Social media marketing has impacted greatly on the success of various organizations. Some have even managed to integrate the existing conventional sales and marketing efforts with such social media marketing tools as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, among others. The current research paper is an attempt to examine the impact of social media marketing on the media communication opportunities of a company. The paper starts by reviewing the existing literature on the importance of social media marketing. In addition, the social media marketing concept has also been defined. Next, the paper discusses the social marketing concept as a media vehicle. The application of social media marketing at Dell Inc. has also been assessed. The paper has also looked at some of the other media vehicles that Dell has been using, besides social media marketing. Moreover, dell’s business model is examined, and its communication process explained. Finally, the challenges defacing Dell as a result of adopting social media marketing is also explored.
New media technologies (for example, mobile broadband, e-commerce, internet, social networking, and internet-enabled entertainment) have significantly changed the mode of interaction of individuals across the world. The terms web 2.0 and social media are usually seen as the same (Constantinides & Romero & Boria, 2008). The main types of social media include social network, blogs, content communities, content aggregators, and bulletin boards/forums. The main benefits of social media to an organization include in order of importance, customer engagement, communication with the customer directly, speed of results, learning about the customers’ preferences, reduced cost, building of brand, market research, and enhanced credibility of the organization and its products (Tanuri, 2009). The current research paper endeavors to evaluate how social media marketing has impacted on the marketing communications opportunities of a company. In addition, the research paper shall also endeavor to explore the challenges that social media marketing has faced with regard to the marketing environment. In this regard, a definition of social media marketing shall be provided, along with the importance of social media marketing to an organization. In the discussion section of the research paper, the concept of social media marketing as a media vehicle shall be examined, with Dell Corporation as a case study. Moreover, the research paper will also attempt to examine the other media vehicles that Dell Corporation has used previously, in addition, the business model of Dell Corporation shall also be examined, in addition to a description of the communication process at Dell Corporation. The research paper will then assess the application of social media marketing at Dell Corporation. Also, the challenges of social media marketing as applied by Dell Corporation will be explored, along with the associated benefits.
Definition of social media marketing
Social media marketing entails the inclusion of personal, corporate, non-profit organizations, and small business into an organization’s ‘integrated communications plans’ (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). The various promotional aspects of marketing that is, personal selling, advertising, publicity, sales promotions, public relations, and sales and marketing, usually blends in well with the integrated marketing communications (Manigold & Faulds, n. d.). With the growth of social media however, this has really changed the process of communication within organizations (Kaplan & Henlein, 2010). People are now in a position to utilize business and social concept, thanks to the emergence of Web 2.0. In addition, they can also collaborate and share information on projects online (Parise, 2008). Each day, we are witnessing an increase in the number of individuals who are connected to one another digitally, via social networks. Going by the current rate of adoption of the social media, in the years ahead, the online population shall have formed an important and easily targeted market segment. Those companies that will have invested in social media marketing will have an edge over their competitors. Social media marketing programs are designed in such a manner as to create content that can encourage and attract readers who in turn share this content with individual within their social networks (Eikelmann, Hajj & Peterson, 2007). As such, word-of-mouth is the main driver of social media marketing, with the implication that it leads to earned media, as opposed to paid media.
Importance of social media marketing
In the past decade, we have witnessed a rapid development in marketing communication methods, resulting in a media that transmits marketing communication more effectively and more visibly (Defren, 2008). There has also been a resultant increase in the flow of information to customers and consequently, they are now more knowledgeable on prices and products. As such, companies should no longer rely on the conventional sales and marketing processes any more, if at all they intend to remain abreast of the competition; they need to seek novel ways of reaching out to more demanding customers. Individuals and organizations have benefited form using social media marketing because it provides customer support. In addition, social media marketing is a means for an organization to customers, as well as competitive insight (Dury, 2008). Companies can also hire and retain business partners or customers using social media marketing. Moreover, social media marketing is one of the strategies that an organization can use to manage its reputation online (Cambria et al, 2008). A strong foundation of social media network means that the company in question may also centralize its operations for effective management. Also, social media platform enables a company to direct customers to some of the news developments using social medial channels. Some of these new developments may include publications and press release (Carter, 2009). On several occasions, corporate social media platforms have found application as tools for providing unique customers who have expressed their desire to engage (for example, the “like” tag on a Facebook page). Social media tools are also engaging in nature. With regard to the social web, engagement entails the participation of viewers and stakeholders in the operations and activities of an organization, as opposed to remaining as just viewers. The use of social media in business enables everyone and anyone to share and express an idea or opinion at a certain point of the business path. Through their participation, the customer’s feedback is important to the marketing department because other customers are in a position to read their reviews and comments regarding a given product. Therefore, the engagement process remains a significant element of a successful social media marketing campaign (Brogan & Smith, 2008). Such social media outlets as Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, enables individual to not only interact amongst themselves, but also to build relationships as well. These sites enables followers to “repost” or “retweet” comments that have been posted about products or services being promoted. Once the message has been repeated, individuals who are connected to that particular social networking site are in a position to see the message posted, meaning that more people are reached by the message. In this regard, social networking may be regarded as more of a word of mouth (Bernoff, 2009) since the information regarding the products has already been posted and is now being repeated. Consequently, the product or company enjoys increased traffic.
