What is social media? And what is social media marketing?
March 11, 2015

Many people already have an answer or opinion to the first question. Their answers usually take a form of describing a setup of communication devices and technology that allows people to connect into social networks of common interest, either for business purposes or for entertainment, and share their thoughts. For example, Facebook is a social network, mainly for entertainment, that allows people to connect on a common platform on the Internet via computers, mobile phones,
 iPhones, etc, and share their thoughts, either as written text or as videos. This is as opposed to mainstream media, in which a limited number of people have the authorization to publish
information. The main objective of this article is to provide a brief answer to the question, “what is
social media marketing?”

So, what is social media marketing? An important fact to consider when understanding what social media marketing is, is to consider the technological capabilities of the communication devices used in the social networking process. This is useful to know because marketing techniques that work on one type of technological platform, e.g. Television or the mainstream press, may not not work as efficiently on a different technology platform.

Social media marketing is duplex communication, not broadcast, communication. What that means
is that traditional marketing/advertising done of the mainstream media makes use of broadcast
communication technology. Broadcast communication is one way – the members of the audience do
not have an option of what to listen to or watch. If a broadcaster has a regularly scheduled program
that draws on average a certain number of people, the broadcaster can set advertisements at
appropriate places, in the knowledge that a certain number of people will see the ad, and so sell
traffic to companies wishing to promote their products.

Social media on the other hand uses duplex communication, a consequence of being based on
Internet communication technologies. Duplex communication is two-way. Both the parties involved
in the communication process can choose to either send or receive data. The Internet is capable of
communication in either a broadcast or duplex mode. Duplex communication technology allows a
consumer of information to select what to watch/listen to, rather than depend on a broadcaster to
select the information to be consumed, which may not be of interest to some members of the

What this means is that one has to understand the context in which the marketing activity will be
carried out – broadcast or duplex communication. Each has its strengths and merits. Understanding
these strengths and merits will help one find an answer to the question, “what is social media marketing?” and as a result, one can implement a more efficient business marketing strategy.

For example, a sports game, an entertainment show, a live tutorial demonstration, etc, are the types
of activities that require the audience to be present to enjoy the full benefit of the spectacle.
Traditional advertising to masses in these contexts using broadcast communication will work very
well. On the other hand, personal leisure, research for information about a subject area, and using
the Internet as a work tool mandate that the user select the information to be consumed by
himself/herself. In this mode of use, methods used to market using broadcast technology may not
work very well, since the social media surfer may be looking for information that is different from
what is being presented in a broadcast-style advertisement.

Another thing to take into consideration is the type of markets that respond to broadcast and/or
duplex communication. Certain types of events, for example sporting events or music entertainment
shows, tend to draw large audiences. As such, goods that require a high volume to create a large
profit, such as sugar and candy, respond well to broadcast marketing/advertising. On the other hand,
using the duplex communication capabililty of the Internet is a result of the user actively seeking
specific, possibly specialized information. Thus, marketing on a medium capable of duplex
communication provides a better investment if the market volume is relatively low but the return on
a single investment is sufficiently high.

For example,

i)A doctor/surgeon who has specialized in treating/operating on a certain condition will market
his/her services more efficiently by posting videos of his/her work on a social media site than
advertising to millions of TV viewers, none who will ever get afflicted by the condition and don’t
need the service. If the condition is rare, there is a good chance that even qualified doctors who
diagnose the condition may not immediately know of any specialists treating the condition, and a
social media site would be an excellent starting point for searching for a doctor to refer the patient
ii)A robot-building engineering company that is capable of building robots for underwater oil-
exploration will market its services more efficiently by posting videos on a social media site rather
than advertising to billions of TV viewers, none of whom are involved in oil exploration. Robot-
building is a relatively specialized area of engineering, and even the largest oil corporations in the
world are unlikely to know all the robot-builders in the industry capable of handling a specific
engineering problem they want to deal with. A social media site with videos posted would be an
excellent starting point for research on qualified robot builders.

The above two examples help answer in part the question, “what is social media marketing?” by
showing examples of when it is more strategic to use duplex communication rather than broadcast
communication to market one’s services. In the same breath, given that the Internet is also capable
of broadcast communication, it is possible to host an online event on a social media site, which may
draw a large audience, and strategically market/broadcast advertisements to the audience.

Not everyone is a doctor, nor is everyone a robot-builder. But perhaps you are trying to find an
answer to the question, “what is social media marketing?” so that you can market your services on
popular social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Popular social media sites such as Facebook are primarily duplex communication mode systems,
with the primary objective of the users being entertainment. Therefore, to market on a social media
site, it is desirable to adapts one’s marketing strategies to fit the objectives of the users of social
media sites.

The challenge of marketing on social media sites is therefore to present one’s products and services in a manner that entertains the user and at the same time invites the user to learn more about one’s products and services.

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