Marketing forms an essential component of every business in that the main purpose is to make profits, achieve business objectives, and satisfy customer needs by getting feedback from customers. The business world has become highly competitive, and many businesses have turned to social media as a medium to market or advertise (Hofacker, 2011). Some of the commonly used social media include YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr. When social media appeared, it was seen as a medium of communication and socialization. It was also seen as a way or a place where people could have fun by socializing over a range of matters on the Internet. However, in the last decades, businesses have realized that social media has grand potential when it comes to marketing (Evans, 2008). Businesses have thus realized this opportunity and have effectively utilized social media to increase sales, increase customer satisfaction, and, most importantly, make profits. Businesses of all sizes have increased their marketing through social media because of various reasons.

Social media offers increased exposure to business, unlike any other advertisement method. Social media offers increased publicity to businesses. Social media marketing services sites have attracted many businesses because they give businesses an opportunity to interact with customers. This has made social media highly popular. A vast number of people have subscribed to social media websites. These people are potential customers to any business that is selling products or services. Accessing social media websites requires a person to be connected to the Internet. As a result of increased access to the Internet over the world, businesses are looking for customers on social media websites (Solomon, 2013).

Another reason that has made social marketing extremely popular today is that social media creates a buzz. This attracts more readers because of catchy and impressive messages that social media websites produce. In the process of socializing, social media users spread such business buzz to other users. Information about business products or services thus spreads like wild fire. This has made social media marketing be used widely by all businesses regardless of their size. Social media marketing has also become popular because it offers a medium where fans or customers interact with businesses (Evans, 2008). This has made social media marketing competitive, and thus more and more businesses are turning to social media for marketing services. Whether it is through simple networking or marketing, social media outlets, such as Facebook, have made businesses websites or products known widely. Social media has allowed businesses to reach their customers with ease regardless of where they live.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing For Business Entrepreneurs

As a modern medium of marketing, social media marketing has some advantages and disadvantages to business entrepreneurs. Although businesses put much effort to make the best out of social media, some disadvantages have reduced social media marketing credibility to entrepreneurs. One advantages of social media marketing offers business a medium that enhances their advertising efforts. Social media allow the establishment of the close relationship between businesses and customers (Evans, 2008). Social media, like Facebook, offer an option of creating a fun page where customers and the business can chat closely. Twitter offers a 140 character message post that users follow. YouTube avails video clips that customers can watch and learn more about services and products of a business. Other sites, like Digg, enable users to share links that they find appealing. Therefore, these platforms offered by social media provide plenty information to customers who log in to their social media accounts.

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Social media also offers marketing services to businesses at a lower cost compared to other advertising media such as creating a website (Hofacker, 2011). If a business entrepreneur combines creativity and honesty in a business advert on social media, such a message is spread by readers. Many social media sites do not charge any fees when creating a profile or posting information. This is an advantage to many small business entrepreneurs, who cannot afford to pay for expensive methods of advertisement such as newspaper or television (Evans, 2008). The advantage of a business entrepreneur reaching his or her customers at little or no cost makes social media an attractive medium of marketing. Social media marketing has a viral nature of spreading information. An account holder with social media has a potential to spread information about a business. Additionally, social media marketing allows entrepreneurs to build customer trust online. In case, an entrepreneur posts a message about his or her product, customers or readers can comment on such a message, and this gives the entrepreneur a chance to modify the product. If readers comment positively, then such a product becomes acceptable to many customers (Micek & Whitlock, 2008). Today, people trust social media more than traditional websites where entrepreneurs or business people used to post information leaving customers without an option to comment on services or products. Finally, another advantage of social media marketing is that entrepreneurs or business owners are able to collect immediate feedback about customer’s satisfaction level (Solomon, 2013). Therefore, social media marketing enables businesses or companies to modify or improve their services and goods.

Although social media has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages to entrepreneurs. Updating information on a daily basis on the social media sites is time-consuming and often needs much effort (Hofacker, 2011). This consumes time that could be used in other activities. Additionally, all information being posted on social media sites must be created, approved and edited to suit consumer wants. Language used must be appropriate and clear to avoid any ambiguity. A person or a department needs to be formed so that it can reply to readers or customers' comments. Social media also contributes to time wastage among employees. This lowers workers’ productivity because a worker will occasionally log in to the social media website.

Another disadvantage of social media marketing is that it presents some risks and concerns. Marketing on social media sites needs regular checking of social media accounts by a supervisor of entrepreneur. Unhappy customers or even employees can publish negative comments about a business (Evans, 2008). Negative messages about a business can go viral over the Internet and reach a large number of people before being removed. This can permanently harm the business because making the business credible again can take ages. Additionally, social media account of a business can be hacked by competitors. They can access vital information about a business or even post extremely disturbing messages about a business. With the current rate of cybercrime, this poses a hulking security risk and threat to businesses, which highly rely on social media marketing (Micek & Whitlock, 2008).

