What is social media marketing?

According to howsmb.com, Social Media Marketing (SMM) describes (Internet) forms of marketing in social networks. A special key point of SMM is the interaction of the users with the advertising content and advertising formats. According to the theory, users should become customers and sales, or recipients and advertisers of a brand, product or service at the same time. So-called viral marketing is oftenclosely linked to SMM. Social media also includes blogs and wikis. Whenever “social media” is mentioned in the following, this includes blogs and wikis as well as social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

Benefits and dangers of social media marketing

The advantages of SMM are almost obvious: A large-scale advertising campaign with posters in the streets and advertising films in the cinema costs a lot and has great wastage. An advertising campaign on social media is comparatively easy and cheap to implement, and wastage can now be kept very small. Furthermore, the user is in direct interaction with the advertising message and ideally is recipient and broadcaster in personal union. This gives advertising in social media a “social proof”: It is not the message that is accepted that comes from the company, but the message that I get from my friends. The distribution of the advertising message also follows extremely simple structures and is therefore more cost-effective than classic advertising.

This is exactly where the disadvantages of social media are to be found: If companies have maximum control over their advertising message in traditional advertising (even if posters are sometimes smeared or destroyed), control in social media does not lie with the company. Users can praise an advertising message just as much as they can distort, change, abuse or ridicule it. The “Shitstorm” is the symbol for smarter SMM.

Special features of social media marketing


Social media have a specific dynamic of their own, which advertisers can sometimes create problems for companies. The so-called “Shitstorm” seems to occur completely arbitrarily and without a system. However, research on “shit storms” has meanwhile advanced and can identify some aspects and regularities of “shit storms”.

Target group advertising “Just in Time”

Social media contain a promise to advertisers and companies that, with some restrictions, has not yet been realized: In theory, with extensive knowledge of user behavior and user interactions, it is possible to influence trends in social networks as they arise. For this, a “live” monitoring of the interactions of the users of social media would be necessary. A trend can represent an opinion, the perception of a brand, a product, or target group-specific trends. In theory, a company “scans” its target group for wishes, needs or moods and develops suitable products and services for the target group (almost) in real time.

Data protection law

Despite the broad social acceptance of social networks, in practice they break with European and German legal norms on a massive scale. The user is often not even aware of these legal violations. For example, Facebook has all rights to all content of Facebook users. This is inevitably in conflict with German privacy and data protection laws.

Social networks – a selection


Probably the largest social network currently (2014). With over a billion users worldwide, as well as a design and a structure that aggressively invites users to make their data public in the form of “likes”, interests, preferences, personal data such as gender, age, sexual orientation, etc…, Facebook offers a massive database for advertisers. In this way, Facebook Ads can be very precisely narrowed down to specific target groups.


The Google+ network was a social network launched by Google in 2011. A presumed goal of the network was to create an interface and publication platform for all other Google services. Google+ had by far not the number of members of Facebook, but with 300 million active users it had a considerable reach. Another special feature: with the rel = author attribute, texts on websites can be linked to a user’s Google+ profile. The resulting “author rank” is not implemented, but was hotly debated at the time. A Google account including a Google+ or Google Places profile was mandatory, especially for search engine optimization on Google.


The short message service Twitter allows messages (“tweets”) with 140 characters per “hashtag”, “#”, to be marked and distributed in the network. Search entries with a hashtag deliver all messages on this hashtag (if you search for #philosophy, all messages with this hashtag appear). Twitter has proven to be the network for viral campaigns, shitstorms and the like several times in the past. It is not uncommon for Twitter messages to trigger a wave of reactions, especially when large news sites such as Spiegel Online, Newsweek, etc., take up these tweets and continue to popularize them.


Xing is a German social network that emerged from the “Open Business Club” (openBC) at the end of 2006. Xing’s main focus is on professional contacts of all kinds.


LinkedIn, the American version of Xing.

Studivz / Meinvz

The provider StudiVz is no longer relevant. As the only German network that competed with Facebook in Germany, Studivz (as well as the offshoots, MeinVz and SchülerVZ) operated an active charity policy. Together with the German bone donor database, Studivz was able to motivate several thousand members to type in bone marrow donations.
www.studivz.net & www.meinvz.net

Approach and “best practices” for companies in social media

There are tons of tips, suggestions, no-gos, have-tos and similar instructions for successful social media marketing. The strategies can be roughly divided into: general rules of conduct – rules for community management – distribution of advertising content – advertorials.
Here are just a few broad guidelines for corporate behavior on social media:

General rules of conduct for companies on social media

  • You don’t operate in a lawless space. Although you don’t talk “face-to-face” with other people on social media, there is still a person behind every profile. And this should be respected just as much as a person on the street.
  • Do not be dubious, do not insult anyone, especially not your fans / followers!
  • If you simply advertise your company, there must already be a fan base outside of the social network in order for you to be successful in a social network. Post news that interest your fans. Funny, entertaining, informative or serious. This content does not have to come exclusively from your own website.
  • If you don’t take social media seriously or consider your company too serious for Facebook – you should either do without social media entirely or be active on Xing, LinkedIn, or Google+. Anyone who thinks they should “do something with social media” should leave it alone. Starting a shit storm just because you don’t take social media “seriously” can have dire consequences for the company.
  • If a company decides to be active in social media, it should formulate clear goals and hire competent employees for social media marketing. Social media can be a sales channel. This is exactly how companies should treat social media.

Community management

You can find a detailed article on this here: https://www.example.com/blog/community-management/

Its key points are:

  • Reply to inquiries, comments or complaints promptly!
  • Listen to your fans on social media. React to your wishes, moods, complaints.
  • Establish clear rules for the behavior of your community and take action if these rules are violated.
  • Separate customer service from company presence (if possible).

Advertorial, distribution of advertising content

In general, advertorials on social networks are a good idea for companies. So far there has only been the option to place advertorials on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube (as of July 2014). Depending on the network, the prices, the forms of advertising and the accuracy of the target are different.

What is social media marketing