In recent years, the power of social media has increased exponentially. The first recognisable social media sites went live in the late 1990s and the potential from there was soon realised. By the early 2000s, we saw the likes of MySpace become the online ‘place to be’, while the mid-2000s brought Facebook and Twitter.
The rise of the industry, coupled with the inclusion of ‘business pages’ on Facebook and the ability to create an online following, provides significant opportunities for businesses. With social media reportedly producing up to twice as many marketing leads as trade shows, telemarketing and direct mail, this post will explore how social media can help your business to thrive online.
Branding & reputation
Nowadays, if a user performs a search for your brand name on a popular social media website, there’s a level of expectation that they’ll find an official account. Having an online presence on as many social sites as you see fit for your business model is a very important step to take. It’ll reassure users that you’re a credible organisation that takes an interest in your audience and their needs.
It’s worth noting that a rarely-updated social media account could harm your image and reputation; a user doesn’t want to see an un-kept page packed with dated news. Furthermore, social media gives you the ability to reinforce your brand name online. If a user performs a Google search for your brand and sees the first page filled with your various social accounts as well as your website, they’re likely to find the information they’re looking for.
Relationships & interaction
Social media works on a personal level as much as a business to consumer level. Just as friends communicate to each other on these networks, your business can follow suit and approach potential customers in a friendly, personal way. Generally speaking, consumers are very expressive to businesses on social media, often asking questions and leaving feedback. This is why responding to these consumers in the appropriate manner is vital. It’s a chance to build a relationship with your audience.
Below is an example of how O2 utilises Twitter to enhance customer relationships:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search engines continuously update their algorithms and, considering their ubiquity, it’s not an unreasonable step to think they’ll take into account social signals such as shares, likes and mentions, if they aren’t already to some degree. It’s widely reported that these signals will become more important in the coming years and, while it’s likely to be some time before they pass links as the largest signal, the graph below highlights the correlation between content that performs well socially and that ranks well in search engines (via Searchmetrics). Correlation doesn’t mean causation, but does highlight the sort of content that Google prefers.
Optimising your social strategy ensures your website has a positive online future as the impact of these signals are likely to become greater with time, and, in the meantime, you can provide even better customer service. The key factors to remember when improving your sites social signals include:
- Include social sharing buttons on most of your pages that allow users to share information and content you have created (tweet, like, bookmark, etc.)
- Link to your own social media accounts (Like our Facebook page, Follow our Twitter account, Google+, etc.)
The main cost involved in social media is time. This doesn’t mean that you should disregard social media, instead look at how you can work it into your day and create 10 minute intervals or short breaks between tasks. After all, 23% of marketers are investing in blogging and social media in 2013, up 9% on 2012, and, while time is certainly the main expense here, it’s ultimately the cost of being left behind by your competitors which could leave you paying the price.
What’s your main reason for wanting to create a social media account? Is it just because your competitors are? Social media is part of your business strategy and your social accounts are there to do specific jobs; whether your social profiles are designed to create awareness for your brand or to drive sales through referral traffic you need to have goals and targets. Ultimately you want results and this should be the focus of your activity through these platforms. Work out which social media channels will work best for your business, you may see Pinterest as unsuitable or you may feel Twitter won’t bring you any conversions.
As Crafted recently tweeted, a third of SMEs don’t have websites at all. If there’s a market for your business online then creating an online presence is essential and using social media accounts to add value to this is an important step.
By Luke Olding