The Marketing Mix in Social Media
User-generated content, one of the key features of social media websites, provides a direct communication channel between buyers and sellers. Products and services are meant to satisfy customer wants and needs. Comments, ‘Likes’, and other feedback mechanisms make it even easier for satisfied or disgruntled customers to voice their opinion to not only brands, but also to current and prospective customers.
Marketing organizations must be ready to alter product features and ingredients as dictated by changes in consumer perception, as well as competitive and economic environments. However, product changes can be prompted by social media activity from stakeholders outside a brand’s consumer base. Greenpeace launched an attack on Nestlés use of palm oil in their products and its impact on the climate and natural ecosystems. When Nestlé attempted to respond to the criticism via Facebook, the public backlash was severe. As a result of the viral publicity, Nestlé subsequently increased auditing efforts in its supply chain, and promised to cancel contracts with any firm found to be chopping down rainforests to produce the palm oil used in its products.
Placement or distribution moves products from the producer to the consumer. With the Internet and social media websites, consumers now have access to more channels than ever to research, purchase and evaluate products. Both small and major brands offer e-commerce websites that allow web users to browse products and share their ‘wish lists’ or purchases with friends across social media websites. Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, allows third-party merchants to advertise their goods on the company’s e-commerce site. This not only allows smaller retailers to take advantage of Amazon.com’s massive audience, but also utilize the Amazon.com fulfillment centers strategically placed near airports.
Pricing–the primary means by which customer judge the attractiveness of a product or service–can also be affected due to wider access to customers via online channels. Amazon.com is primarily a retail site with a sales revenue model and generates revenue by taking a small percentage of the sale price of each item that is sold through its website. Amazon also allows companies to advertise their products by paying a fee to be listed as featured products.
Promotion is probably the marketing mix element most impacted by social media. In essence, social media acts as a promotional element or communication channel used to reach customers. Promotional activities include advertising (by using different media), sales promotion (sales and trades promotion), and personal selling activities. It also includes sponsorship marketing, direct marketing, database marketing and public relations. Social networking sites can act as secondary or tertiary corporate sites that integrate and link these promotional elements back to the brand’s messaging. Content published by social media users can also feed into various communication channels (e.g. crowdsourcing ideas for a television commercial) and used to further expand a brand’s reach and presence.