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Gone are the days when small businesses could not advertise their products to the masses because of cost restrictions, as large corporations that have huge marketing budgets scramble for all TV and radio ad space!
So, what do you do to fully use social media to derive the most benefits? As a rule of thumb, don’t just get right into it without proper planning. You need to figure out how you are going to execute your plan in a manner that guarantees success. Here is what to do before you jump right into social media marketing and end up making some costly mistakes. But before we go there, what do you understand by the word “social media?” Well, much as it seems like an obvious word that you would know, you probably don’t have any specific definition of what it is. Nevertheless, it refers to applications and websites that make it possible for users to create and share different kinds of content or take active part in social networking. In simple terms, these are platforms that enable the user to participate in the communication process (at least you should know that the internet is nothing more than just an information database that we all try to access). With social media, you can add comments, add videos, like or ‘participate’ in any other form. It includes social bookmarking, social news, wikis; social networking and social photo and video sharing just to mention a few. In this context, it is worthwhile to consider the history of social media and how we have adapted to it as a race.
The emergence of social media
The World Wide Web was developed circa 1991, and immediately attracted a community of people with like interests - this was a necessarily limited number, since few people possessed access to the internet, and fewer still the sophisticated skills required to connect to it. However, the rise of the personal computer and the graphic interface made using a computer much more simply and intuitive, giving rise to a new generation, which began taking the Internet much more seriously. Through this time, the Internet began becoming more and more important to businesses and families alike, allowing people to meet and bond over shared interests. The nucleus of a social network was formed with the idea of creating fan zones for popular media. This allowed fans of the same TV shows, games, or books to create a community around the media. These communities began to become stronger and more diverse as more and more people from around the world began to have access to the Internet. Blogs and websites are thus the oldest form of social media, which were formed with the intention of creating a space where like-minded individuals could engage with each other.
The first major social network on this note was MySpace, which saw a huge swing in numbers from 2002-2004. However, issues with privacy led to the site closing down, losing a majority of its members, as it happens, to Facebook, which has consolidated that position into being the largest social network today. Twitter also emerged a few years later, and achieved first a niche in celebrity social media and then became a vibrant network on its merit. The success of Twitter opened up the possibilities for what could be done with the idea of social networking- Pinterest focused on communities around shared interests, Snapchat on chatting through photographs, Instagram through a feed of photographs, and many others. Suddenly, social networking had become different from what it was when Facebook was consolidating its position - it had evolved to become the main reason why someone would use the Internet.
Marketing was still slow to realize the potential of social media. Most brand pages were formed merely by fans, and while they were happy to advertise on Facebook, they did not consider the potential of being able to interact with their customers. It was only when Facebook revolutionized their Pages feature, making it much more streamlined for the benefit of brands that companies and brands began to take to Facebook in a big way. Today, social media marketing is one of the chief focus of any advertising agency. The number of people (constantly growing populations of adoptees) is too much to ignore. The question we have to ask when talking about social media, thus, is why people use social media.
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Undeniably, the reasons why people use social media have changed. From becoming a way to break socio-cultural barriers over like interests, social media has begun to be appreciated for its own worth. Now, social media exists as a blueprint for the kind of a person someone is. Before meeting them, all you shall need is their name and you can know much more about them. Thus social media presence becomes a kind of footprint that you leave online. It informs almost every portion of our lives to such a high degree.
Why do we need to think about this? The answer is that we cannot truly target audiences in this medium until we understand the medium. If we know the purpose for which our audience uses, say, Snapchat, we can best use the medium for our purposes. However, I hope another key point about social media has come to light. It has been a very personalized experience. It is very individual, while being focused on a community. This has meant a somewhat startling change for brands. Now, brands can speak direcdy to their audience, in real time. Customers may complain about the service, the products, or the brand itself. However, there will also be loyal customers who will stay with the brand. It is in this context that we frame the first critical question that we need to answer if we are to use Social media for marketing purposes effectively: why are we using social media?
