Social media has become a part of our every day lives, from the minute we wake up until the time we go to sleep.
Businesses and entrepreneurs have caught on to this trend and a new era of advertising has begun. But the question is, who’s doing all the work? It may be that we’re all advertising without realising it.
When products are discussed on social media and start trending, consumers become the greatest advertisers. Photos uploaded by users who claim advertised products are working encourage sales and boost brand popularity.
There have been a number of social media success stories for Australian entrepreneurs, including that of 23-year-old fitness guru, Kayla Itsines.
Itsines is the creator of the popular Bikini Body Guides for women and currently has 2.4 million Instagram followers. She encourages her followers to repost images of their transformations using various tags, which she then re-posts on her own page. This interactive photo sharing creates a sense of product authenticity and community, and contributes to her growing list of followers.
Itsines isn’t the only one to achieve success through social media marketing with the help of an active fan base. After nearly two years in business, Frank Body has soared to success because of social media.
Frank Body sells coffee-based skincare products and its followers, or ‘Frankfurts’, take photos of themselves covered in the product. Frank Body has over 600 thousand Instagram followers, and will likely exceed $20 million in revenue this year.
Although it has proven to be successful, relying on social media as a primary advertising base may not be the best strategy.
Dr Cullen Habel, Adjunct Lecturer in Marketing at Adelaide University, says that while there are some success stories, social media marketing isn’t advanced enough to be the sole platform for companies to advertise on.
“The two objectives of advertising are reach and frequency. If you just want to keep putting more messages into the same people, then in a way social media can do that for you.
“At the moment, social media still isn’t a ‘reach’ media, even though we sometimes have some good luck stories. It really is just a digital version of word of mouth.”
Habel also warns businesses and entrepreneurs not to be too trusting when it comes to the perceived cost savings of social media advertising.
“Whilst social media looks like it’s free, someone’s still got to put the energy into getting all those page views.
“Often it’s the social media consultants or academics who are all excited about social media and say it’s the future but I think we want to be a little more level-headed than that,” Habel says.
Despite the increasing trend to go online, traditional advertising, such as print, television and radio, still drive sales. Habel says that traditional advertising is a “pretty good tool” for businesses at the moment.
“When it works, traditional advertising gives you a really good efficient cost per thousand views.
“If you can afford the bulk for TV ads, you’ll get 1,000 ad views for $30,” Habel says.
According to Kimanzi Constable of Entrepreneur, a diverse marketing strategy is the best approach.
“Putting all your eggs in one basket is recipe for disaster. Social media marketing should be one part of a unique, and diverse marketing strategy,” Constable said.
The benefit of social media advertising is that it’s now relatively easy for anyone looking to kick-start a company, compared to in the past.
However, the pitfalls of both social media and traditional advertising mean that companies may have to advertise across multiple platforms in order to unlock the key to success.