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Social Media as a Business Platform: Present or Future?
Social media initially emerged over a decade ago as a powerful tool for global communication and friend-making without geographical and language barriers. Such social media networks as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+ (besides many lesser known ones) became a real boom, giving endless socialization and content viewing opportunities (Hurrle and Postatny 5). However, what emerged as platforms for communication and content sharing later evolved into powerful marketing tools useful for long-term and short-term business strategies and outcomes (Howley 10). This paper analyzes ways in which social media marketing functions and how businesses use social media for business growth and client outreach.
As Barker, Barker, Bormann, and Neher (6) indicated, the social component of any social media platform is the mass of human interactions that have been traditionally taking place face-to-face, by telephone, regular mail, etc., and have moved online with the emergence of the Web. The benefits offered by newly emerging social platforms were numerous and highly attractive to vast categories of people who spent much money on international calls or had to wait for weeks for their letter to be mailed to the recipient and be responded. Thus, online communication became a highly suitable alternative – cheap, instant, and available in all languages (Howley 11). These advantages led billions of people to register in social networks and become their active users.
With so many people gathering in one place and spending hours online, the social media space was quickly embraced by businesses as an effective marketing tool. Not surprisingly, it gave numerous opportunities for connectivity (i.e., bringing the employees together in one group and simplifying their communication online) and embracing of subgroups of interests for better product targeting. Social media also allow marketers to drive their traffic the way they want, and cost very little compared to other, more traditional marketing tools (Brytheson, DeBoer-Moran and Rinkoff 69).
Another distinct advantage of marketing via social media is the simplicity with which one can make his or her brand go viral (Zimmerman and Ng 37). The new media marketing concept as such emerged on the basis of social media’s viral feature; once some members of the community like some content, they share and “Like” it, making it visible to dozens of their friends in the social network. Those may “Like” and share content in their turn, so appealing, shocking, or amusing publications may work to establish brand recognition and loyalty without considerable investments into the marketing effort (Hurrle and Postatny 6).
Finally, it is vital to consider the power of social media for unifying people with common interests, which is a ready target group for social media marketers. In cases when marketing is done via traditional online tools, marketing specialists often have to invest additional time, money, and effort into singling out their target population. In social media, this is already done by users themselves, so targeting gardeners, pet lovers, or alumni from a specific university becomes much easier and quicker, correspondingly leading to better business returns from social marketing strategies and efforts (Brytherman et al. 72).
Summing the evidence provided in this paper up, one should admit that social media are indeed powerful global instruments for communication, and they keep the promise of free and instant communication with worldwide coverage. However, they have also become viable promotional platforms that connect businesses with potential customers, offering additional revenue and client base. Hence, mastering the techniques of social media marketing may become a new step for anyone aspiring to business growth and for new business creation.