Thoughts on Social Media

Engaging with customers through social media presents large and small businesses alike with a huge opportunity to grow the size and loyalty of their customer base. Equipped with huge marketing budgets and more time to dedicate to building an online presence large companies, such as Nike and Coca-Cola, are the undisputed leaders in utilising social media for huge revenue gains. Social media marketing has enabled many already successful companies to evolve into the super brands of today. Such successes are in a large part attributable to the expertise, fresh ideas and great execution of the marketers behind building impactful campaigns and creating engaging content.

The remainder of this post will summarise some further thoughts about social-media marketing.

Brand positioning

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked-in can be valuable extensions beyond a company website for building an online presence. They add another string to a company’s promotional portfolio and can extend the reach of a company’s product and message to an extent unimaginable prior to the Internet age. Social media fosters experimentation and innovation in marketing and advertising campaigns. As the different platforms evolve so too must strategy and content in order to keep existing customers engaged and reach out to new people.

Social media platforms can humanise brands to a greater extent than is possible through a print or TV advertising campaign. These sites allow companies to develop and display their brand personality and present themselves in a certain light. Traditional barriers between company and consumer are removed and a new flow of conversation on a equal level is possible. Interactions give companies the freedom to exercise their voice beyond the time-constrained short and sharp message typical of adverts. They can engage with customers through conversations, interactive content and platform specific promotions.

While social media opens up great new opportunities for customer interaction it also leaves businesses in a fairly exposed position. Social media platforms have become a place for feedback (both positive and negative) and conversation between customers and companies. Brand reputation is at stake and with the increased visibility delivered by a social media presence companies think carefully about how they wish to position themselves on social media. The eyes of the internet carefully watch for how a company responds to criticisms, conflicts or comments on current affairs.

Underinvestment in Online presence

Given the simplicity and the low monetary cost of setting up a website and/or social media pages it is surprising that 55% of small businesses still operate without an online presence (according to 2013 research by Google). In terms of economic theory this anomaly could be explained as sub-optimal investment because of unrecognised positive externalities. Small businesses appear to be underinvesting in online and social media marketing because they do not realise its true value. Cultivating an online presence delivers value through a combination of direct benefits and positive externalities. A positive externality is an additional benefit resulting from an economic transaction.

In this case the transaction is the process of creating and maintaining an online presence. Direct benefit comes from increased sales revenue resulting from new exposure and social media referrals. The transaction cost for the business is the total cost, both time and monetary, involved in this process.

Positive externalities (additional benefits) accrue to a business in the form of increased brand awareness, recognition, exposure and brand loyalty. These benefits may not immediately translate into revenue but they are important and carry long-term value. What explains the lack of online presence in small businesses is business owners underestimating the true value (sales benefit +Positive externalities) of engaging with customers online. Big brands lead the way in terms of recognising the true potential value of social media and are constantly working on their strategies to stay current and interesting.

Innovative advertising with YouTube

YouTube (with 1 billion active users each month) is one of the latest social media sites to become a platform for innovative marketing strategies. Users of Youtube watch a huge variety of content and encompass all demographics. Engagement can be widely measured; with video statistics available to track watch time, like and dislike indicators and a channel subscription option which can be taken as a display of loyalty.

YouTube still houses traditional video ad campaigns but has also become a platform where customers can go to find out more about a company by watching an extension of an advert or viewing extra material from a company such as video giving an insight into their production process. Now marketers are exploring new formats; such as seeking product endorsement from influential YouTube content creators. This has been identified as a way to harness already loyal viewers who trust the endorsement of the ‘YouTuber’ that they watch even more than they would a high profile celebrity in an ad campaign. While every imaginable type of video can be found on Youtube certain sections of the site – especially the videos of lifestyle video bloggers – are seen by users as a place of no-frills, honest and trustworthy reviews (although this sentiment may be fading somewhat as this type of promotion becomes more lucrative and frequent). When products are promoted through this type of endorsement YouTube can really humanise a brand. This type of marketing essentially allows traditional word-of-mouth recommendation to be amplified to a massive scale.

In another innovative move Nike is currently experimenting with the launch of its first original series via the platform consisting of 8 short videos released at a rate of one per week. The consumers who watch this series have chosen to take the time to sit and watch material which is far longer than a traditional advert. The need to flash the image and message of a particular product is reduced. Through this series Nike has the chance to promote many different products at once as well as more generally to portray the aspirational lifestyle aesthetic and brand values of Nike. The product stories told by the series can evolve slowly and with a lot of depth. The customer watching the series understands that something (brand/product) is being promoted and is happy to engage/watch with the content as long as they find it entertaining.

It is interesting to see how online platforms are influencing the marketing strategies of companies and the evolution modern advertising.

Key Findings

My research suggests there are certain key principles to keep in mind when using social media to communicate with consumers:

  • Content is key. The content shared on these sites should aim to be engaging, relevant, interesting, representative and valuable to the consumer in some way (either by being informative or giving them access to a promotion of some sort).
  • Be consistent. There should be consistency in the timeliness, quality and tone of the content promoted across social media site in order to optimise reach and engagement. The brand should aim to present a unified voice across channels but adapt to the different platforms.
  • Know your audience. Learning what type of content customers will respond positively too and engage with is key for optimising strategy. Once an online presence has been built web analytics can add a statistical element to getting to know your customer.

Finding a job in the creative industry

On Wednesday I attended a Digital media and Advertising seminar organised as part of Edinburgh University’s Creative and Cultural Careers fair 2016. This event aimed to give students an insight into a career in the creative industries of marketing and advertising and offer advice on how to get a foot in the door in this highly competitive marketplace.

