What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing utilizes social media programs like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote products, businesses and brands.  Social media has become one the most important platforms for marketers as businesses become increasingly aware of their importance.  With over a billion users worldwide, these social networks provide unparalleled power in raising consumer awareness.

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Businesses are positioning themselves on social media in order to optimize its many advantages

  • Brand building–Companies can increase brand recognition through conventional and emerging marketing strategies, like mobile social networking and viral marketing.
  • Interactivity–Social media allows consumers to respond almost immediately to business actions and behavior.  This can hurt sales or reputation if employees say or do something the online community objects to, but it can help foster strong support for a company if handled successfully.  Consumer input allows marketing and production teams to develop and refine their plans.
  • Consumer anticipation–A successful marketing campaign on Facebook can precede the rollout of a new product.  This can heighten consumer awareness and positive buzz about this new product and be instrumental in its success.
  • Marketing effectiveness–Careful analysis of consumer response to marketing initiatives are an invaluable part of social media marketing. The enhanced capacity for consumers to dialogue with marketers makes social media a truly powerful platform.
  • Broad reach–The number of consumers who spend at least a portion of their free time on these sites is intended to increase as more companies and individuals become aware of its social and business importance.
  • Creativity–Many companies are harnessing the power of social media to utilize consumer generated marketing ideas in their own ad campaigns.  The free lines of communication permit marketers to augment the effectiveness of their marketing ideas by integrating creative approaches that the millions of people online produce.
  • Low cost–Social media influence is based on ideas and content.  A successful marketing campaign can successfully reach millions of new customers with an innovative idea that would be cost prohibitive on most other platforms.

Social media is characterized by the democratization of the millions of users that visit such sites.  People from all walks of life can propagate important ideas through these online forums.  From producing buzz about a new iPhone to overthrowing an Arab dictatorship, social media allows individuals and businesses to achieve great power and influence with an idea or product that captures the imagination of the masses.

In order to maximize the use of these powerful platforms, social media marketers must be able to possess some key qualities

  • Proficiency with social media–There is a great deal of complexity lying beneath the surface of these user friendly programs, and successful marketers must be able to analyze and anticipate changes in their technical structures.  Extensive experience in the most popular social media sites and tools like Google, Radian6, and TweetDeck are essential.
  • Technological expertise–Marketing professionals must possess knowledge of HTML, CSS, and other programming languages.  They should also be able to acquire knowledge of emerging technologies like mobile devices.
  • Creativity–Marketing in this channel requires innovation in addition to technical expertise.  As more companies turn to social media campaigns, user desensitization will begin to cull the stale ideas and thinkers from the successful pioneers.
  • Problem solving talents–Evaluating and utilizing complicated market research requires the ability digest large quantities of data and produce effective marketing strategies.
  • Superior communication skills–Marketers must be able to distribute information in easily digestible messages to consumers, clients, and business partners.

Social Media Marketing Professionals

Due to recent emergence of social media as a viable marketing platform, the educational requirements for social media marketers remain unclear.  The majority of professionals in this career track possess a Bachelor’s degree in marketing, graphic design, web development, information technology or communications.  There are a number of Master’s in Business Administration programs that offer coursework in social media marketing that may be essential for professionals seeking a management or executive position.  The majority of successful professionals in this field must exercise their own initiative in finding online resources to advance their knowledge of social media programs and tools.

There are a number of organizations that now provide online training programs and certifications for prospective social media marketers.  For the moment, there is no central regulatory body for social media marketing, so the educational standards and course materials may differ considerably.  It is advisable to research any organization for industry reputation before enrolling. The most reputable of these training programs are offered by

  • eMarketing Association–The eMA offers three programs that provide certification and the Certified eMarketer (CeM), Certified eMarketing Associate (CeMA) or Certified Social Marketing Associate (CSMA) designation

There are also a number of educational institutions that offer courses in social media marketing through their normal curriculum or their extension programs.  These courses are typically more rigorous and academic in nature but may carry significantly more weight with prospective clients and employers.

These academic certification programs may be offered online or through campus locations.

Industries of Employment

Social media marketing initiatives can be found in virtually any industry as companies routinely establish a presence on the major social programs of Facebook, Twitter and others.  The industries that have shown the most success through sales generation from social media activity are retail (18%), information (17%), arts and entertainment (15%) and finance and insurance (11%), according to the 2012 The State of Social Media Marketing Report.  The number of people who are on social network rose from 400 million in 2007 to 1.2 billion in 2011, and this number is expected to increase in the future, as mobile devices keep social media users connected almost continuously.  eMarketer reports that 58.5 million Americans used social media through a mobile device in 2012 and this number is expected to balloon to 79.1 million by 2015.

The enormous expansion and influence of social media will mirror a growing investment from businesses.  According a 2011 study by IBM, 82% of Chief Marketing Officers polled planned to increase investment in social marketing campaigns in the next three years.  This indicates widespread and growing enthusiasm for businesses to engage in social media marketing.

The number of positions in social media marketing should multiply rapidly as more companies enter this marketing channel and energize growth in the industry. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in social media marketing is expected to increase by 21% for 2013, which translates into tens of thousands of jobs in this career field.


The annual income of a social media marketing professional can differ significantly due to geographical location, industry of employment, educational background and years of experience.  Due to the relative recent development of social media as a marketing channel, the most highly paid marketing professionals exhibit breadth of knowledge about social media programs and tools.

According to Indeed.com a social media strategist in New York City could expect a salary from $55,000 to $103,000 in 2011, while a similar position in Phoenix, Arizona could earn from $36,000 to $68,000.  A social media marketing manager in New York City could receive from $73,000 to $116,000, while a marketing professional in a similar position in Phoenix, AZ could expect $48,000 to $77,000.

The majority of entry level positions in social media marketing pay from $24,566 to $36,625.  Social media marketing positions are expected to increase, but a disproportionate number of these will be in entry level jobs, while competition for the few management positions should increase dramatically.

Professional Associations

There are a number of internet marketing professional associations that include social media marketers and provide support to the industry.

These organizations can be critical in establishing relationships with prospective clients, employers and industry experts.  Networking is a vital activity for a successful social media marketing career and professional organizations can be instrumental in their development.

Social media marketers are also encouraged to seek out professional associations in their region or metropolitan area, as they may have information about local marketing conditions.

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Top Firms

The largest social marketing firms, according to TopSEOs.com, are

  • Netmark.com of Idaho Falls, ID earned between $5 million and $10 million in 2011
  • Customer Magnetism of Virginia Beach, VA earned between $3 million and $5 million in 2011
  • Lead to Conversion LLC of Hudson, OH earned between $250,000 and $1 million in 2011
  • TopHatRank.com LLC of Los Angeles, CA earned between $250,000 and $1 million in 2011
  • 352 Media Group of Tampa, FL earned between $5 million and $10 million in 2011
  • Mint Social of Scottsdale, AZ earned between $3 million and $5 million in 2011
  • Higher Visibility of Memphis, TN earned between $5 million and $10 million in 2011
  • Hudson Horizons of Saddle Brook, NJ earned between $1 million and $3 million in 2011
  • Converseon of New York City, NY earned over $10 million in 2011

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