The term Social Media (SM) refers to websites and apps whose primary function is to facilitate the sharing of ideas, thoughts, information, and images in real-time. This is achieved by creating virtual networks, or communities of friends or businesses connected by their mutual interests and needs.
The true power of Social Media is in the influence that it can have on shaping people’s thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions, especially when it comes to business and brand recognition. Retailers and businesses that effectively use and leverage social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy usually see measurable results.
Six main types of social media platforms:
- Social Networks– Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are social media sites that allow you to connect with friends and people who have the same interests.
- Bookmarking Sites- Pinterest, Pocket, Flipboard, Diggs are sites that are used to share users’ favourite websites, businesses pages, images etc.
- Media Sharing- YouTube, Vimeo, Photostock, Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram etc. These sites are generally used for sharing images or videos with fans, friends, and followers.
- Microblogging- Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are also what is referred to as microblogging sites. Microblogging refers to short newsworthy posts.
- Blogs, Comments and Forums- These are the more traditional forms of communication and sharing through web 2.0, and they have been used long time ago since the early social media appearance.
- Messenger Apps- WeChat, WhatsApp, QQ, Line, Facebook Messenger etc. Those apps have become a hugely popular way to communicate and share because they are quick, convenient, and perceived as safe forms of communicating.
- Social Review Sites- Peer pressure and peer acceptance has a huge impact on people’s buying habits and as a result, review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and Four Square are popular because they are trusted, even big retail sites such as Amazon encourage reviews and comments throughout their sites because they understand their importance. In fact, these dynamics are the most important factors in their ranking algorithm.
Why Your Business Need a Social Media Marketing Strategy
There are several particularly good reasons why every business needs to have a footprint on social media platforms to promote their businesses. Current estimates are that approximately 4.54 billion internet users out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, and of these 3.725 billion have social media accounts, that is a staggering 82%!!
Then on top of that 2.98 billion of the 3.725 Social Media users have a Facebook account, that is 80% of all social media users or 65% of all internet users.
Social Media Facts:
- 18-34-year olds are more likely to follow their favourite brand on social media rather than more traditional methods.
- 21% are more likely to spend with a business they have a positive social media experience with.
- 33% prefer to use social media on the phone over other forms of entertainment there.
- 80% are more likely to make a purchase based on recommendations from family and friends.
- YouTube has more subscribers and a larger reach than any cable network.
Five Core Reason for a Social Media Presence
One of the most important reasons is to connect with your target market is to create a better personal relationship with your followers and fans. Social media is a two-way channel that enables you to build a rapport with your clients and prospects.
Social media is a more effective way to use promotions, e.g. 78% of small businesses attract new customers using social media campaigns. The most common and effective way is through advertising and Facebook has one of the most advanced and sophisticated marketing tools for targeting your marketing campaigns.
Social Media platforms, and Facebook in particular, are also excellent sources of information for market research. If there’s a problem with your product, something missing or a way that it can be improved they are more likely to let you know on social media, but it’s a double-edged sword as they are just as likely to let you, your fans and your followers know when something is wrong.
By staying connected with your followers, sharing with them, and listening to them infuses brand loyalty and you can build an army of enthusiastic ambassadors.
In the eyes of the consumers and prospects, companies and businesses with active social media pages and content are thought of as being more reliable, approachable, and trustworthy than those without.
By using SM to build a rapport with them, they are less likely to jump brands. Remember the cost of customer acquisition is high, so once they have made a purchase or shown an interest in your product it is important to build a relationship. By doing this they will see you more like a ‘friend’ rather than some ‘faceless’ company, and it is easier to ‘dump’ a faceless company than a friend.
The ways you can leverage social media to your best advantage are almost limitless, but another important factor is increasing traffic to your website.
This is an area that most people overlook. Attracting your followers and fans from Facebook to your website is imperative in building your business because you do not want to be reliant on the social media’s platform and services for your business. Social Media platforms are a tool your business can use but do not allow your business to become dependent on them. Some companies and businesses rely solely on Facebook for their marketing and do not have a website. This is a big mistake as this means that Facebook has control over your business and not you.
