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Socail Media and Its Relevance to Marfketing Planning

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Executive Summary

This report critically analyses the impact social media has on strategic planning for effective marketing communication and argues on the relevance of strategic planning in the era of social media. Upon evaluation, it will provide a strategic B2C communication planning framework which will be of relevance to the modern media environment.

A Critical Evaluation of the impact of Social media on Strategic Planning

According to Steiner (1997, p. 15), a strategic plan can be defined as the systematic and formalised effort of a company to put in place basic company purposes, objectives, policies and strategies. The plan details how to implement these policies to achieve the company’s objectives and basic purposes. An organisations marketing plan should be set in-line with its main objectives, mission and culture (Percy, 2016, p.74). The plan should drive the organisation to select suitable forms of media in line with the target audience and inline with the brand attitude.

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) can be defined as the concept under which a company integrates and co-ordinates its many communication channels to deliver a clear, consistent and compelling message about the organisation and its products (Pickton and Broderick, 2001, p. 16).
This leads us to question what actually makes for a good communication plan in todays’ modern business environment. It is no doubt that social media has made a huge impact as to how organisations promote and market their products and services; although the extent to which Social media has changed the way an organisation forms and decides on its strategic plan is up for discussion.

A challenge most marketers face today is finding different ways to communicate their messages to the worlds Gen Y’s, millennials and an increasing percentage of the older generation. These age cohorts, having been constantly exposed to a very media-saturated and brand conscious world, have put increased pressure on marketers to find different ways to communicate their messages (Belch, 2011).

Statistics indicate from January 2014 to 2016 there has been a 6% growth in social media users and 7% increase in mobile users who access social media in the UK. This growth is predicted to continue in 2017 (Think Digital First, 2017).  Research suggests that there are 2.8 Billion social media users worldwide in 2017 with Facebook being the most popular followed by YouTube, Instagram & twitter (Social media today, 2017). And hence, Social media is predicted to remain a key communication channel for organisation.

Youngsters and a growing number of adults today are very expressive of their feelings, frustrations and opinions on social media, and hence Social media has become a popular tool for market research within organisation strategic plans. This allows an organisation to eavesdrop on its marketplace and find out what their target audience is thinking and feeling. This can then be incorporated into the organisations marketing mix, made a part of its customer support ethos and implemented back into the organisations strategic planning with adjustments and improvements based on the feedback received from customers (Sterne, p. 30, 2010). Social media can also be of great benefit to small businesses in their strategic planning, as it can provide a window for them to network with their customers at a lower cost (Walsh & Lipinski, 2009). Social networking sites are utilised by small businesses to maximise their reach; it allows them to reach a wide target audience at a relatively low budget compared to other marketing mediums (Halligan, Shah, & Scott, 2009).

Constant new innovations are redefining customer expectations resulting in changing long and short-term customer trends. This requires organisations to be more flexible and proactive in their strategic planning. Using social media, organisations are able to find gaps in the fast-evolving market, and then identify new and innovative ways to meet consumer needs. This allows them to improve or amend their existing strategic plans promptly to realign themselves with the market. This will allow them to gain customer loyalty, which will help generate online word of mouth (Reyneke, Pitt, & Berthon, 2011) and subsequent growth of reputation.

Though social media as a marketing medium has its obvious advantages, it does have its pitfalls too, especially if an organisations marketing plan is solely reliant on social media. Social media does offer a window for organisations to know how customers genuinely feel about a product, however it is hard to say that social media had led to the irrelevance of strategic planning. For example, negative and critical feedback shared via word of mouth online can lead to the loss of customers (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). This requires an organisations’ strategic plan to include a contingency plan which allows it to effectively produce counter strategies to handle online criticisms in a short period of time.

Social media, used effectively, can be a good market research tool but the quality of the information received regarding the market is dependent on the quality of the research data. It is extremely easy in this day and age for organisations to create Social bots and fake accounts in order to stalk on their competitors or to gain more followers and likes (Filippo 2016). This therefore requires organisational planning to include an additional component that is able to measure the quality of data obtained through social media before it is implemented into a strategic plan.

Another issue pertaining to the use of social media in strategic planning is the difficulty involved in measuring its effectiveness and results. With all the indicators and metrics, it is easy to measure the reach of a message through number of visits and time spent on a website. However, the success of the campaign is not measured by the numbers of names collected or by how many likes were received, but the ability of the campaign to build better customer engagement and better relationships, which leads to loyal brand advocates (Flores, L., 2014).

Taking the above into consideration, a suitable B2C strategic communication plan that is applicable to the modern business environment is outlined below;

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The fundamental purpose of a B2C communication plan is to communicate with your customers and build a relationship with them. It should also provide a means of receiving feedback from the market which will be used by the organisation to make further improvements (Confederation College, 2014, P. 8)



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