We will answer this question in a short while. Let us return to the basics of marketing on social media. The journey building a strong social media brand entails having a strong positive presence in as many of these forms of social media as possible. Social media enables a brand to connect with its target group in an impactful and memorable manner - and along with its ability to provide exposure, and brand recognition, also remains an exciting and interesting media for the purpose of marketing. If you are still wondering why you should really embrace social media or die, here is why:
Think of different social media sites as a street intersection that attracts different numbers of people at different times and your presence in the different platforms as your billboard at that intersection. The more pronounced or outstanding your billboard is, the more the number of people who are going to notice who you are. Just like the billboard, having a strong social media presence will help boost your brand recognition since as we have seen, 1 in every four people uses social media. Social media provides an avenue for your brand to be seen and heard while making it easy for your current and prospective customers to find you. For instance, someone will know about your company by simply seeing a friend’s recent activity of liking your page. Additionally, your photos on Pinterest making them gain some interest in your business could wow someone. Your social media updates also help you rank highly in the search engines especially because they are indexed a lot faster. This in turn means more people can find you with a lot of ease. The more your brand becomes visible on social media and the more you engage your target audience, the more your business grows. Along with every post on social media being, essentially, premium ad space, the expanding horizons of social media as it grows in range from the more developed countries and areas to lesser developed regions means that it is an exciting opportunity to connect with a new emerging market in a meaningful way.
Think of every new post you make on social media as a prime time ad. This simply means that you have an opportunity to sell (even if it isn’t hard/direct selling) to your audience, which in turn means that there will be some conversions. Unlike in a TV or radio ad where those who are not actively watching or listening don’t get to see your ad, the fact that the post is written or in picture format means that current, past and future followers/customers will have access to such content, which simply means that the conversions will be perpetual. With every post, video, comment or image, you are presenting an opportunity for your audience to react in the form of a visit to your website, email subscription, or purchase or any other form of conversion that you have set. Although every post won’t result to a positive conversion, the more you interact with your following, the more chances you have that someone will want to react. The fact that you are giving your audience an opportunity to react is enough to attract attention. The basic goal of social media marketing is to take one step further from conversion - from liking the brand, to loving the brand, and finally, to swearing by the brand. Social media can, with its advanced targeting methods, and improved connectivity, help you to find the precise kinds of customers to reach with your posts, and advertisements, and allow you to have direct conversations with them. You want your social media presence to helpful for your customers, but also provide some meaning to their lives and social mediums that can connect well with your brand. The result is exciting options creatively speaking which can help your brand become one that is loved and cherished by your customers.
Most small businesses cannot compete with large multinationals that have huge marketing budgets for advertising space on TV and radio. This means TV and radio advertising are out of the question for them as far as advertising is concerned. The internet and in particular the social media has made it a lot easier and less cosdy for small businesses to target their audience with great ease. What social media provides in this scenario is a similar kind of reach, a different kind of audience, and flexibility in terms of both frequency and advertisement costs. You could even reach out to over 10,000 highly targeted people with a budget of less than $20 if you are opting for paid advertising. This is a very tiny fraction of how much it would cost you to advertise on TV and radio. Nonetheless, if you don’t want to go this route, spending about 6 hours a week is enough to result to increased traffic; you can split this into one hour daily for 6 days.
You can easily listen to what people are saying about you, about themselves and about different issues that concern them that might be of interest to you. By following people’s comments, likes, shares and follows, you can easily tell what it is they really like. This can in turn help you make an informed decision with respect to the kind of content to share, when to share it and how to share it. You can then try different campaigns just to help you understand what works and what doesn’t. In fact, social media marketing campaigns can be goldmines of data, which can provide you an insight into the kind of products, advertisements, and brand identity that your target group prefers, and which find a better response from customers. Further, more sophisticated methods of statistical data collection can provide your brand with a well-developed idea of the kind of customers they have, their interests, and their desires. This gives a better idea to the brand in that they can make their products and other advertisement more appealing to their customers.