The talk was structured as a panel discussion followed by an audience question and answer session. The expert panel was comprised of a brand manager, two senior partners of leading advertising agencies in Edinburgh, a newly freelance brand consultant and the owner of a leading Scottish digital marketing firm.

As I am currently undertaking a work experience placement within a creative agency I felt I was in a privileged position in terms of already understanding the day-to-day workings of such a firm. The insights from the panel rang true with everything I have been learning and I felt lucky to be in the position that I am in terms of gaining invaluable experience. The event was very informative and I wanted to write about some of the key take-away messages.

One thing that struck me about the panel was the very different ways that each of their careers had evolved. The variations in their career beginnings and progressions to where they are now indicated the scope and variety of different roles which exist in the creative industries. The panel encouraged us to think carefully about where our personal skills lie when applying for different jobs. We were reminded of the importance of finding the right role for you and of how it is very difficult to do a job well that you are neither prepared for – in terms of skills – or that you do not enjoy.

What was a common feature across all panelists was the sense of passion they conveyed when talking about what they did and working within the industry. There was general consensus that a degree in marketing is not a necessary requirement for a career in this area. Panelists emphasised that, whilst grades and a degree subject are important, they only form a small part of the picture of an individual and there are many other things, such as creativity and personality, involved when assessing whether a job applicant is right for a role. This was a nice reminder to those of us caught up in the pressure cycle of essays and exams. This industry seeks people who want to communicate and innovate and such skills are demonstrated in ways beyond a degree classification.

Some key general points from the panel:

  • Being able to apply the methodologies practiced in obtaining your degree will often be more important than the subject studied itself.
  • This is a major growth industry and generations Y and Z are in a privileged position in that we have grown up and evolved alongside technology.
  • This industry seeks creative individuals who do more than the minimum. People who seek creative opportunities to experiment and grow.
  • A very important part of this work is understanding what makes people tick and what engages them emotionally.

Some tips regarding finding work in this industry and the Interview process:

  • It is important to be able to demonstrate your passion by articulating an understanding of branding and engaging with peoples emotions.
  • In an interview you must be prepared to demonstrate an understanding of the industry and be able to say what you like and why. Being able to reference campaigns you found engaging and explain why that was in more complex terms that just ‘its funny’ is a good starting point.
  • Give expansive, but reasonable answers. i.e find the balance between giving full and interesting answers and not talking too much!
  • Be prepared for the typically challenging questions such as what has been your biggest achievement, what sets you apart from the other candidates, what has been your biggest mistake in a workplace and how did you overcome it.




People are choosing to share more information via the internet than ever before, primarily through social media. I am investigating developments in modern digital marketing and  in this first blog post I will look at a somewhat less visible channel through which information is shared online – cookies.

Cookies collect information by monitoring a web user’s behaviour. As a web user navigates a site information is stored in ‘Cookies’ – miniature data files which ‘remember’ each visit and recognise returning users. The name is believed to originate from the cookie-crumb-esque trail that an internet user will leave as they travel through the dense forest that is the modern web.This modern marketing tool is increasingly used to inform the decision making of digital marketers tasked with creating and improving the online experience of consumers.

On a given website, where customers are engaging with a product or service, cookies can be of benefit to both the buyer and seller involved in the transaction. The company who is selling or promoting a product can access information –unattainable prior to the internet age – regarding browsing habits and individual interests (as measured by clicking habits) which help it to augment its service to maximise sales. This process of optimization has developed into the field of UX (user experience). On the other hand cookies enable customers to receive a more personalized online service with a website which is programmed to optimize the ease and enjoyment of their experience.

67% of UK internet users make purchases online. The ease of a modern internet transaction is facilitated by services enabled and informed by data collection from cookies. Simple functions such as the ‘shopping basket’, which streamline the customers shopping experience, rely on data stored through cookies. Information gathered through cookies pushes web designers to think about innovative ways of improving their web service.

As an economics student I wonder if technologies such as cookies bring us closer towards a markets which operates with perfect information. Characterised by consumers and producers both having perfect information on price, quality, product benefits and production methods a perfect information market maximises efficiency and utility in an economy. Moving closer to this ideal scenario delivers benefits to every agent involved in trade.

The internet has advanced the ability of consumers to build up knowledge and understanding prior to product purchase through the culture of online reviews and comparisons. Product review and comparison sites reduce levels of asymmetric information in transactions and the internet enables customers greater freedom to shop around for the optimal deal. Companies also access more information through the internet via Cookies. Innovative web-design which employs features of personalisation is a new opportunity for companies to utilise this information and work harder to capture their better informed customers. The online domain is a playing field where the forces of competition can interplay to the benefit of both buyers and sellers. With cookies transferring information from buyers to sellers the actual consumer purchasing process becomes far clearer. Cookies can measure how a purchase proceeds and what aspects of a website a customer engages with allowing the company to grasp what consumers do and do not like about their service.

Cookies create a personal service but also give consumers another channel, although more subtle than directly voicing feedback, through which to air their voice. If a website become over-personalised and is perceived as intrusive a customer will choose to buy from a different producer. Reduced use of a site will be recorded through cookies and fed-back to the organisation indicating that they should reduce their levels of personalisation. The reaction of customers to personalisation maybe be partially informed by demographics and generational attitudes. If a company also holds data on these variables then it can build an enriched picture of customers and their preferences.

There exists a market for the use of cookies whereby the benefits of personalisation enjoyed by website users offset the costs of sharing personal data with companies – for some this cost takes the form of a reluctance to have a record of online activity being stored. This balance as sought by companies. With a product-selling website a process of adjustment and reaction should in-theory continue until the level of personalisation is optimised from the point of view of the customer. When the service is optimised for the customer the sales will be optimised from the company.


An amalgamation of what I learn whilst spending time at a Creative Digital Marketing Agency.