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With every leap forward in technology comes new opportunities, especially in the area of communication; and the rise of social media has brought about a fundamental shift in the relationship between company and consumer. If you don’t have a social media strategy in place for your business, establishing one should be a top priority, and here’s why.

Why social media is an essential business tool

For the most part, businesses utilise social media for two functions:

  • Marketing: The ability to reach anyone, anywhere, instantaneously makes social media an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
  • Customer service: Social media provides a platform for consumers to engage with your company, and resolve issues in real-time.

Most companies are aware of social media’s capability as a marketing platform, but its capacity to deliver effective customer service is not as widely known, despite that being where its true potential lies. A 2012 study of 23,200 US online consumers by J.D. Power and Associates found that 67% of consumers used a company’s social media site for servicing, versus 33% for social marketing.

Social media allows your brand to…

  • Have a clear voice: Consumers are more likely to use the services of a company they feel they have a relationship with, and social media is an effective tool for providing your brand with an ‘identity’ that consumers can relate to.
  • Have a day-to-day presence in the lives of consumers: Since a sizable portion of users access social media through their mobile device, checking their Facebook or Twitter feed at least several times per day; a strong social media presence means you have multiple opportunities to engage with your target audience.
  • Monitor the way your brand is perceived: Companies used to have to perform extensive surveys to find out how people felt about their service, but with social media, you can easily track mentions of your brand, and monitor what people are saying about it online.
  • Reach a large amount of people on a limited budget: Social media is the most cost-effective marketing platform, allowing a small company to reach a global audience. While careful allocation of resources is still needed, the medium grants incredible flexibility in terms of matching a campaign to your budget.

Why social media marketing still requires a strategy

The ease and accessibility of social media makes it easy to fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need a strategy; but the wide reach of social media makes it even more important that you use your resources intelligently.

There’s a lot of content competing for the attention of social media users; and an effective strategy is needed to stand out from the crowd and gain an edge over the competition.

The key elements of a successful social media marketing strategy should be:

  • Engagement: Scott Duffy, a business coach and writer for entrepreneur.com, says that the mistake many businesses make is they “work so hard to create content and push it out, but then they fail to step in and engage with their audience”. Responding to comments, and playing an active role in online discussion, shows your audience that you’re listening.
  • Authenticity: Your brand needs to have its own voice. Whether the tone you’re aiming for is playful and funny, authoritative and professional, or whatever other combination you feel suits the brand best, you need to keep it consistent across all channels.
  • Knowing your audience: As with any form of advertising, you need to know who your audience is. The wide reach of social media makes it all the more important to narrow down your targeting to ensure your content reaches people with an interest in the product or service you are offering.
  • Playing to the strengths of each platform: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn; they all have strengths and weaknesses. Instagram is the visual platform, LinkedIn is best for recruitment, Twitter offers high engagement, and so on. It’s important to know where your audience is, and the best way to reach them on that medium.

Once you have a strategy in place, social media analytics make it easy to monitor the effectiveness of your campaign, and optimise it for improved efficiency.

Entering the digital landscape opens up a world of possibilities in terms of expanding your audience and controlling the way your brand is perceived. Those who underestimate the importance of social media will fall behind, while those who learn to harness its capabilities will reap the benefits.

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