Social Media Marketing: Implications for an E-Learning Startup


The owner of, an e-learning startup that plans to develop and offer self-paced learning content, is currently researching how social media can be used to attract and retain customers, build customer relationships, and establish brand recognition. Recent research provides convincing evidence of the viability of in terms of market size and demand. For example, the study done by Docebo (2014) revealed that by 2016, revenues generated in the self-paced e-learning market will reach $51.5 billion and while the greatest growth is expected in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America at 17.3%, 16.9%, 15.2%, and 14.6% respectively, North Americans spend more than any other region with $27.2 billion of revenues projected by 2018. The main drivers of sales in this market include:

  • Shrinking training and education budgets
  • Digitization of school systems
  • Steady growth of online enrollments
  • Adoption of digital products in commercial training and education

A study done by Adkins (2014) revealed that growth in sales of packaged and web-based self-paced e-learning products in North America is expected to exceed 18% through 2018. While North American growth is the lowest overall, it accounts for more than half of the worldwide revenues which are expected to stay strong. Further, as explained in the Docebo (2014) report, the self-paced e-learning market metrics exclude mobile educational applications and educational games and while no data was provided for those markets, they can do nothing but increase the revenue potential for products targeted in those markets. The subsectors of the self-paced e-learning market include packaged content defined as DVDs and web-based content, custom content development services, and authoring tools and platforms, the first of which is of concern to Adkins identified the following types of self-paced e-learning products in demand:

  • Business and finance
  • Business process training
  • Channel, partner, and supplier education
  • Compliance and mandated training
  • Continuing education
  • Customer, patient, or constituent education
  • Decision and performance support
  • Exam and test preparation courses
  • General academic courses
  • Hobby and instructional “how to” guides
  • Internal and external sales
  • IT-related courses
  • Language learning
  • Organizational, management, and leadership development
  • Professional licensure and certifications
  • Vertical professional skills and professional development

Preliminary analyses of the technological needs in terms of platform design, hosting options, and the production environment along with identification of the expertise required have been performed. However, the results are excluded here since they are beyond the scope of this investigation. The focus of this research is to gain a broad understanding of consumers online behavior, how social media has influenced marketing in the digital age and why it is important along with what challenges to expect when planning and implementing a social media marketing (SMM) strategy and what approaches have been studied in terms of aligning SMM efforts with company goals, allocating resources, and measuring effectiveness.