What started out as AOL and online chat rooms has grown to substantial mediums for consumers and marketers. While the mediums have evolved and many platforms have come and gone, it’s clear that social networking is no passing trend.
Understanding the growth of social media and how to have digital penetration is not just useful information; it is crucial knowledge that should begin to form the foundation of every brand’s marketing and communications strategy. Currently, there are over 3.175 billion active Internet users (almost half of the world’s population). Yet, even more astonishing, on social media, there are over 2.206 billion active users, which has risen by 176 million in the last year.
Despite the growing popularity of social media and our dependency the sites for information, some businesses are still hesitant to embrace the new emerging mediums. This is because of the skepticism about its effectiveness for local small businesses. We see huge brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Starbucks using social media with great success, but what about the average coffee shop around the corner or a non-celebrity dentist?
Well, in short, the answer is yes. Social media has crossed over from being a tool that only forward-thinking companies should use by enabling smaller-sized, local companies to compete against some of the larger customers by reaching more customers on a smaller budget. Social media is also beneficial for smaller companies by allowing them to find out information about their customers. The older, traditional ways of finding out information about consumers aren’t as effective today because people tend to dislike unsolicited messages from marketers and will only fill out a survey if there is an incentive. Social media provides you with the opportunity to find out about your customers in a completely non-intrusive way.
For example, companies like Sprout Social gives you insights into the audience’s demographic. Also, smaller companies can monitor what the “ideal” customer are tweeting about, what they put on Instagram and other social media activity.
Lastly, social media is a great platform to find out what people really think about a company and for engaging with their audience. Because people freely share their opinions, social media is a great place to get honest and raw feedback of what people think about a product or service. With this feedback, smaller companies can then more easily monitor what’s being said about their business and resolve issues right away through engagement. Yet, people don’t only tweet negative things. Often, people post Instagram pictures of themselves enjoying their favorite coffee, check in on Facebook when they go out to local bars and willingly show off their brand loyalty. And, when people see photos on Facebook or Instagram of their friends wearing a company’s t-shirt or bragging about how much they love a certain product, it’s more genuine and effective because people trust other people more than brands.
According to Dominque Jackson, “the secret is work.” Work to maintain the platforms by generate content and engaging with the customer. It may be more “work” and maintenance than companies are typically used to, but social media is not a passing trend. With the growth of existing and new platform every day, each social network has its own quirks and best practices. Understanding the potential and leveraging each medium can help a smaller company establish brand loyalty, gain new customers, and even drive ROI.
So how do you start? Below is a list of the most important things to keep in mind when fist implementing a social media strategy:
• Don’t believe the myth that social media marketing isn’t effective for businesses
• Define your target audience
• Start small and focus on three social networks at the most
• Add value by sharing amazing content, not just your own
• Be consistent
• Engage and interact
• Stay organized with a social media management tool