The planning and management of social media-based advertising and content marketing strategies are similar to their counterparts, such as online advertising and online video marketing, in a broader digital ecosystem. Since I have covered these topics in other lessons of this course, I would like to focus on the third and perhaps the most distinctive social media marketing strategy: leveraging the reach of social media influencers to promote marketing messages. The power of social media to connect, engage, and influence people is unprecedented in human history. Today, a couple hundred characters, an abstract symbol, or a random picture posted on social media can reach and influence tens of millions of people within a few minutes. Marketers often use social media to generate a sudden surge of public attention or buzz to promote products and services. More and more businesses today are limiting or even eliminating conventional promotion strategies, such as mass advertising, in favor of social media buzz campaigns. For example, in 2013, artist Beyoncé surprised her fans and the music industry by unexpectedly releasing her fifth studio album for purchase on Apple's iTunes music store with a post and video on her Facebook and Instagram pages. Unlike the typical release of a pop album, there was no traditional marketing or promotion or ramp up, no fanfare, no leaked pre-release versions, no demo copies to radio stations and industry insiders, and no early releases of singles to build fan excitement prior to the release. Relying solely on Beyoneé's own social media channels to announce the new album, she and her record company saved millions on the advertising costs while generating record breaking sales. Despite the lack of a traditional marketing ramp up, the album reportedly sold 430,000 copies with 80,000 copies downloaded in the first 3 hours after the announcement on Instagram and Facebook. Based on iTunes sales figures released by Apple, this album was the fastest selling album in iTunes history with 828,000 copies downloaded globally in the first 3 days. Social media is also an effective platform for word-of-mouth marketing. Endorsements and recommendations from trusted sources have always been a critical part of any persuasive strategy in marketing and consumer behavior research. Ellen Andreasen proposed 4 types of information sources: impersonal advocates, such as mass media institutions; impersonal independent, such as consumer reports and independent research; personal advocate, such as salespeople; and personal independent, such as friends. In e-word-of-mouth marketing, companies rely on social media sharing and liking to reach and influence potential customers. Each social media users can play the roles of a salesperson or an independent advocate. Theoretically, every single user on a social media platform can play a part in word-of-mouth marketing campaign. Now imagine, you can have 2 billion salespeople and advocates around the globe. This is the true power of social media. In addition to buzz marketing and word-of-mouth marketing, another frequently adopted social media marketing strategy is influencer marketing. An influencer is someone who carries influence over others. Think about the influencers in your life. They could be your parents, siblings, professors, or friends. These influencers can affect your decisions in all domains of your life, including consumer-related behavior such as purchase decisions and product or brand attitude. Influencer marketing focuses on using influencers to promote a brand message, product, or service to the larger market. Influencer marketing is not new. It has been around for a long time. In fact, celebrity and ethic endorsements were the first forms of influencer marketing dating back centuries. What is new today is that any individual can become an influencer in the world of social media. A social media influencer does not have to be a bonafide celebrity, regular people, like you and I, now have the ability to become online celebrities with strongly engaged social media following. Social media has leveled the playing field, giving anyone from around the world the opportunity to have a voice. The brands are taking notice. Big and small brands are starting to allocate budgets towards influencer marketing, which is now a billion-dollar industry, and influencers are taking full advantage, changing the way that companies market their products completely. Marketing practitioners often treat buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, and influencer marketing as separate tactics. Indeed, there are differences in the planning and execution of these marketing solutions. However, I think it is more beneficial to consider these tactics holistically by focusing on their shared common core strategic element: the influencers. A marketing strategy will never create buzz without it being shared widely by influential connectors in a social network. Similarly, e-word-of-mouth marketing is not that different from using an offline direct sales network in terms of scale and effectiveness without the boost from social media influencers. In comparison, the outcome and impact of buzz marketing and e-word-of-mouth marketing are more difficult to control and predict than a well-planned and well-executed influencer marketing.