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The four zones of social media marketing

09 Aug
Man using a social media marketing concept on mobile phone with notification icons.

In today's world, social media is like the bustling town square of the digital age. It's where over 4 billion people, from everyday fans to big-time CEOs, connect with brands and each other.1

Brands touch nearly every industry, ranging from food and fashion to entertainment and travel. Users not only like, share, and comment on posts, they also create their own content.

A company’s social presence is a critical part of its overall marketing strategy. In fact, your social presence can build or break a brand’s relationship with consumers. About 73% of consumers say the brand’s social media presence influences their decision to buy its products and services.2 With this in mind, it’s crucial to understand how to use social media intentionally.

Let’s take a look at some successful marketing campaigns, the channels available to marketing teams, and how to use the four social media zones to bolster your brand and campaigns.

Getting started on a successful social media marketing campaign

A well-orchestrated social media campaign could help you attract millions of potential new customers in a matter of hours. The first rule of a successful campaign is to know your audience. The second is to do your research and identify the social channels that your target audience uses most often. Social media is all about participation.

Choosing a hashtag is another important step in a successful social campaign. As a vehicle for building brand awareness and community, that hashtag is like your company’s calling card. Make sure it’s unique and engages your audience. Hashtags also help you track campaign performance. For example, Dove’s #DetoxYourFeed campaign was successful because it raised awareness about toxic beauty advice, and that message strongly resonated with its audience of women.3

Canadian-based Swoop launched its “This beach is a coupon” campaign to compete against more popular booking operators, and that approach netted impressive results.3 Depending on your goal, you could see a boost in sales, brand awareness, or engagement.

Know your social media channels

There are dozens of channels out there, and each one appeals to different audiences and follows its own rules of engagement. Since Facebook was first launched in 2004, it has reigned as the king of social connection platforms, with 3 billion daily active users.4 People in search of learning experiences turn to YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn. Gamers can be found on Twitch, first launched in 2011, which has 140 million monthly users.5

With all the options out there, have fun exploring social channels—and the features that distinguish each one. But keep in mind that your company doesn’t need a presence on all platforms. Your marketing plans should identify channels that closely match your target audience, industry, and goals as well as consider their potential reach and ROI.

The four social media zones: A closer look

The four zones framework provides one way to understand consumer behavior online and focus on the function of each social channel or platform.6 In these zones, brands and customers, influencers and followers interact, and that activity builds an organization’s or individual’s social presence.

There may be overlap between the zones because users engage in more than one behavior on a platform. For example, they might purchase a product on Amazon and also publish a review. Not only do brands build relationships with their customers on these platforms, but users develop relationships with each other.

The first zone is “Community” and involves sharing, socializing, and communicating. The second zone is social publishing, which involves brands and independent creators producing and distributing content, such as blogs, podcasts, and videos. If the content is part of a well-planned editorial calendar, it can help brands keep existing audiences happy as well as gather feedback and identify new target audiences. The third zone, social commerce, is all about buying and selling goods and services. The zone of social entertainment revolves around play, enjoyment, and escape from daily routines.

Zone 1: Social community

For social media users around the globe, social connection is one of the most important drivers of behavior. Social channels like Facebook create connections through relationships and participation in common activities, including users sharing their own content.

In fact, hundreds of brands use selfies to increase engagement with their marketing campaigns. As of this publishing, the hashtag #selfie has been used more than 185 million times.7

Many users believe social media even has the power to unify people who think differently. When you think about your own social participation, what makes you feel connected to a brand, cause, or community?

For many people, interestingly enough, an active CEO can make people feel connected. When a CEO regularly uses social, about 65% of users say it feels like real people run the business.8

Zone 2: Social publishing

If you have ever shared photos and videos, then you have been a social publisher. Food, retail, entertainment, and hospitality brands are active in this zone, and they publish articles, videos, and recipes with links to increase brand awareness.

Some companies with bigger budgets do a mashup of celebrity sponsorships and cultural branding to maximize the impact of their content on audiences.9

Zone 3: Social commerce

In this zone, companies want to retain customers, reinforce brand loyalty, and perhaps target new audience segments. Companies also think about how to boost user-generated content, such as reviews and ratings that will entice others to purchase their products.