Another of the importance of social media marketing for businesses is that it enhances a company’s goodwill and trustworthiness (Argenti n. d.). The application of social media marketing also gives flexibility to organizations so that they can be able to engage their customers better (Bernoff, 2009). Engaging customers is vital for any business because this is the only way that companies can retain their existing customers. It is also a strategy for the company to increase brand credibility. Companies that use social media marketing have been noted to benefit from powerful and large numbers of traffic to their sites. In addition, the use of social media to promote the products of a company enables the company in question to increase its return on investment (Salvatore, 2008). Through the use of social media marketing, the marketing manager is in a better position to access customers’ feedback. Customers’’ feedback is very important because a company is in a position to improve its products in order to fulfill the requirements of the customer.
Owing to the fact that social media channels enhances customer engagement, the company in question stands to benefit form constant customer feedback and it can then use the information obtained as a basis for improving its products. In this regard, the feedback and reviews from customers enables companies to improve their services and products. Social media channels are also very important when a company wishes to announce the launching of its new services or products (Bughin, 2007). This is because social media facilitates in spreading of the news on the new service or products faster and more conveniently in comparison with the conventional forms of advertising.
Challenges of social media marketing in the business environment
Organizations are now faced with various challenges following the introduction of social media marketing. One of the main challenges facing business is the issue of integration. Because of the high level of participation of the social media tools in the business activities of a firm, organizations have now been turned into social businesses. This has impacted on virtually all the functions of a company. As such, social media has integrated with the marketing department, communications, the supply chain, and PR (Armano, 2009). This interaction has organizations baffled on whether they need to hire a ‘Chief Social Officer’, or not. Eventually, organizations may have no choice but to make do with this integration and therefore adopt either distributed, centralized, or hybrid approach (Armano, 2009). Another challenge facing organizations with regard to the issue of social media is the element of governance. Most of the organizations are now aware that any comment made about their products or service is likely to remain so, whether good or bad. As such, there is need for organizations to closely monitor what they say on social media sites. In addition, they are faced with the challenge of coming up with the rule of engagement for employees who are using these social media tools (Wells, 2009). Social media is also likely to threaten the existing culture within organizations. Most organizations either have an open or closed culture. With the emergence of social media marketing however, the organizational culture is likely to be threatened by social media. On the other hand, the social media may also benefit from insights by employees and customers posted on the social media sites.
Another challenge facing organizations is that of upgrading their legal and human resource protocols so that they can transform from being just a business to social business (Wells, 2009 ). This can be a tricky and unending process because newer technologies are merging every day. For example, LinkedIn and Google + are the most popular social media sites now but a while back, Twitter and Facebook were the most popular sites. This means that a company has to update its protocol periodically to adapt to the constant changes. All firms usually struggle when it comes to measuring their results and reporting on their return on investment. This will become even trickier when they have to use social media (Wells, 2009). Organizations may then require new social constructs to enable them to measure such social initiatives as the number or size of participants who actively engaged. Social business is driven by technology and as such, it is measurable. Nonetheless, it is quite a challenge to tie social business to savings or revenue realised and for this reason, organizations have to come up with better ways of dealing with the situation.
Dell Incorporated has embraced the idea of social media marketing with the intention of engaging their customers in conversations in local languages across the globe, and also to enable the company to listen to their customers. Some of the social media marketing tools that Dell uses include YouTube, LinkedIn, twitter, Google+, and Slideshare, among others (AMI Partners, 2010). The use of social media marketing at Dell has enabled the company to improve their products and processes, and customer service. As a result, Dell has managed to build trust among its customers, as well as strengthening the existing relationships. Investment in social media marketing has also enabled Dell to realize a return on investment. This is because social media impact positively on customer experience, support cost savings, marketing spend efficiency, and improvements on business conversion, resulting in increased revenues. Using social media, Dell is able to not only learn about its customers, but also engage the customers (Gold, 2011). The social media enables customers to take part in over 25,000 conversations every day, about the company. Dell sees social media as not just a tool, but also an extension of the company’s brand, since the company’s brand involves enabling individual all over the world to grow and thrive, using technology.
Dell has managed to integrate the social media with conventional marketing and advertising practices. The company utilizes social media as a platform for launching its campaigns. In this day and age, one can hardly find an effort that does not require the use of a social media component. As such, both the social media and the conventional media can be integrated and used correctly to help the firm achieve its set objectives (Gold, 2011). In an effort to integrate the two media, Dell has included the social media component into the company’s communication and collaboration planning and roadmaps. Sometime back, the company announced its first ever customer event, Dell World (Dell, 2011). Effort to ensure the promotion of its particular events transcends press releases, invites, or even a website. The company is using such social media as Google + and Twitter to invite the customers so that they can join in the event (Dell 2011). The actual event shall entail the integration of the physical element and social elements.