A research published by the Texas Tech University has proven that by engaging your current, past and prospective customers through social media, you are likely to enhance brand loyalty. This could be mainly because people want to be heard and answered whenever they have anything that they need answers on. Actually, another research published by Convince & Convert showed that over 50% of Americans actually follow the brands they are loyal to on social media! As you can clearly see, you have everything to gain when you engage your audience through social media. The critical difference between conventional and social media is that of voice. The voice of a brand refers to the manner in which it engages with its audiences - and the ideal voice depends both on the kind of brand it is, and the customers it hopes to attract. For example, a brand concerned with luxury clothing would ooze of high society speech, a focus on sophistication, and the feeling of luxury. In the same manner, a t-shirt brand focusing on young adults would benefit more from an edgy, slight self-mocking voice that is cognizant of trending topics and media. Brand voice is important because it distinguishes a brand from its competitors. It allows the audience of a brand to associate the brand with the voice and build up the brand identity along these lines. The critical difference between social media and conventional media is in developing this kind of a voice, and thus, in building this kind of an identity. While in conventional media, owing to high costs and low audience reaction times, few risks can be taken, the flexibility in content and finances that social media provides allows the brand to experiment with different kinds of voices. It also becomes a very important form of intensifying the voice. For many customers and audiences, the social media presence of a brand can be the side of the brand that they are most exposed to - and so the right kind of content and style can help build this voice, and thus, the identity of the brand.
Engagement could be taken as interacting with your friend; as you well know, the more you interact with anyone, the more you get to know them and the closer you become. The inverse is true; if you don’t interact, you will grow apart! Social media is a communication tool that allows direct communication between you and your current and prospective customers. Unlike phones where you answer questions to individuals, with social media, you are interacting with your follower live, which simply means that other people could easily check out older threads if they are looking for something.
The more you engage your customers, the greater their level of satisfaction, which as we all know is one of the top ingredients to nurturing customer loyalty. Social media can help you clear confusion and misunderstandings making it easier to keep customers happy. For instance, if a customer complains about your product or service on Facebook, it is easy to address that issue publicly either through offering an apology or explaining whatever issue is bringing confusion. It doesn’t have to be complaints; you can also appreciate a follower’s positive comments just to show that you really appreciate that feedback. Customer service also works on one key principle: the customer does not interact with the brand as if it were the brand, but as if it was a person - thus customer service on social media provides a unique opportunity to fine-tune the voice of the brand.
Have you noticed that people always tend to brag about their experiences on social media? When more people are talking about great experiences they have had when using your products or services, you definitely stand to gain if you have a good social media presence. Actually, as people talk about you, new users regard the brand highly. This ultimately results to more conversions and easier attainment of your company’s objectives.
If you have any experience in marketing a business online, I know you are aware of how hard it can be to appear in the top search results of the different search engines. Actually, updating a blog as often as possible, having excellent meta descriptions and having backlinks isn’t just enough to make you get a spot in the top searches for your targeted keywords. The truth is that search engines nowadays largely consider social media presence in determining the rankings of different sites. Therefore, the more presence you have on social media, the higher you are likely to rank in the search engines since you are considered trustworthy, legitimate, and credible. It is pretty simple, right!
Before using social media, the only people who will probably visit your website will be those who are already familiar with your brand and those who are currendy searching for the keywords that you rank highly (if you have any). When you create a new social media profile, you are actually building a new avenue for people to visit your website and check out what you have on offer. This coupled with the fact that every post is an opportunity to attract interest means that you are actually increasing the number of ways through which people can see you, which ultimately results to increased conversions.
With the countless ways in which you stand to gain when you embrace social media,employing digital agency,s like Viralify specialized in small business and start up marketing can definitely bring in added leverage.
I know that you are definitely interested in getting started right away. Marketing on social media is slightly more difficult than just forming a page or a profile, and then just posting content. Since social media provides a flexible avenue for all kinds of marketing, a dedicated plan is a necessity to take the maximum advantage of the opportunities of social media. While social media will provide you a lot of leeway with any plan - a broad strategy in how to approach the medium can save you a lot of time, effort, and money.
Michael Owens serves as the marketing advisor of Head45 in Cardiff Bay. He is a specialist in customer experience and an expert brand strategist who is keen to take on challenges that will help the business expand. Michael puts his creative energy into penning posts that are both interesting and useful for the most popular blogging sites.