The definition of social media can be formulated as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking” (Oxford Dictionaries, online, 2012). Social Networking Sites (SNS), on the other hand, can be defined as “sites built around the needs of like-minded individuals, and are built by those individuals” (Wertime and Fenwick, 2012, p.12).
Social media is perceived to be the primary platform for distribution of viral marketing messages. Increase in the numbers and types of social media can be interpreted as an indication of increasing significance of viral marketing in scope and depth.
The following set of important features of social media can be specified:
Firstly, users of social media add value to it by their participation. The numbers of users is considered to be one of the main indicators of popularity, and consequently the success of social media. Accordingly, engaging in viral marketing through the types of social media that has large numbers of participants can be considered as an effective approach to viral marketing.
Secondly, social media reflects collective intelligence. According to its type and purpose, the database is regularly enriched by its members by the addition of texts, articles, video, pictures etc. Specific marketing messages are usually integrated with these elements with the intention for these messages to go viral.
Thirdly, social media is associated with a high level of accessibility and usability. Increasing levels of accessibility and usability though mobile phones, tablets, and other devices have positive implications on the potentials of viral marketing on the platform of social media.
Fourthly, social media is an effective platform for sharing information within a small niche. Each segment within various types of social media is usually built and maintained around the interest of specific group of individuals. This creates an effective marketing opportunity for firms targeting the representatives of this group.
Fifthly, social media offers its users the possibilities of becoming authors. In other words, members of social media can spread marketing messages about products and services through social networking sites motivated by various reasons.
Social Media (2013) Oxford Dictionaries, Available at: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/social%2Bmedia
Wertime, K. & Fenwick, I. (2012) “DigiMarketing: The Essential Guide to New Media and Digital Marketing” John Wiley & Sons