Various people engaging in business had first doubted the significance of involving social media in business, but the customer tastes and preferences together with the social media being the most available and easily accessible, forced business managers and entrepreneurs to dance to the tune of using them in business (Bruhn, Schoenmueller, & Schafer, 2012). The social media platforms are numerous including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked-In among others.
Various researchers did studies on the significance of using social media in business and came out with different results. According to (Jadoon, 2014), the advantages of using social media in businesses include;
The social media platforms are ubiquitous. They can be assessed from any geographical region and at any time of the day or night. A business that uses the social media platforms to advertise their services and products have the advantage and opportunity to reach a wider market and a broader number of consumers at a very reduced cost (Bryman & Bell, 2015). The business will not be limited to geographical regions only. Examples of global businesses that have been connected greatly with the social media platforms include; Coca-Cola company, Amazon bookshop and Starbucks coffee industry.
The business of common interests can be able to organize meetings or seminars/forums to discuss a commonality that affects them all in their business strategy. An example of such forums is the one that was organized by Oil Manufacturing and Processing companies. According to (Houston, 2016), the oil companies had convened for a congress with one goal in mind; the extraction of oil in a very optimal and economical way. The Congress had brought various Exploration and Production (E&P) artificial lift operators from different regions in the United States of America with the aim of brainstorming on methods of how to overcome the obstacles encountered during the process of picking the best artificial lift for pumping out oil. The social media platforms had been of significant effect in making known of the Congress and advertising it (Carolis, Litzky, & Eddleston, 2009). Customers of common interest in a particular product or service can be able to compare and contrast the benefits they receive from a particular business organization (Chaffey, Ellis-Chadwick, Mayer, & Johnston, 2009). This enables the business to get feedback on its market acceptance, find a way to adjust to challenges and improve on a particular product or service.
Information shared on social media is send very fast, and can be replied to immediately. This has enhanced communication and intelligence sharing in businesses either within or out of business (Harris & Rae, 2009). The results are prompt decision making and proper analysis of information and data. Information that could have otherwise taken days through traditional mailing system is quickly sent and instantly received by such services like emails.
Businesses enjoy cheaper advertisement costs compared to the traditional advertisement methods. Previously expenses used in advertisement had to cater for transport, personnel, advertisement materials and payment to media houses. Social media has reduced all these costs as companies and businesses can comfortably advertise online using these social media platforms after only subscribing to a small internet connectivity fee (Jenkins, 2009). The revenues and profits realized have made so many businesses be able to diversify into other areas since expenses and losses are much reduced.
Many businesses can be able to collect information and share it by using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, thereby reaching many consumers and potential customers (Jones & Jayawama, 2010). New products and services being introduced can be easily be made an instantaneous cycle of news and people can know what is new in the market by watching what is trending.
Businesses can directly supply or sell their services and goods to customers without the intervention of middlemen who distort prices for their benefit. The amount of information also given from marketing using social media is much more sufficient compared to that which may be offered by middlemen. Business, therefore, can be able to get direct feedback, reviews, comments and criticism on the quality of product/service provided (Leonardi, Huysman, & Steinfield, 2013). This gives them a platform for improved innovativeness, creativity, and proper analysis with prompt decision making. The profits and revenues got are also enhanced compared to businesses transacted with the involvement of middlemen.
According to (Bank, 2014), businesses and companies embraced the use of social media platforms in their businesses due to the advantages they enjoy. He illustrates that the tourism businesses have been made easier and improved due to the help of social media. The examples of advantages of using the social media for business are that;
The tourism industry, for instance, has enhanced its competitiveness in the business by offering services like tour guiding on the destination where one would wish to travel to, the requirements that may be needed, the advantages of visiting a particular site and the expectations they would meet (Molina-Morales & Martinez-Fernandez, 2010). Online reviews by customers over a particular tourism business also enable the comparison of the customer satisfaction experiences hence, a signpost to either more creativity/innovativeness or improvement of special services.
According to (Nadaraja, 2010), social media has recorded positive impacts on businesses that incorporated its use in the mainstream running of the business. He mentions a few advantages including;
The social media platform has enabled effective communication in businesses and interactions between employees and employers. Impromptu business meetings can be easily organized by social media platforms like WhatsApp, and the venue and time communicated on only one message from the organizing secretary and received instantaneously by everyone in the group account (Mostafa, 2013). Business meetings that involve larger organizations may also include the use of Skype and video teleconferencing for members from various regions.
