Did you know that around 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some shape or form, no matter what they are selling or who they are selling it too? Social media is a major marketing tool used to increase brand awareness and your bottom line.
Just like a website, as a business you need a social media plan when looking at marketing your brand, service or product online.
As I am writing this, there are 7.2 billion people on earth, with this number growing every second of the day. Approximately 3 billion of this number of people has Internet access; and 2.1 billion of them are active on social media; with around 1.7 billion using their social networks from their mobile device, which means your brand also needs to be responsive.
It is expected that by 2018, the amount of people using social media will grow to 2.5 billion worldwide, so it is fair to say that social media has become very important in today's market, yet will be even more important tomorrow and the week after, and the years to come.
When I was at university, social media wasn't even a blip on my radar, let alone there now being an entire career choice in social media for students today. Many organisations have their own social media managers with the main purpose to drive their business brand online on multiple social platforms. Without doubt it has become an essential avenue to reach your current and potential customer, gain valuable insights into your business and industry, as well as growing your brand online and with the platforms themselves being free to use, you don't need to set aside huge marketing budgets to get benefits back from using them.
The greatest expense of using social media is the time needed to post and tweet, unless you choose to use paid advertising options to boost your brand and connect with even more new audiences.
Recent statistics tell us that the average social media user has around 5 accounts, with the "most important" social networks to teens and young adults aged between 12 to 24 now being Instagram with 32%, Twitter at 24%, Facebook at 14%, Snapchat at 13% and Tumblr at 4%. So what about the older generation! Well around 35% of over 65's use social media and of that social media a majority use Facebook.
Another little interesting fact for you is that mothers with children under the age of five are the most active users on social media. Breaking it down as a marketer – these stats are telling me and you about potential target markets, where and how I can reach them.
So, no matter your business target group, you will find them on social media today, which is why it has become such a relevant marketing channel to promote your business and to reach your audience. You do need to keep in mind though, that each social medium has its own rules and structure to follow. No one size fits all, so it is important that you adapt your message to each individual medium you use. Done right, your message can spread like wildfire and in turn boost your presence online, visits to your website and increase your sales.
Now I did mention in my title social media as a double-edged sword, so let us look at some things when using social media that you need to be aware off.
As easily as you can build your business profile up on social media, just as easily it can fall apart. As I previously mentioned, social media moves faster than anything else out there and nothing ever really dies on social media, and in fact on the internet for that matter. Once anything is online it leaves a footprint. When a negative thread or conversation starts, you may end up battling it forever. Even if you manage to put a particular topic or event behind you, it can rear its ugly head at any time.
Another down side of social media for businesses is the "grammar freaks". Everyone and I mean everyone will make mistakes. After all we are only human, but there seems to be a disproportionate number of armchair quarterbacks or backseat drivers (you choose) on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook than anywhere else within the social media universe.
As an individual you can use abbreviations, butcher spellings and throw out as much slang as you like for the sake of the ever present word count, but if you try this as a business, then you immediately lose credibility online and your social media reputation is important.
Now, with your social media reputation being important, let's look at reviews and these can be the greatest thing since sliced bread or a total nightmare for your business. You know yourself within the purchasing process; you will search about the product or company online looking for reviews, as you want to know what other people have to say. These reviews are also a big contributor to how high a site can rate in search engine rankings. In many cases when you search for a business, the online reviews generally pop up in the 3rd or 4th position of the very sought after area within organic search results of the top 1 to 5 rank positions. One of the problems is that there is no true verification whether or not the information posted by a reviewer is actually true and may be a complete fabrication or the reviewer could even have you confused with another company that has a similar name.
I recently had someone send me a disgruntled email about receiving telemarketing calls and threatened to report us to the appropriate body, problem was that as a business we have never and never will use telemarketing to promote our services. He had to search online to try and find the company who he was looking for and came across us, and in assuming he had the right company he sent this not so nice email, so I very politely responded to his message telling him that he had mixed us up with another business. Mistaken identity can happen to any business, so just be aware.
I will point out here that username confusion can also impact negatively on your presence online as well. So research any names similar or the same as a product you are promoting before you create your @... or #... and start spreading the word, as you don't want to get mixed up with another username or tag when promoting your business, service or product.
With these points in mind, it is a great idea to have a reputation management program in place for all your online social activities. You want to focus on increasing the volume of high-quality, positive information about your business presence on the internet. You cannot stop a competitor, or disgruntled employee, and an irate customer from posting negative things about your business, but you can reduce its impact by balancing these negative messages with positive ones. Also, don't be scared to respond to negative comments online. When I have been searching myself for reviews on products and companies, I have seen so many negative reviews with no actual response from the business themselves. When I do come across I negative review with an actual response I am more impressed by the company for actually dealing with the issue. All you need to do is consider about how best effectively to respond to these comments before you reply. Never respond from an over emotional view point or God forbid a high moral ground.
Also don't wait for the problem to surface before starting with a reputation management program. It takes time to build a good, trustworthy online reputation. In public relation circles many big and small businesses have risk management plans in place to deal with issues before they have even happened, so that if they do have to face them, they have a plan in place ready to be implemented to counteract and deal with the situation.
You may have heard that social media can also be great for your SEO, as your posts can be used to drive targeted traffic to your website. Search engine crawlers also know which pages are consistently earning traffic and which pages are just floating out there in internet space, often forgotten and ignored. It is important to have an effective SEO strategy in place and within this strategy you must remember your 'content is king'. Social media is all about content, as well as visual images and video. And if you aren't aware, search engines also now crawl images and the titles you give them are important in helping with your SEO.
It is generally considered that users on social media would be more receptive to your messages because a majority of people look at Twitter and Facebook as social networks and not marketing machines. So if you post with this view in mind, then they're less likely to see what you post as an advertisement and will be more likely to hear what you have to say to them. Put yourself in their shoes as this will help you to develop the right kind of message.
I am going to point out here the other side of the coin though in regards to this general perception on how social media networks are viewed, as I think this perception will change as our pages fill up more and more with advertisements (paid and non-paid) more frequently over time. This I think would be a whole other blog though on how companies are researching our movements online to target us with their product advertisements.
With your posts and tweets, make sure you are giving your audience more FREE information then paid or a sales pitch. If you bombard your audience with too many sale pitches and too much self-promotion, then they are more likely to leave you. You want to create a relationship and loyalty to you and your brand.
Ssocial media it is here to stay. I was walking past a retail store earlier today and noticed a #... sign in the window, so it is everywhere you go, but as a business how you choose to utilise it will be what is important to effectively growing your brand online.
There is plenty of information on the do's and don'ts in many blogs such as this one to help you, otherwise if you do feel overwhelmed with it all and want to talk to someone about your social media strategy then give us a call on (07) 5592 2685 or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.