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A student contribution by Raef Bidawi reproduced without changes.

Social Media:
Opportunities and Challenges for Businesses and Marketers


In general, media has had various kinds of influence on individuals, whether it was their behavior, learning process or the decisions they make. The studies about media influence extend for many years, such as one done by Robert Kozma (1994)  from the University of Michigan, who concluded that in order to determine the influence of media, one has to consider its conditions, ways of operation and the processes through which it happens. This brings us to the way media is being disseminated to the audiences today, mainly through social media, which is providing both opportunities and challenges for marketers to form new relationships and design new approaches in dealing with their customers.

 By definition, social media is the set of media tools which are used for social interaction among individuals. Among its main features is that it is has greatly scalable and accessible communication techniques. According to Michael Haenlein and Andreas Kaplan (2010), social media is defined as the combination of applications that are internet-based and are built on the Web 2.0 technological foundations. This allows the exchange and creation of user-generated information and other content. However, for businesses, social media is more understood as being CGM: consumer-generated media, which can be used to create more value, awareness and equity for a company’s brand (Brauer & Bourhis, 2008). According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, marketers also have an opportunity to build a kind of “social authority” in the social media sphere that would allow them to establish their organization or company in the position of ‘experts’ in a certain area or field, and consequently gaining influence in it (Brauer & Bourhis, 2008). Indeed, the rise of social media through websites like Facebook and Twitter in the past few years has presented a new approach for media content that is more connected, targeted and influential to the audiences. Belle Liang, Meghan Commins, and Nicole Duffy (2010) explain that social media today has triggered the interest of people like educators, parents even economists and marketing strategists who would like to understand the main reasons that push young people to resort to the internet for reasons beyond just education and entertainment.  According to the authors, 57% of young people that use the internet in the U.S depend on social media as a key source for advice and information (Liang, Meghan, and Duffy, 2010).  This provides opportunities for a number of professionals, such as marketers who wish to sell their products to a targeted market. Here, the article entitled “Recommended Responses to the Social Media Opportunity” written for the Consortium for Service Information in the U.S, explains that the social media world encourages rapid feedback from the users. Whether it was a re-tweet and a hashtag on Twitter or Facebook's "like" or even simple comments on blogs and YouTube channels, answering customer questions and measuring customer satisfaction has become easier, quicker and more efficient with the presence of social media tool. Moreover, the article by E. Cervenková, P. Šimek, T. Vogeltanzová, & Stoces (2011) explains how social media’s use was also helpful for businesses in the agricultural sector: whether they were farmers, public limited companies or large companies, social media proved to be useful to them in the promotion of their products, services and spreading awareness about their scope of work, acting as “modern information tools” (p.1). Parise, Guinan and Weinberg (2008) explain that what social media provides marketers is a "remarkable new opportunity to engage consumers" (p.2), yet they should know how to do it effectively. After interviewing around 30 manages and executives in various organizations, the authors concludes is that what is needed is not to just talk to consumers via social media, but also work with them across the entire marketing process: it is about getting them involved and participate in activities which are related to marketing, from feedback to customer service and product development (Kay, 2011). Another survey showed that the responses of consumers to the publicity of a brand that was presented through blogs and other social media tools had more positive attitudes for that brand and a higher intention by the consumer to buy its product (Dahlen,& Collander, 2011). Another marketing implication is the high level of interaction between the ones that post the blogs and their readers, who are the consumers or potential consumers (Dahlen,& Collander, 2011).






A web showing the preparation phases for social media marketing:













Challenges and Reservations:

On the other hand, according to Mark Shaefer (2011), social media marketing cannot always be successful and it is often overrated.  The author asks “So why do so many people insist that we should be shoving social media down the throats of employees at every level of the company?  This is like forcing me to do accounting.  It would not be a good fit … I just don’t have that mindset.”  (Stop shoving social media down my throat, 2011, p.2).The author adds that not every person around has the ability, openness, mindset or aptitude to succeed in social media, yet this does not necessarily mean that they cannot fit in the business (Stop shoving social media down my throat, 2011).  An alternative to forcing social media on employees is to provide them with the guidelines and training to do it properly and explain why and how it connects with the overall strategy of the company (Stop shoving social media down my throat, 2011). Afterwards, these employees will gradually integrate themselves into the new style of work at any level they feel comfortable with. Moreover, Rebecca Fernandez downplays the importance and originality of social media, saying that it is only an amplified version of mouth marketing. As a result, it acts similar to a dialogue and not just a marketing message. This has implications: Fernandez  (2010) explains that branding, marketing and PR groups to evaluate the integrity and authenticity of the communications which they send and receive in social media. This is because here have been cases where organizations have been ignored or even unfriended because of their great dependency on social media to broadcast messages (Fernandez, 2010).

Video:  Social Media Marketing in 3 Minutes:

Video 2: Social Media Marketing: What Every Business Needs to Know. Retrieved from


Andreas, K.M & Haenlein, M. (2010). "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media".  Business Horizons 53 (1): 59–68. Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: Academic Search Premiere 

Brauer, M. , Bourhis, R. Y. (2006). Social power. European Journal of Social Psycholog,36, (4). Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: JSTOR

Cervenková1, P. Šimek1, T. Vogeltanzová, M. & Stoces, A. (2011). Social Networks as an Integration Tool in Rural Areas – Agricultural. Agris on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, 3. Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: PROQUEST

Dahlen, M. & Collander, J. (2011). Following the fashionable friend: The power of social media. Journal of Advertising Research, . 51 (1), p313-320.  Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: Business Source Premier

Fernandez, R. (2010). Is the influence of social media overhyped? Retrieved from

Liang, D.,  Meghan C., and Duffy,  N. (2010). Using social media to engage youth: Education, social justice, & humanitarianism. The Prevention Researcher, 17. Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: PROQUEST

Kay, D. (2010). Social success: Recommended responses to the social media opportunity future visions the dream. DB Kay & Associates. Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: PROQUEST.

Kozma, R. (1994). "Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate." Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19. Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: Academic Search Premiere

Parise, S. Guinan, P. & Weinberg, B. (2008). The secrets of marketing in a Web 2.0 world. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from the AUB Online Database: PROQUEST

Stop shoving social media down my throat (2011). Business grow. Retrieved from