A word on social media: why your business needs it
Just like your business, social media is constantly evolving, in order to remain relevant and competitive. A website establishes that your brand exists, but social media establishes that your brand is active. And if your customers are on social networks, then you need to be as well – to ensure you don’t get left in the dust.
The beauty of social media is that anyone can easily set up an account – whether they are a big corporate competing with the likes of Apple and Google, or a small budget-constrained start-up. And for the most part, it is entirely free to use! But even if you did want to take advantage of the various paid-for advertising options available, social media offers a more cost-effective solution when compared with traditional advertising methods – and has the potential to reach a much wider, and more targeted, audience.
“The beauty of social media is that anyone can easily set up an account – whether they are a big corporate competing with the likes of Apple and Google, or a small budget-constrained start-up”.
THROW THE NET WIDE
Put simply, you need to start thinking of social media as modern-day networking, hence the phrase ‘social networking’. According to We Are Social, the number of active social media users worldwide currently stands at approximately 2.78 billion – a staggering amount, considering the world’s population is around 7.47 billion. So just imagine how many people you can potentially reach, and connect with, simply by having an account or two.
Through the power of social media, the constraints of time and place have been almost entirely eliminated, and you can now communicate with a huge proportion of the world’s population – which is great news for any business, but especially for smaller companies and start-ups. This extensive global network means you can tap into new markets, gaining access to customers that you hadn’t even considered targeting previously.
And social media isn’t just for the younger generation anymore either. According to a study by the Global Web Index, the 55 to 64-year-old age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on Twitter, with a 79% growth rate since 2012 – whilst the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is the 45 to 54-year-old age bracket.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Understanding your audience is the key to giving them what they want, and to growing a profitable business. But to truly achieve this, you first need to get to know them. And what better way to do so than by initiating a conversation online? Social media generates a huge amount of data about your customers in real time – whether that’s about their location, interests or online behaviour. Meaning you can get to grips with what they are all about, and how best to target them.
Once you have got to know your audience, you can then start to build a relationship with them. People spend a large proportion of their time online – so social media is a great way to interact with them, and to tell your story. We previously discussed the importance of storytelling when it comes to engaging your audience, but stories also help build brand loyalty – by making your business feel more like a real person, and less like just another faceless corporation.
“Social media generates a huge amount of data about your customers in real time – whether that’s about their location, interests or online behaviour”.
STAYING IN THE LOOP
Being online allows you to be much more reactive than you can be with traditional marketing – as you can keep up with, and join in with, current conversations as they happen. But it’s important to remember that quality should always take priority over quantity – you want to have meaningful conversations that help establish long-term brand loyalty, not a fleeting or irrelevant chat.
It’s also worth noting that social media marketing can be carried out in a non-obtrusive way. Unlike promotional emails or leaflets for instance, it is a much subtler form of marketing. And those that thrive on social media are the ones who also provide valuable and considered content to their audiences – rather than just shoving thoughtless posts in potential customers’ faces!
Whilst we’re on the topic of content, social media is also a great way to boost your website’s search engine optimisation (SEO) – after all, it is essentially ‘shareable marketing’. Your social channels will help drive traffic to your optimised pages, meaning they will climb much faster in search engine results pages (SERPs), and your online presence and visibility will improve.
GOOD OLD CUSTOMER SERVICE
We all know that customer service can make or break a brand’s reputation – and that good customer service should always be at the forefront of your business ethos, and your online interactions. In this ‘always on’ digital age, customer service through social media is no longer just an option – it’s a necessity. Many consumers expect fast response times and even 24/7 support. And because communication through social media is immediate, it makes it much easier to meet this demand.
In a recent survey, Brandwatch found that 71% of consumers were more likely to recommend a brand if they had a good social media service experience with them – so it’s clear that being able to offer this is critical for your business. And when it comes to purchasing decisions, we are all well aware of just how powerful word-of-mouth recommendation can be. Why should customers take your word for it, when they can take the word of hundreds of other like-minded customers instead?
Of course, the immediacy of online communication also leaves you exposed and vulnerable – so you need to be prepared, and especially reactive when it comes to dealing with disgruntled customers. By demonstrating to these customers how well you handle problems when they arise, you will improve overall transparency – instilling confidence in them, and in others who see any part of the conversation.
APPROACH WITH CAUTION
It goes without saying that social media marketing should be approached with some degree of caution. Take heed of the familiar advice to think before you speak – or in this case, type! And remember, for social media to be effective you need to be committed to maintaining your accounts, and to making sure they are updated regularly – think of it as a medium to long-term strategy, rather than a quick short-term fix.
“Take heed of the familiar advice to think before you speak – or in this case, type!”
So, what are you waiting for? You don’t really have anything to lose in terms of money or time by setting up a social media account. In fact, even just a few minutes a day allocated to developing your social media presence could help you to ultimately increase sales.
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to start growing your audience and building a genuinely valuable network. After all, every social media profile you add to your repertoire is another opportunity to start a conversation with potential customers, and lead them back to your website to find out more.