How do you promote your social content, so that it attracts new customers? How do you retain happy customers? Focusing your marketing efforts on a specific goal can help your company grow and be successful. The key is choosing the right goal for your business.

For example, if you have a new social presence, your company’s marketing goal might be to make sure people in specific geographic locations are aware of your service, whether that’s pet grooming or car repair. Maybe you have a health foods business and an established social presence, but you want to find new customers and develop a campaign around that goal.

To navigate the challenges and complexities of Zone 3 effectively, it’s crucial to understand the pivotal role of certain key marketing elements. These core components can guide your approach, ensuring you strike the right balance between attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.

Here, we highlight five elements that should form the cornerstone of any robust social commerce strategy:

1. Awareness: Make sure enough people know about your product or service.

2. Advocacy: Find ambassadors to give glowing product reviews.

3. Retention: Convert potential customers on the fence to fans.

4. Purchase: Get new people to try your product.

5. Consideration: Convince them that your product is better.

By integrating these five elements into your social commerce strategy, you can create a comprehensive roadmap that not only achieves your immediate objectives but sets the stage for long-term growth and success in the dynamic world of social commerce.

Zone 4: Social entertainment

This zone includes options for play and enjoyment, such as gaming sites, alternate reality, and entertainment communities. Gaming sites include major brands, such as Nintendo and Disney. Many focus on niche areas like adventure and sports, while others target specific demographics like Gen Y or Millennials.

Breaking zone boundaries

The boundaries between the four zones are not meant to be rigid; they change as social channels and user behavior evolves. For example, Facebook is the first place you would expect to find family and friends sharing graduation or vacation pictures. Many LinkedIn users expect to find potential job candidates or career-related advice, not family-related content.

But, rules are made to be broken. Over the years, the site has become a learning platform and evolved to the point where users feel comfortable sharing family and personal milestones, especially if they are related to topics like work-life balance.

Maximize your social media strategy

Before your company creates new social profiles or launches a campaign, it’s important to weigh the risks and rewards. If you ignore social media, you risk losing market share to your competitors, and that could hurt your business, according to Corporate Compliance.10

Social media not only provides a space for engaging with fans and followers, it’s also a tool for social listening and responding to satisfied and dissatisfied customers. Activity on your social accounts can help you identify how to improve products and services. But the intelligence you gather is valuable—that’s why you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.

Potential risks include losing sensitive data, suffering reputation harm, and even accidentally engaging in compliance violations. Companies also need to protect themselves against theft or leakage of information as well as network viruses and malware.

Such risks can seem overwhelming, but they don’t have to be—if you have a plan of attack. Assemble a team of experts and develop strategies for mitigating risk.

Depending on your company’s size and social media activity, designate staff members to closely monitor channels for negative comments and train them on best practices in reputation management.

Dive deeper into social media mastery with KU's free eBook

In the digital age, creating standout marketing campaigns is more than just a skill—it's an art form. And like all art forms, there are tools and resources that can help hone your craft.

That's why the University of Kansas School of Business has curated the essential eBook, “Create Effective Marketing Campaigns”, for professionals like you. Click here to get your free copy today.

Going beyond just the nuances of the four social media zones, this comprehensive guide offers a deep dive into the labyrinth of digital marketing. Whether you're keen on optimizing content, understanding intricate digital strategies, or mastering the dynamics of different social media platforms, this eBook is your go-to resource.

Every chapter of the eBook encapsulates knowledge that's essential for both novices and veterans in the marketing sphere. From content conceptualization to real-time performance tracking, it's a holistic approach to understanding and implementing successful marketing campaigns.

Master social media strategy—and much more—with a KU School of Business online MBA

Building an effective social media campaign is one of many ways you will be immersed in real-world business practices in The University of Kansas’ No. 7 Best online MBA program.11Through social and digital marketing coursework, you’ll have a chance to work with classmates on planning, implementing, and measuring a social campaign connected to a real-life sporting event.

The KU online MBA program melds excitement with expertise. Students delve into analytics, social media, and management, guided by seasoned instructors. As the digital landscape shifts, KU ensures its graduates are not only up-to-date but primed for the future, setting students on a trajectory to stand out.

To find out more about what KU’s top-ranked online MBA has to offer you, make an appointment with a KU admissions outreach advisor today.11