Social media is now too big for any business to ignore.
For instance, in March this year, there were over 1.94 billion active users on Facebook, with more than 50 million firms using the platform’s Business Pages. Nearly 470 million of us have posted our profiles on LinkedIn and, right now, around 300 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube every minute!
Social media is now so much part of life that your customers expect you to be using it because its often the way they want to communicate and interact – nearly 60% of those in the US with a social media account think it makes it easier to get their customer service issues resolved.
So, whether you are looking to engage with a new audience or retain existing customers, social media works because it lets customers interact with you on their own terms.
And no longer is social media just a B2C phenomenon. It’s now also seen as a way to influence and raise awareness among executives and decision makers. The 2016 B2B Technology Content Marketing report points out that 96% of technology marketers now use social media as their main content marketing tactic.
Taking the first steps
However, many companies still aren’t embracing social media as they should because they don’t know quite how to start. That’s not surprising given the number of different platforms available. So, what can you as a business looking at social media for the first time do to cut through this potential overwhelm?
1. Decide how you are going to use social media. Is it to raise awareness of your products and service? Support your brand? Influence your market? Or encourage sales? The goal you choose will both determine the implementation and how you measure success.
2. Focus your efforts. Staying on top of social media takes time and resource. Working across too many platforms you will just dilute your efforts, so concentrate on those that are most appropriate to your business and industry. For instance, Facebook may be the largest, but it’s a consumer platform and so probably of little use if you are selling a professional service. For that, LinkedIn might be better. If what you make is physical then a more visual platforms like Pinterest or Instagram may be better at showcasing your product.
3. Incorporate social media into your overall strategic marketing activity. Working on an ‘as and when’ basis won’t get you a good return on time invested. To help you stay on track, create social media calendars and editorial plans so you have a framework for future action.
4. Make sure your social media content provides value to your readers. If you want to encourage potential customers to your website it should be educational rather than sales focused.
5. Social media is an interactive tool so you must be responsive when someone uses it to connect, particularly if you are employing it as a customer support channel. So, make sure you are monitoring any threads, tweets or posts where you may be mentioned. Get involved as necessary, and respond to any complaints or criticism immediately. This will show your customers that you genuinely care and don’t see them just as cash cows.
6. Get personal. Consumers want to do business with people they like, not anonymous brands, so reveal your human face. Show compassion and empathy, and don’t be frightened to reveal a sense of humour or tell stories that reveal your brand’s personality. Business doesn’t have to all be serious.
7. Automate what you can of the social media process. Use tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to post material to multiple platforms at the same time and ensure your business is active on social media 24/7 through scheduled posts. However, if you are thinking about using chatbots and automated responses, be careful as these can give you a generic and unauthentic ‘voice’.
What’s your Digital index?
Using social media as part of the digitalization of your business is one way you can optimize every interaction with a customer. However, there are many other possible digital options open to help your business grow and develop in new and exciting ways.
To help you discover which of these should be your next priority, we created our Digital Index. Based on over 200 parameters and competitor benchmarks it gives smaller businesses in particular the chance to objectively determine what technologies you should be considering. You can find out your Digital Index here.