Social Media: Is it right for my business?

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by Sara Jones, Account Manager, [email protected]

 

Just because everyone else is creating a digital presence, should you? If so, what platform should you choose? We take a deeper look.

Over the past decade, social media has transformed the way we use the Internet and has quickly been recognised as an invaluable tool for companies across the globe. With over 2 billion active users on social media*, it is no wonder why such a large percentage of businesses have jumped at the opportunity to capitalise on this phenomenon changing the face of communication.

But with this rise in popularity of the digital world, also comes a number of businesses venturing into uncharted territory. Life has only gone “digital” in the past few decades, meaning many businesses – some older than others – may feel pressured into creating an online presence simply because others are doing the same. However, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean we should all follow the crowd.

When dealing with something with huge potential such as social media, it is possible for businesses to get carried away by the endless possibilities it presents. There have been many cases where businesses have embarked upon creating a social media strategy, but have failed due to poor preparation and lack of knowledge on how to utilise it to their advantage.

There are multiple social media platforms that businesses can use to engage with consumers, and it is vital that selected platforms meet business requirements.  Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform used by businesses. Why?

Over 70 per cent of online adults* use it, and whilst it has lost its appeal with some younger audiences, it remains a sufficient platform to build a community, spread brand awareness and communicate key messages.  However, most Facebook users utilise their accounts to stay in touch with family and friends – not for the sole purpose of engaging with businesses.

Facebook has recently become ‘pay to play’ – in short, rather than achieving ‘likes’ through an organic reach, companies must now pay for advertisements if they want to reach their target audience in a meaningful way. Without advertisements, posts will achieve low post visibility – usually around 1% of your total likes. So if you are not willing to spend money on advertising, then perhaps Facebook isn’t the best platform for you.

LinkedIn tends to be forgotten by a large amount of businesses – but yet it still remains the second most popular social media platform. Many assume that LinkedIn is a purely a networking tool for individuals, but whilst this key value remains at its core, it also provides businesses with a number of additional benefits.

According to digital strategist Nate Kievman*, LinkedIn can attract new business and generate sales leads with consumers – something all businesses aim for. In addition to this, LinkedIn is fast becoming a popular route for recruiting talent due to its cost-effective means. According to Inc.com, Given the high income and education levels of the average LinkedIn user, it offers a distinct audience worth targeting with the right message.”

So if you are looking to expand your sector network, or aiming to grow your company – whether in gross profit or workforce – LinkedIn is an efficient social media platform to utilise.

If your business audience is made up of both men and women under 30 – especially millennials – then Twitter might be a social media platform worth considering for your social media strategy. When Twitter first arrived in 2006, it transformed online communication through its concise 140-character, micro-blogging style of messaging in the form of a Tweet, and through introducing the Hashtag (#) as a way of collectively grouping tweets within a trending topic.

Twitter provides brands across the world with the opportunity to connect with individuals, manage customer service relations, share content containing key messages and view what demographics are discussing certain themes.

Whilst many believe that Twitter is a platform not to be left out of social media strategies, it is vital that companies are aware of the power it possesses. A Tweet sent by a celebrity or important figure can influence the actions of the general public – whether it’s plugging an upcoming film, backing a new product or even raising important, ethical issues.

Brands have caught on to this, and have often recruited influencers to change perceptions and opinions of their brand to boost sales. However, whilst it is arguably the most influential social media network, businesses creating a Twitter account must understand that being part of the Twittersphere requires a huge amount of dedication through uploading a constant stream of high quality, grammatically correct content that engages users around the clock. If you have the time and resources to achieve this, then Twitter is an effective tool for two-way communication between your brand and your customers.

Although there are plenty of other social media platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the most popular with the global population. As with most things, there are pros and cons to creating a digital presence.

On one hand, creating a social media account is cost-effective, allowing businesses to humanise their brand, develop relationships with customers or “fans”, increase website views, reduce overall marketing costs and provides greater access to global markets.

However, some disadvantages include the need for additional resources to manage an online presence (e.g. hiring an internal social media manager – although many companies find hiring an external public relations or marketing firm to manage this as hugely beneficial), increased workload and time consumption due to daily monitoring, and a loss of control when it comes to other users posts.

At this point, you’re probably overwhelmed by the abundance of issues needing consideration when it comes to social media. But, is it worth creating a social media presence if a business is performing excellently without it? If done properly then yes, as it will enhance your brand image and assist in business growth.

Alternatively, if a senior executive, operations director or even a general manager feels that their company is lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, or perhaps current methods aren’t performing as well as they’d like them to, then creating a social media strategy could be the way forward. However, it is vital that companies are realistic about the time they’re willing to spend on maintaining their digital presence and identify the platforms that will work in favour of their needs.

As with all things business related, creating a social media strategy is not to be taken lightly; therefore it is crucial that creating a digital presence is thoroughly thought out to ensure your business remains operating at its peak and to prevent any damage.