideal for the users that seek to explore other user-generated information. Another important feature of Facebook is the fact that it facilitates personalized communication with consumers, which is particularly important for SGC. By establishing a page for the company on Facebook, SGC can hold personalized discussions with its customers, respond to the problems and concerns raised by its customers, and collect feedback (Katz, 2014). Facebook has been reported to be an effective social media tool for acquiring new customers. In addition, this tool makes online content to appear more personal instead of appearing in the form of advertisements, which is a core need for the social consumers. Therefore, Facebook will provide a platform through which SGC can develop positive and trusting relationships with its customers through responding to each issue raised by its customers in a timely manner (Hollebeek, Glynn, & Brodie, 2014). Another important issue is that SGC should refrain from influencing the discussions on Facebook; instead, the company should only observe consumer feedback and use this information to enhance its products and services. Katz (2014) also cautions against engaging in direct product promotions on Facebook as this technique is likely to make content seem like advertising. Rather, the emphasis should be placed on personalized communications and engaging with customers via this forum.
Figure 1. Usage of social media sites for the 2012-2014 period (Statista, 2016).
This platform has about 313 million active users on a monthly basis. The target users for this social media platform included both individuals and companies (Duggan et al., 2015). The primary use of Twitter entails starting, joining, and leading conversations. Moreover, Twitter has been proved to be an effective platform for facilitating interactions between brands and customers. In addition, Twitter is an effective tool for the introduction of new products, and influencing discussions targeting new product that has been just launched by ensuring that it is one of the top trends on the platform (Duggan et al., 2015). By having a Twitter account, SGC can also get honest feedback from customers. A report by Duggan et al. (2015) indicates that Twitter users are likely to buy the brands that they are following. This fact provides an avenue for SGC to influence the purchasing decisions and create a loyal customer base. The ability to create trending topics can help SGC build its brand awareness online.
Figure 2. Trends in Twitter usage 2010-2016 (Statista, 2016).
Google + is ranked third most active social media platform. The Google + button receives about 5 million clicks on a daily basis, which is a substantial traffic that SGC can leverage to increase its online presence. The Google + platform is a recommended platform for the companies that are present in other brands such as Facebook and Twitter (Duggan et al., 2015). This platform is utilized for sharing online content and acts as an avenue for holding more formal conversations, when compared to Facebook. In addition, the SGC can leverage the search engine provided by Google to boost its online presence by enhancing the search engine results of its websites and relevant products (Duggan et al., 2015).
Another important social media platform for businesses that seek to showcase their products is Pinterest. The regular Pinterest user spends about 90 minutes in the platform (Goh, Heng, & Lin, 2013). The typical users of this platform are women; women comprise 80 percent of the users. Thus, Pinterest provides an ideal platform, where SGC can engage with female consumers. About 83 percent of luxury brands have established their presence on Pinterest (Duggan et al., 2015), which indicates its potential for displaying products. The key interests of users of this platform are food, design, travel, and fashion (Duggan et al., 2015). This platform has been reported to be an effective platform for sharing visual content and imagery.
This platform targets businesses, job seekers, and recruiters (Karr, 2014). LinkedIn is used for sharing job postings and corporate information. The regular user spends about 2 minutes per week at this platform. Moreover, this platform has been established to be effective in attracting talent. SGC can employ this platform in order to distinguish itself from competitors (Karr, 2014). Through telling its story on this platform, LinkedIn can be a crucial tool for attracting and interacting with customers (Karr, 2014).
SGC can benefit significantly from the implementation of social media. The first anticipated benefit relates to an increase in brand awareness. Through postings and discussions with customers on social media platforms, the brand awareness of SGC will increase significantly. The second benefit of social media for the company is an increase in online brand visibility (Duggan et al., 2015). Presently, the marketing strategy of SGC focuses considerably on offline activities, leaving an opportunity to try ways of building online visibility of the SGC brand. Online brand visibility can also translate into online following due to the positive and trusting relationships with customers; hence, it can increase customer loyalty (Duggan et al., 2015). Other anticipated benefits of the social media for SFC will include leveraging social media platforms to collect feedback from customers, gaining marketing insights, enhancing brand exposure, and increasing web traffic (Goh et al., 2013). In fact, all of the benefits can be helpful in gaining competitive advantage.
Given the expected advantages of adopting social media platforms, the plan for implementing the social media policy entails creating a team to manage various social media platform. This team should be charged with the responsibility of gathering analytical data and trends from the social media platforms, posting content and expanding to other social media platforms. When developing the social media plan, it is crucial to involve employees (Goh et al. 2013). Moreover, frequent update of social media platforms is crucial in order to keep contact with active social consumers and take note of trending topics.
The consumers are increasingly relying on social channels to gather information that influences their buying decisions that underscores the significance of having a sound social media plan and policy. This requires the understanding of the profile of social consumers, whose purchasing decisions are influenced by previous purchases and decisions, trusted information sources, word-of-mouth, information obtained from search engines, online ratings and reviews, and search engines. The recommended social media platforms for SGC include Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Through the adoption of these platforms, SGC will benefit both offline and online in terms of increased brand awareness, online visibility of the brand, web traffic, brand exposure, and brand following.