The Power of Social Media
They say that video killed the radio star, but what has social media killed? Well, essentially everything. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are all consumers, which means we all know that from a consumer’s point of view, social media is used for many reasons; communication, entertainment, for sharing the highs in life and for sharing the occasional lows, for finding information on our favourite places or catching the daily news and most importantly, for sharing a photo of the best looking coffee that we've ever had, in a shiny white mug, with a perfectly rounded handle and just the right amount of foam on top, with an incredibly symmetrical love heart that’s been drawn right...in...the middle.... Okay – back to reality now.
Let’s flip the switch and look at all of this from a business point of view. Is social media as important in the corporate world? Without a doubt! Social media has become one of the most powerful tools available to businesses today; for marketing, advertising, communication, endorsements, partnerships and so much more. So, what can a business actually get from posting an update, sharing an article or uploading photos of their achievements? In reality, the benefits are endless. But there are three standouts that can be gained from social media, regardless of the industry you're in.
1. BRAND AWARENESS
If a business doesn’t use social media, it’s already behind. Social media has the power to introduce your brand to multitudes of different people, in different locations, at any time, on any day. Great, right? Well, it gets better... Social media is a way of keeping your brands name in your customers’ minds. It’s simple; the more you post, the more you appear in your audience’s feed, the more they familiarise themselves with your brand and then the next time they need something – you’re the first company they think of.
With the relatively recent inclusion of sponsored ads across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, brand awareness has become the biggest plus-side of social media for business, to date. Running an ad is an inexpensive way to promote your brand name, and it even has an added feature - audience selection. You can now target your ad towards an audience based on their location, age, gender and interests.
Social media has become the modern version of television, radio and newspaper, all-in-one. But what makes it better? Well, in a digital age where everybody owns a mobile phone and the idea of “being connected” is associated with the amount of hours you spend online, social media platforms already have a head start. People are busy, there’s very little time to actually stop and read the paper, listen to the radio or watch the TV. Even when a spare minute arises and we get the chance to do one of those things, is our full concentration really there? Let’s say you have some time to sit down and watch your favourite TV show, all is going well, but then the ad break comes on - what do you do? You reach for that trusty technological device that’s sitting right next to you screaming out for attention.
Ad breaks are becoming less relevant. What use to be a time to watch many different companies try and sell you a product, now becomes the time to scroll through your Instagram and Facebook feeds to see what you’ve missed out on. Television ads lose that battle, so what does that mean for business? Ads on television are slowly being interrupted by social media engagement. The captive audiences are online. Ads on TV are being ignored, whilst ads on social media are getting noticed.
2. A TRY BEFORE YOU BUY EXPERIENCE RICH IN CUSTOMER SERVICE
Just because you have a social media account doesn’t mean you have a sale. Potential customers come to your social media pages to get a feel for your brand. They expect to see visual content showcasing the products you sell and the services you provide. They want to read customer reviews and they definitely want to know how you interact with your audiences. They want visual proof, per se and they want to receive great customer service. People come to a Facebook or Instagram page to essentially “try” your brand before they “buy” from it. Before they visit you or give you a call, they want to find out exactly what you can provide for them, whilst in the comfort of their own home. For a business on social media, this means a few things:
- Share visual content often
Visual content is what consumers come to your page to see. They want to get to know you, they want to know what you’re all about and they want to see exactly what you sell; what it looks like how it works and how it will benefit them. They want the experience of physically being in your store, without actually being there.
- Be transparent
Transparency in business can go a long way. Consumers want to feel like they know everything there is to know about your business. They want to trust who they are buying from and want to be confident in their purchase decision and what better way to help them than through your social media accounts? “Social media is a new way to be transparent. People express themselves more openly and in a more public way than ever before.” (Fast Company)
- Regularly monitor your pages
All social media accounts should be checked every day. This gives you the chance to reply to any messages, comments or queries that have been received. When people come into a physical store they expect to receive a high level of customer service - social media is no exception. Consumers now turn to social media for assistance and when they have a question, they don't want to wait for an answer.“They expect fast response times and 24/7 support.” (Hootsuite)
- Provide incentives for customer endorsements
Before you try a restaurant or buy a new product, what do you normally do? Do you op online and read reviews? Because we all know that there’s nothing more comforting than knowing that another consumer has thoroughly enjoyed something that you want to try, right? According to a consumer survey, “88% (of consumers) have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business” (Search Engine Land). So where does this put social media? In a very powerful position in fact. Social media can be used as a form of brand validation. Customer reviews can be posted directly to your business' Facebook page, comments on a public Instagram post can act as a fantastic endorsement and having a consumer post a photo of your work to their own page after they’ve had a great experience, well that’s even better!
Give people a reason to endorse you on social media, reward them for doing you a huge favour; offer them a discount for the next time they purchase from you or offer an alternative gift. Positive customer endorsements can act as a very, very powerful tool. “Chances are that you rely heavily on reviews in making your own purchase decisions. Why wouldn’t you expect your customers to do the same?” (Entrepreneur)
3. FREE MARKETING
Unless of course you opt for paid advertising, social media marketing is free. You have the ability to create a complete image of your brand based purely on what you share, what you post and how you interact with your audience. Just through the creation of a free social media account, you’re given the opportunity to reach large audiences in a short amount of time. You can do this through the creation of a hashtag which groups posts together, or by liking other brands content, therefore pushing your brand name into the view of others.
Aside from marketing your brand online, consumers often do it for you – sometimes without even realising. Social media gives people the power to like or comment on posts, to tag their friends in posts and to share posts to their own personal page. Almost like a huge domino effect, when someone reacts to a post, that same post now appears in their friends’ news feeds. Viola! And just like that, your brand name has appeared in front of a whole new group of people. Social media has become the new Google (well, sort of). People tend to turn to Facebook or Instagram to search for a company to gather details, instead of using Google. “Facebook them” and “See if they have an Instagram” have become two of the most commonly used phrases when it comes to brand talk.
Another form of free marketing (which should never be forgotten), is the ever-powerful word-of-mouth. Positive word-of-mouth is considered one of the strongest ways to promote your brand. According to a study conducted by Nielsen in September 2015, “the most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. 83% of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family”. When someone other than yourself is positively promoting your company, you don’t want to let that go astray.
Social media is bigger than ever. Continuous updates, tailored specifically to suit the business world, means that this is a wave you do not want to miss. Despite there being endless amounts of benefits for a brand utilising social media, three stand out. Social media provides platforms that can aid in increasing brand awareness, that can give potential customers a “try before you buy” experience and that can introduce a low cost marketing strategy, comparitive to traditional media, to your business. There’s very little reason to not be on social media and to be blatantly honest – if you’re not on social media, you’re missing out on the many, many opportunities it has to offer. By using the available platforms to extend your reach, promote your brand and connect with your customers ALL at the same time, you'd be helping your business in more ways than one. Make your marketing fun - go online.