Prior to the emergence of social media marketing Dell Incorporated used other types of media vehicles that includes broadcast media and the new media. Under the broadcast media, we have both radio and television. In this case, Dell used the two types of broadcast media as a way of reaching the mass market. One of the disadvantages’ of using the broadcast media for advertising Dell’s products is that advertisers are not in a position to provide excessive details and information about the product. Therefore, broadcast media is more suitable when dealing with low involvement products (AMI Partners, 2010). The new media entails short message service (SMS) and the internet. Using the new media, Dell has been able to communicate with its consumers and prospects effectively. The new media has also enabled Dell to use well defined messages in targeting tightly clustered audiences, leading to increased sales revenue.
Dell’s business model combines build-to-order production with direct sales. Although this model looks very simple in concept, however, executing it is a very complex affair. For other PC manufacturers, a lot of the sales and marketing activities are left to their retailers, resellers, and other agents. In the case of Dell however, the company has to reach out to its customers largely on its own.nin addition, other PC makers ensure that they have achieved economies of scale in their production by running high-volume assembly lines (Dedrick & Kraemer, 1998). On the other hand, Dell has to ensure that each order has to be filed according to the customer’s specifications. This process puts a lot of demand on the suppliers, shop floor employees, information systems, and logical system.
There are two components of direct sales in that there has to be direct customer relationships and services and products have to be targeted at specific customer segments. What this means for Dell is that the company has to ensure that potential customers are reached either through advertising or through its own sales force, in addition to other marketing efforts. Although Dell sells its products through integrators and resellers in some of the markets (especially outside the United States), the company does not rely on the services of this channel. The use of direct customer relationships by Dell ensures that the company gets 6 % cost advantage in comparison with the indirect sellers. In addition, the use of direct customer relationships means that Dell can get detailed information on its customers (Kraemer, Dedrick & Yamashiro, 2000). Vendors selling through retailers and resellers are usually not aware of their final customers and as such, they depend on secondary market research when they want to identify their customer base. Using the direct approach, the company is also in a position to identify customer trends early enough, meaning that it can also respond to the needs of the customers with the desired products ahead of competition.
Companies that wish to remain successful in the business environment have no choice but to integrate all their communication efforts. Dell has therefore integrated all its communication efforts so that it can benefit from enhanced reputation, preservation of the company’ corporate brand, maximizing its organizational potential, and weathering of various crises that it could be faced with (Bharadwaj, n. d.). The integrated communication function means that Dell is in can also respect various concerns, “hot buttons” as well as different constituency viewpoints. The integrated communication process enabled Dell’s investors to focus their attention mainly on the organization’s enterprise business. Consumers are not fully familiar with the company’s enterprise business but nonetheless, it still remains a major contributor of Dell’s revenues (Bharadwaj, n. d.). On the other hand, the media is more concerned with that segment of the business that deals with the consumers. The communication efforts at Dell consider these preferences even as they endeavor to speak consistently to all interested parties about the company’s business operations.
Although the concept of social media marketing has taken off well at Dell, nonetheless, the company is faced with a number of challenges. The first of these challenges is managing its reputation. It is important to note that just as an organization can easily build its reputation faster using social media, in the same way, the same reputation can be lost very easy. Another challenge that Dell has to face after the adoption of social media marketing is that of delivering customer service (Bharadwaj, n. d.). Customer using social media can be very demanding and they also tends to be technical-savvy and highly informed. In this regard, Dell has to live up o the expectation of the customers. The acquisition of new customers may also prove to be another challenge because using social media to acquire new customer can be very challenging, in comparison to retaining the existing customers.
Social media marketing is an increasingly popular media channel that has been embraced by many of the modern-day organizations. Some of these organizations have even managed to integrate social media marketing with the conventional sales and marketing efforts. There are numerous benefits that an organization can accrue from adoption of social media marketing, including increased brand awareness, increased products loyalty, and increased revenue. In addition, companies using social media marketing are in a better position to know about the ideas or comments of a certain products or services form the customers and as such, they are likely to improve such products or services based on the comments given by the customers. This improves the appeal of the customers to the products. Dell Inc. has embraced the concept of social media marketing successfully. Some of the form of social media marketing that Dell has embraced include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, and YouTube, among others. Social media marketing has enabled Dell to build trust among its customers, and also to strengthen the relationship among the existing stakeholders. In addition, the social media marketing tools used by Dell have been integrated well with the company’s business model and communication process. However, with the adoption of social media marketing, Dell has to face the challenge of maintaining its reputation which is very easy to get ruined using social media marketing tools. In addition, Dell is also faced with the challenge of delivering customer service because in case it fails, all the potential customers connected to the various social media tools are likely to read the comments of their fellow customers on the failure by Dell to improve customer service, thereby ruining its reputation.
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