So, you need to entice your followers and fans to your website to capture their information and build a direct relationship with them.
Which Social Media Platform Should You Use?
Social Media gives every business, no matter how big or small, a unique opportunity to reach their audience and even new audiences at a fraction of the cost of tradition marketing. Not only that, social media also offers the opportunity to laser focus on your message to your specific target market, far easier and better than any other form of marketing.
There are dozens of social media platforms available, but which one should you use for your business?
There is no one platform that fits all types of media, messages, or marketing strategies. Each platform has its own unique user base and functionality, so the best Social Media strategy is to target your content and marketing campaign to the individual platforms. Choose the best ones that fits your audiences and products. To help you do this, here is a list of the top 6 social media platforms, their user base and main functionality and usage.
Facebook was one of the first major social media platforms and because of its first-mover advantage, it grew exponentially and now is by far the biggest with a remarkably diverse user base in virtually every country. If there is only one social media platform you are going to use, then Facebook is the one.
MAU (Monthly Active Users): 2+ billion
Best for: Short posts and videos.
MAU: 1.9 billion
Best for: Video sharing, particularly reviews and instructional videos do extremely well on YouTube.
YouTube is not only the second biggest social media network in the world, but it is also the second-largest search engine after Google. It is primarily used for video sharing and 91% of 18-29-year olds in America regularly watch YouTube. In fact, many will watch videos and programs on YouTube rather than regular TV or Cable networks.
MAU: 1 billion
Age: 18-29 / 64%
Age: 18-64 / Instagram has a diverse user base; however, it tends to be most popular with millennials.
Best for: Photos and videos. IG was initially a photo-sharing platform but began to become popular for video sharing also, although nowhere near the level of YouTube. IG as a result recently released IGTV.
MAU: 335 million
Best for: Twitter has a character limit of 250, so it is best for short posts. This makes it ideal for headlines, and news-style posts and content. Also, Twitter posts have a short life span, so they are best suited to new, fresh, time-sensitive news and content. Most large brands have a Twitter account. Twitter also tends to have high engagement.
MAU: 255 MILLION
Age: Teenagers and young adults.
Best for: Photos and short videos.
MAU: 250 million
Age: 18-45 / 85% women
Best for: Pinterest is mainly a B2C platform. Used mainly for images and infographics.
MAU: 303 million
Best for: LinkedIn is mainly a B2B networking platform for businesses and professionals and thus is very formal. There are a lot of CEOs, Directors and headhunters wandering here. Moreover, 4 out of 5 business decision-makers are on LinkedIn.
There are, of course, many more social media sites but these are the current top six platforms.
How to Use Social Media for Your Business
Once you have decided on which social media platforms you are going to use you need to set up your SM Marketing Strategy.
Here are the main points you should take into account when putting your strategy together:
Start with a plan
You can easily become overcome by all the different platforms, content, and media you will need to deal with to put together a successful SM campaign. Create goals using specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely targets. Look at your competitor’s SM accounts and their posts/content for inspiration. Then, put all together in a monthly schedule of when to post, on which platforms and with what media.
Know your audience
You should be aware of the age, interests and needs of your target audience and create content that will appeal to these topics.
Social media is all about building relationships and a rapport so use this to your best advantage by establishing a connection with your fans and followers.
Share compelling visuals
Studies have shown that visual content, such as infographics, memes, photos, slide presentations and videos receive far more engagement, recognition, and shares than written content.
Focus on quality, not quantity- your content is a reflection on your business so make sure it is of a quality and standard that you would expect and don’t sacrifice quality to cut time in order to be able to make more postings.
Social media is here to stay and continues to grow, therefore as an entrepreneur and business leader, you need to have a presence of social media. Do not restrict yourself to any of one but instead, choose three or four, my recommended mix would be: Facebook + one image sharing platform + one video sharing platform + content/blogging platform. Enjoy the ride!
by Colin Dorman