Stakeholders or branch managers, therefore, do not have to book tickets or travel long distances to attend such meetings. The relationships and performances between employees could also be enhanced, as those who are shy can be able to inquire or consult before doing a transaction without having to say it in person (Picazo-Vela, Gutierrez-Martinez, & Luna-Reyes, 2012). The results could be enhanced performance that could have otherwise been performed dismally if consultation was not made.
Customer loyalty for particular businesses has also been enabled in an excellent manner by the social media. Customers’ interactivity has been modified in form and content, allowing them to be part of business prosperity, through higher involvement in spreading its benefits, higher ratings of credibility and positive attitudes towards the business and its services.
Various social media platforms can be used for various marketing by businesses. For example, when a particularly experienced employee hunting is done, platforms like Linked-In are used to outsource qualified and trained professionals (Prell, Hubecek, & Reed, 2009). When a new product is introduced, or changes and improvements have been made to the original ones, then platforms like Twitter and Facebook are considered for marketing. These platforms are therefore used in various capacities to target different audiences efficiently and effectively. Smart marketing has enabled businesses to advertise their offerings to reach customers with interest of what they are selling hence increased sales and promotion (Sashi, 2012).
Social media platforms have improved the way customers are served by businesses through the creation of customer service sites. Customers who may have questions about a particular product can be able to ask and get the answers online despite the geographical region in which they are based (Shankar, Venkatesh, Hofacker, & Naik, 2010). This has been effective, especially for businesses that have a global setting. An example of such a business is the Starbucks. It enables the customers to order coffee online, and get other forms of services through the customer service platforms. Others businesses that have greatly benefited from these customer care platforms also are the banks and financial institutions.
According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM 2010), the benefits of using social media in businesses is dependent on the platform type was chosen, the type of businesses and the features that the specifically chosen site encompasses. The benefits of using the platforms, as it illustrates include;
Enhanced discovery and innovativeness is facilitated by open communication. This is both inside the organization and between the organizations and customers.
Business ideas, links, and questions can be shared online by employees and stakeholders such that creativity, innovativeness and entrepreneurial skills can be shared widely. An opportunity for creating business contacts is also enabled through these platforms.
Implementation of marketing campaigns, expansion of market researches, and direct involvement with consumers is enhanced by these platforms.
According to (SHRM 2010), the social media platforms in businesses enable efficient recruitment of qualified and experienced personnel and marketing with a target audience in mind.
The social media platforms also have some disadvantages to businesses. Some of these include;
According to (SHRM 2010), a social media platform gives an opportunity for hackers to access information and data that is very crucial to the organization. The information may be used by the unauthorized people to bring down a business.
The social media platforms also put the organization at risk of exposure to their weakness, through postings of objectionable and illicit information which may be difficult to amend (Sledgianowski & Kulviwat, 2009). This may be exposed by disgruntled customers who may not be satisfied with services or goods provided by a business organization. The reputation may take time to amend, and losses would be realized instead of profits. Many customers fall at risks of a scam by preys with identity theft of popular businesses hence destroying the reputation of the business and customer loyalty.
Face to face socializations are endangered: Many employees and business partners prefer to meet and talk online rather than meet and talk in person (Waters, Burnett, Lamm, & Lucas, 2009). People have little or no time for their real friends but chat hours on end with their online friends. Building and maintenance of relationships is also put at risk as it is easy to block or unfriend someone whom they feel they don’t agree with.
The social media platforms give an opportunity to bullying and performance of obscene crimes that may destroy the reputation of the business and destroy it competitive advantages. Identity theft can also be used to conduct crimes to customers of an organization. Many employees have recorded dismal performances as they waste a lot of their working hours chatting with friends and browsing rather than doing online related businesses (Borgatti, Everett, & Johnson, 2013). The social media platforms hence waste time of employees leading to reduction in the general sales and output. Intellectual property and data control, according to Bank (2014), has also become challenging to many businesses as they have to be keen in ensuring their secrets are not revealed and their best employees not manipulated.
The use of ubiquitous media or the social media platforms in the advertisement, marketing, and communication in business has recorded various benefits and disadvantages as have been discussed in this paper. The choice of a business embracing the use of these social media platforms will depend on the type of business, the features it provides and its effectiveness in ensuring the business doesn’t record losses. The social media should enable a business to maintain its competitive edge and reputation in the market. The choice will entirely rely on management decision.
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