The first in a series of articles about social media for business
Coming up later: Which social media platforms should your business use? | How to build a social media community for your business |How to create a social media campaign for your business | Common social media mistakes businesses make | A guide to Facebook Ads for businesses
There are over 2.3 billion active users of social media in the world. Many businesses are using it as an effective marketing platform to build their brands, enhance their reputation and engage with potential customers.
That being said, not every business needs a social media presence, and for some, it can be detrimental.
Pros of social media marketing for business
Sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a free marketing tool. You can pay a bit extra to increase you audience, but it’s possible to nurture a huge organic reach for free if you use social media platforms effectively. That means more money to spend on other types of advertising, and it’s great news for smaller businesses who don’t have a huge marketing budget.
Social media marketing allows you to reach further than your usual, loyal customers. It’s a gateway to your website, allowing people with different behaviours and demographics to find your business. “For instance, perhaps someone in an older demographic of consumers will search for your website using a particular keyword on Facebook, but a millennial could begin their search by using a different social media platform entirely, because they search for products totally differently,” say Blue Fountain Media. You will, however, need an effective strategy to do this, so look out for future articles in this series.
It can be used for much more than marketing
Your social media channels can be used for customer service, business intelligence, market research, getting customer reviews and recommendations, and in general, building a much closer connection with your clients. Many big brands allow customers to contact them directly via their social media channels, which can be both a benefit, and a hindrance, as negative customer comments have been known to go viral if handled badly.
Collecting customer data
Social media channels allow you to collect lots of useful data via their analytics applications. You can see instantly what your target audience respond to best, and at what times they are most active. This allows you to adjust your content accordingly. It can also help you to track conversions, benchmark against your competitors and identify influencers (people that share your content with their audiences).
Social media allows businesses to look human and establish trust and loyalty amongst their followers. “When consumers see your company posting on social media, especially replying to customers and posting original content, it makes you appear more credible.” Blue Fountain Media explain. By nature, social media generates interactions and relationships, which can have a positive impact on your brand loyalty.
“When consumers make purchasing decisions among different options, they are more likely to select a product that they are familiar with,” say Lyfemarketing.com. The more followers and brand awareness you can foster, the more sales you are likely to make – Inc.com found that there is a positive link between social media following and how much a business is worth in a study of 14,000 business owners.
Cons of social media marketing for business
In order to utilise the full advantages of social media marketing – customer service, posting lots of content and responding to analytics, etc – you’ve got to make a long-term commitment and put in a lot of hours. A study by the Social Media Examiner found that marketers spent anything from 1 to 40 hours per week on social media marketing. Another study found that almost half of small businesses spend around 6 hours a week on social media. The internet is a busy place and “it’s making it harder for companies to reach to the segmented audience with valid and informative messages [that] resonate.” You need to plan and implement a social media marketing strategy to avoid getting lost in the crowd. It depends on the business, but smaller teams need to consider whether they have the resources, and which areas to prioritise.
Risk of miscommunication or negative feedback
Unhappy customers can be quick to post their feedback on your public social channels. When managed effectively, the damage can be minimalised – the general advice is that you should always respond, do it swiftly, take ownership of your mistakes and then try and take the conversation offline. This can take a lot of time and effort and there is still the risk of it going wrong or internet trolls who just won’t quit. Equally, having a large amount of complaints on your channels can make your brand suffer. You need to decide if you want potentially inaccurate or unfair negative feedback aired on such a public forum.
Doesn’t work for every business
Big Mouth Marketing argues that social media doesn’t work for some small business at all. If you’re a roofing company, for example, few people are likely to follow you on social media due to the nature of your business. There’s little gain in you spending time and money creating compelling, shareable content and building a following.
However, you could consider using Facebook to deal with customer queries. Target Marketing Mag suggests that you need to decide which, if any, social media channels are relevant to your business and target audience before you start posting away.
The next article in our series will help you figure out just that.