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How Social Media Marketing Has Helped Pepsi Gain More Customers

Social media marketing has revolutionized advertising of Pepsi Company. The company came up with a project named as Pepsi Refresh Project. The project aimed at creating a deeper relationship with its customers by engaging in social media or digital technology. It was one year project where customers were allowed to submit short video clips with ideas that could assist the community. The company posted a total of 1, 000 clips on the Internet. Readers or visitors then voted for the best video clip. At the end of every month, the company gave grants to the best-voted video clip with a range of different amounts. To Pepsi Company, social media advertising has not only become a cheaper way of reaching out customers, but it has been a means that has aided the company in getting many customers (Hofacker, 2011). As a result of increased popularity in the social media marketing, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi said that the company would invest one third of its marketing budget in social media.

Social media marketing has been of exceptional use to the company despite the traffic to the web that the company’s site had initially. The company has been able to generate much publicity through Facebook and Twitter. In the Pepsi Refresh Project participants or people applied for grants that ranged from $ 5, 000 to $ 250, and 000 in one of the six categories. The categories in which people applied for grants were culture and arts, shelter, food, education, neighborhoods and health (Evans, 2008). Project ideas were then published or promoted through the participant’s social media sites accounts where voters were allowed to vote for their favorite project. What Pepsi has done is that it has taken social media as the greatest way to get direct dialog with their fans. The company has also used social media marketing as a channel of collecting the customer’s views about Pepsi products. The company’s management now says that every decision made is based on the customers feed on social media websites. Customers have participated in every part of the production. Customers have been given a chance to pick Pepsi products' flavor names.

Other Businesses Utilizing Social Media Marketing

Business corporations have embraced social media in their marketing strategies. Coca Cola has more than 63 million fans on its Facebook account. Starbucks Company has more than 30 million fans. Coca Cola does not have an official shop. Therefore, their social approach is not focused on driving the public to a store or E-commerce platform. The company focuses on preserving its brand image and sponsoring its adverts campaigns through the social media. In the past Coca Cola has used its Facebook page to publicize its Olympics and the Euro 2012 advertisement campaigns (Hofacker, 2011). This has increased company’s exposure to the public. The social team asks the public some questions and runs poll regularly. What is surprising is that images posted by Coca Cola social team receive more attention from the fans. These image posts receive more likes, and this has enabled the company to retain its brand name globally. Recently, Coca Cola has come up with a new media policy just like the Pepsi Company. Coca Cola participates in online conversations with its fans, and this gives fans an opportunity to ask questions. The company has created ten principles for online spokespeople (Hofacker, 2011).

Starbucks is considered to be the biggest coffee retailer corporation globally. This outstanding reputation can be attributed to its effective use of social media marketing. The company has multiple Twitter accounts. It has also several Facebook accounts all representing different departments. Additionally, the company has a Google+ account. Most of Starbuck's social media marketing aims at reaching out to college aged people, women and professional workforce working in offices. Social media has transformed the company into a status symbol and increased its exposure to the world (Evans, 2008). The company encourages its partners to take photos and share or post them on the social media websites. Whenever the company’s social team posts any content on Twitter, it is usually something interesting and sweet to their customers.

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Impacts of Social Media to Businesses over the Next Decade

Social media has become more exciting, and it has changed the way businesses do their marketing. New innovative platforms or technologies are constantly being developed to facilitate communication between businesses and customers over social media websites. Social media has grown to global levels where millions of users are logging in to their accounts on a daily basis (Hofacker, 2011). It has changed the business culture over the last decades. Upcoming or already established businesses have realized that social media is crucial in reaching out to customers. Going by a current trend, in the next decade business may witness social commerce where products or service endorsements will be based on word of mouth. Social media is forcing many businesses to be transparent in their operations. It is making businesses and companies have a human face because customers or clients are able to establish a direct connection with the business (Hofacker, 2011). As a result of this transparency, businesses will need to develop and implement social media policies in some decades to come. This will aim at protecting both businesses and the people responsible for social media presence of a business.

Additionally, social media will significantly impact the ways in which businesses do their marketing. It will no longer be just marketing, but it will also involve buying. Customers will be able to buy or order products over social media. Currently, companies like social websites e.g. Facebook and Google +, are collecting information about their users. These social media websites are collecting users’ dislikes and likes. In the next decade, people may experience social media in which they do not search for information. People will no longer search for information about businesses, but rather information will find people based on the data these companies collect. Social media will ensure that right information is availed to the right people. This will help save the energy, time, and effort people use to search for information. In the next decade, the world may also witness the introduction of extremely sophisticated technology in social media. Technologies like the Mars Tweet Shop campaign may become extremely prevalent. Unless elaborate and effective policies are established, social media may experience some security challenges in the next decade (Micek & Whitlock, 2008). With many businesses setting up accounts on social media websites, it may become challenging for social media users in differentiating real businesses from fake businesses whose intentions may be unknown.

Skills to be Improved so as to Take Advantage of the Changes in the Social Media

To take advantage of the extensive changes taking place in social media, entrepreneurs and businesses need to develop various skills so as to make the best out of social media websites. A social media marketing executive needs to identify what counts. Business owners need to be conversant with what makes or interests their customers so as to make their marketing credible. Posting any message that has no content will not benefit the business; social media users will not waste time reading a message that seems uninteresting. The message should be creative and relevant. Another skill that social media marketing executives need to develop is the customization of the content posted to different groups of people (Hofacker, 2011). There should be content that targets the youths and the elderly. Finally, patience is a skill that businesses using social media need to learn. Social media is a complicated medium and results are not immediate.

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