Why is Social Media Good for Business?
Social networking sites are where we connect with friends, family and colleagues. It's where we share what we love, what (or who) we don't love. It has also become a place for businesses and organisations to connect to their audience in a way they never have before. Social networking sites have changed the way businesses and organisations advertise, perhaps forever.
Social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have become powerful marketing tools. On these sites, it's word of mouth that is the most powerful force: what people say about you, your company and its products and services can make or break your reputation. Many companies ignore social media, but it is a great place to connect with your customers and potential customers in a genuinely interactive way.
Social media has changed the way companies advertise, and the power has shifted from traditional advertising, where audiences were largely passive, to the audience themselves. It's now the customers who decide what they want to share.
So What is Social Media?
The umbrella term social media includes:
- Blogs / forums
- Profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google +, which allow a wide range of people without web development skills to upload unique content and share it with people all over the globe
So why is social media so popular?
Simply, 'people like connecting with other people' - Brandon Eley and Shayne Tilley
How Popular is Social Media in the UK?
Current UK stats * on social media suggest that there's no sign of it slowing down. It's a constantly growing market.
- Facebook - 50% of the UK population has a Facebook account, with the largest demographic being 25-34 year-olds. If this is your target demographic, you're onto a winner.
- Twitter- 15 million users in the UK. Recent studies suggest that 40% of these subscribers use the microblogging platform just to read rather than post. This is worth remembering if you feel that your target audience are not engaging with your posts. Not writing about your posts doesn't necessarily mean they are not engaging with it or clicking through to your blogs / your website
- LinkedIn - There are currently 10 million UK users. Recent studies have shown that a staggering 64% of visits to corporate websites come from LinkedIn. More than 2 users sign up for LinkedIn every second in the UK
- Google + - According to studies, interaction between brands and Google + users is growing, with 53% of such interactions being reported as positive
* Statistics from Digital Insights
Practical Guidance - Make Social Media Work for You
1. Word of Mouth is Powerful -
Good news spreads fast - social networking is all about socialising and participating in two-way conversations. Far from marketing hype and sales-spiel, the interaction that takes place between brands and businesses and their target audiences online is fundamentally about human interaction and being genuinely helpful. If your customers have had a good experience with you, they'll want to tell their friends, family and colleagues about it. If you're providing them with something of genuine practical value (something that will save them time or money, for example), they will want to spread the word. And social media platforms are an easy way for them to do this.
Remember, too, that bad news also tends to travel fast. A disgruntled customer can air their bugbears across social media networks in a matter of seconds.
How can you deal with this? Our article 7 Ways to Deal With Negative Online Feedback gives you some useful tips about how negative feedback can be dealt with, and how it can actually be an opportunity to turn things round for your company's long-term benefit.
2. Get to Know Your Audience -
The effectiveness of your social media strategy can depend on who your target demographic is. For example, if your target audience is mainly women between the ages of 25 and 45, Pinterest could be one of your main social media platforms to target. Similarly, if your main demographic is teenagers, Facebook is probably not the strongest platform for this age group. Follow your target audience on social media platforms and for a while just listen... what do they need? What are the issues they have? Get to know them, not to sell to them, but to find out how best you and your products / services can fulfil their needs.
3. Build a Blog -
Giving your target audience some genuinely useful information helps you to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Having a blog which is regularly updated with fresh content is a great way to do this. You can drive traffic to your blog through your social networking platforms. Companies who have a blog on their website have up to 97% more inbound links than those without one (Hubspot), which is testament to the blog's power.
- A blog is your chance to show your target audience that you're an expert - that you are the business they can rely on to give sound, authoritative advice that they can trust
- Having a blog can help build your target audience's trust over time - as long as you keep your blog going and post regularly and consistently
- Use microblogging sites such as Twitter to drive traffic to each blog post - lure them with catchy headlines that are clickable - and make sure that your blog post delivers what it has promised!
4. Go Beyond the Written Word
Videos and audio content such as Podcasts are growing in popularity. Both of these have the advantage of being easy for target audiences to absorb. It is also far easier to make a meaningful connection with someone if you can see their face and / or hear their voice. As a business, if you have video and audio content on offer, you instantly become more accessible to your audience. You can also reach a much wider audience. There may be some within your target audience who either cannot read well due to disabilities or language barriers or simply don't have the time or inclination, so adding audio and video content to your repertoire will delight them.
5. Develop Your Company Voice
Modern consumers, especially those on social networking platforms, are becoming more and more immune to content that is obvious advertising. Presenting the human side of your business and being on a level with your target audience is becoming the way to go on social networking sites. People don't want to be distracted from what they're doing by banner ads or intrusive sales-speak. Join in the conversations your audience are already having and you're more likely to get their attention.
Buffer Social tells us why your company's tone of voice matters on social networking sites. It works to: 'humanise your brand and let you take part in conversations naturally'
Innocent are a company who have thought very carefully about their company voice and tone when writing their static content for their website, their blog and their social media posts. Because of the nature of their product, they can get away with having a very informal, relaxed and even humourous tone for their online content. The nature of your business can to a large extent dictate the voice of your brand online. For example, if you're selling legal services, your voice would be friendly but probably wouldn't stray into humour too much. It would be important for you to maintain the aura of authority that such a business emits.
Lucie Bright, head of copywriting at Innocent Smoothies, talks about the rationale behind the company's voice: 'We write the way we speak, and we speak to everyone the same way we speak to our friends (but without the swearing)'
Jay Baer from Convince and Convert highlights the importance on social networking sites of showing the human element of your company: 'Don't just give your customers something to talk about; give them somebody to talk about'
So, we've discussed how social media platforms can drive traffic to your website. It can generate interest in your products and services, your brand and your staff members. We've also looked at what you can do to ensure your social media presence provides your target audience with useful content that they will want to share with their family, friends and colleagues.
Making a beneficial contribution to an online community and forging meaningful interactions with your target audience are good ways of getting onto a wider audience's radar in a positive way. Giving advice that is genuinely useful and has no ulterior motive will win people over.
We're always interested to hear what you think - use our comments section below to add your thoughts and findings.
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