Social media is at its heart Internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content and focus on communication between people. As people have gradually moved more and more things online, social media is the crux that is helping to connect everything together. Most successful businesses have their website, but they also have a Facebook, a Twitter, a Google+, a LinkedIn, and a YouTube channel. Information is shared through all of these means to reach the broadest possible audience and it works.
Why do you need it?
We’ve already told you why you need a website; now it is time for us to tell you why you need social media.
All social media accounts are free to create and most are incredibly easy to maintain. The time you’ll need to spend on social media will be inconsequential in comparison to the gains you can receive by using it correctly. On services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube it is possible to boost your reach by paying to gain adverts and sponsored posts. In general these are much cheaper than standard methods of advertising and are a lucrative opportunity for any business.
Where Everyone Is
Most businesses are on social media these days and that includes your competitors and your potential allies as well as all of their customers. Those companies that own social media accounts are more likely to be seen by those customers and so are more likely to be used. With social media you can not only reach a whole new audience, you can build relationships with other companies leading to partnerships and referral business.
The important bit of the name ‘social media’ is the ‘social’. The entire point is to be social and to build relationships with the people around you. Anyone who’s anyone has access to social media and so you have the opportunity to build relationships with potential partners but also your customers. There’s a level of transparency that it provides as you are generally always speaking to a real person. Not only that but you can build a lot of good will with people by having fun with them. Just look at the fact that company twitter accounts regularly go partially viral for making witty comebacks at people who are joking around with them. A level of self-awareness in addition to actually properly helping out your customers and clients will go a long way to building those relationships with people. Obviously it is possible to go too far sometimes, and Twitter in general appears to be the best place for more humorous responses, but always being pleasant and fun on social media will get you a lot of fans.
Before the advent of social media there were only a few ways of advertising: print advertising in newspapers, direct mail, or flyering; TV advertising; radio advertising; email marketing. Now it is possible to cut out the expense of this and advertise through social media. You can spread the word across the Internet, potentially get your news trending or develop engagement with your company. You can sow the seeds and let the Internet do the rest of the work spreading your publicity into areas of the world that you may not have realised you could reach. Do be careful about the way in which you do your publicity on social media as tasteless or ill thought out campaigns will most likely be lampooned and receive a backlash from the internet at large. However, simply communicating with journalists, bloggers, and customers can help you get the best possible publicity for free! You’ll also get more brand mentions as customers will mention you in their posts, making you visible to their contacts, and more interactions means more brand mentions, which will help with SEO rankings!
People tend to prefer dealing with other human beings when it comes to customer service; they also greatly prefer a problem being dealt with quickly. Social media is a double-edged sword in this respect. On one hand, customers will have their wish of dealing with a real person who can adapt and respond to problems effectively on the customer’s terms. On the other, social media means that people have begun to expect an immediate response when they contact you on it. In the end, this should improve your customer service, as you will be forced to answer your customers’ questions more quickly and efficiently. There is also more incentive for you to deal with problems, as success will lead to publicly very happy customers which will help you a lot while complaints and negative interactions will drag your reputation down. Actively dealing with this effectively and having a positive follow-up interaction will also then be public, proving how good you are and making people more likely to use your products or service in the future.
SEO & Image Control
Constantly updating web pages are given priority by Google and other search engines. Social media feeds on your website are an excellent way of ensuring this happens. Social media in general is an excellent way of improving your SEO, as more people share your content the further up the SEO rankings you will go and the more likely you are to turn up in relevant searches. Most social users talk about their experiences on social media and if they’re mentioning your brand, all of their friends and followers are going to see that so not only is it helping on a publicity front, it’s also helping your SEO ranking so you’re more likely to reach more people. Having a mixture of social media accounts also means that you can make use of the clout these sites have. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ have excellent SEO rankings and so if you have accounts on sites like them, when people search for you in a search engine, those pages are more likely to turn up. It also means you can be in control over your image as your social media accounts are pages that you manage and so you have complete control over how your audience will perceive you. A lot of big brands’ search results will lead to review sites and blogs, so, having more social media pages means that you increase your chances of getting your voice heard.
The end result of a lot of this social media work is the ability to reach new audiences. Through speaking to people you can find your target audience or they can find you, you can make business contacts, you can make use of other companies’ customers, you can amplify the effectiveness of other marketing efforts and in general extend your outreach beyond a potentially purely local area. There really is no reason not to get social media as reaching those new audiences might also lead to an increase in sales or use of your services!
The Best Social Networks
At present, Facebook is easily the largest social network on the Internet with over a billion active users. For businesses, Facebook is an excellent way of posting longer pieces of information to your customers or letting them contact you, as Facebook Messenger will always notify you of new messages. The lack of anonymity means that you will know exactly to whom you are speaking and this makes the process a lot more personable, while the private nature of the chat can help avoid any pieces of confidential information. That Facebook Messenger will tell the customer or client when you have seen their message can act as a double-edged sword as if you do not respond immediately upon seeing the message, they may get annoyed. However, responding quickly will improve your customer service and make your customers very happy. People may also post publicly on your page so quick responses are always the best possible practice.
Twitter is definitely like the opposite of Facebook. While Facebook allows for longer posts, Twitter limits you to 140 characters. That said, this limitation means that all communications must be concise and efficient but also fast. The world of Twitter moves quickly so people expect a response within a few minutes. However, the speed with which you can communicate with people allows conversations to flow quickly and because of it you can really build up a rapport with your followers. Also because anyone can speak to anyone by simply tagging them, you can talk to and collaborate with a wide spectrum of people and get yourself trending.
LinkedIn is the social network for careers. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which for most people are personal accounts, LinkedIn is there to show potential employers and customers what you’re about. You are there to promote yourself and/or your business, outline experience, make connections with other professionals, post adverts of jobs or apply for them. It may not necessarily be the best network for advertising promotions, but it is without peer when it comes to networking and employment opportunities.
YouTube is the place online for video content and it pretty much has a monopoly over the industry. As Google owns it, accounts are tied into Google+ accounts meaning you get two social media accounts in one. Not every company will need a YouTube channel, but making adverts, vlogs, and so on can give a face to your business in addition to keeping your customers engaged. Viral videos are one of the greatest pieces of publicity you can get, as people will share them to all of their friends. It’s difficult to get a video to go viral intentionally, but success will spread your brand to the world like wildfire.
Technically, Google+ is the fastest growing social network ever, although this is probably due to its forced integration with YouTube and Google’s other services including the hugely important AdWords. Getting access to all of those services and being able to have them all connected is hugely helpful as the notifications will show up no matter which service you are on.
Instagram is one of the most popular photo sharing social networks on the Internet. It isn’t integral to a good social media campaign as it is generally used for more personal photos, but considering its popularity it is easily possible to gain a following. It is also possible to share short videos and since everything gets shared in real-time you can keep people updated no matter where you are.
Pinterest is another image based social network but it centres more on the idea of mood board. Your users create pins that act as little bookmarks to point back to your site. You can also create boards to connect related elements together. It is the fastest standalone site to reach 10 million unique monthly visits and so can be a helpful resource for collecting and categorising images.