“Technology and social media have brought power back to the people”. When Mark McKinnon, American political advisor and media columnist, uttered those words, he was giving a nod to the crucial part both played in the Arab Spring and the 2011 Egyptian revolution, but his words can be interpreted more liberally. What those seismic events showed, if anything, was that social media had ushered in a new era; throwing up the old rulebook in the process. With an unparalleled flow of ideas and access to new information, a few million likes and shares here and there, of the right content, was all it took to topple authoritarian governments.
Now you’re probably wondering, as a businessman, how this is relevant to your current predicament: presumably you’re looking to increase traffic to your website, or convert more of those visitors into clients. We find the relevance, again, in Mark McKinnon’s wisdom: Produce and share the right content, and hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people will be drawn to it. Thanks to social media, there are no underdogs anymore.
Here are seven reasons why you should boost your business’s social media presence NOW:
Billions of consumers are ready and waiting for you to reach out to them
In the United States alone more than 185 million people used social media, a figure that is set to exceed more than 200 million in the next two years. And between 2015 and 2022, an extra four million Britons are expected to sign into Facebook or another social platform for the first time, despite more than half of the population already being users. It’s an enormous, ever-expanding market. And with the more traditional mediums—print and television for example— in terminal decline, it seems fair to say that for any long term business strategy to succeed a good social media presence is essential.
An online presence can give your brand authenticity and familiarity
The world is complex, and we rely on psychological “shortcuts” to navigate through the clutter, perceiving only what is “enough” for us to get by. Inevitably, most of our efforts, in the world of business and advertising, are drowned out or muted by the competition. But social media changes all that: with a proper social media campaign, you can engage with your audience on a personalised level; converse with them; get them involved, and earn their loyalty.
Brand loyalty is a great way to secure long-term investment and satisfaction from your consumer-base. Just as we are psychologically equipped to take shortcuts when navigating through a complex world, the same phenomenon can be used to favourably impact your customers’ behaviour. So, engage with your customers: talk to them on Facebook. Take constructive criticism. And remember, real conversation involves listening just as much as it does speaking. Over time, you will establish a customer-relationship that is seldom achieved in any other way: customers will come to positively associate your brand as trustworthy, reliable, and most importantly, worthy of their business.
Advertising is cheaper, smarter, and more effective
As we find ourselves increasingly in a world of smartphones, smart-refrigerators, smart-motorways—smart everything, so we have a new breed of advertising: social or “smart” advertising. The power of social advertising cannot be overstated. Facebook alone made almost ten billion dollars in ad revenue during the first quarter of 2017. Not only are social advertisements cheaper than their traditional counterparts, they are more dependable, too. With social advertising, you can tailor-fit your ads and target your niche audience deliberately and precisely, a luxury which inevitably invites a greater return on investment.
Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of social advertising is the real-time performance analytics available to them. You can constantly monitor the success of your advertisements; what demographics show the most interest, at what times of day, even how long they spend viewing it. With these analytics, you can learn from your successes and failures, and tweak your advertisements as you see fit to boost their appeal.
You will rank higher in search engines and get noticed easier
The three major search engines Google, Bing, and Yahoo! all use complex (and mysterious) crawlers and algorithms to sort websites by popularity. Those with little traffic tend to be pushed aside, leaving the rest to increase their rankings. A good keyword strategy, one that implements social media effectively, is a brilliant way to boost SEO for your business. You can demonstrate this by typing a well-known brand (or a competitor whom you expect is doing their marketing campaign just right) into Google’s search bar. Their social media profiles should rank almost as proficiently as the main webpage.
Produce great content that gets shared on social media and the search engines will think of them favourably, as genuine link backs to your site. If the content is also particularly original and relevant, then your site will most likely gain an even more credible status, creating a positive feedback loop that should increase the ranking even more.
And here’s a little tip: Google is biased towards its own social media platform, Google+, despite it not being so popular. Set up a Google+ profile to boost your SEO rankings.
Niche markets are already organised for your convenience
Every social media platform is different when it comes to function and accessibility, and it should come as no surprise to hear that the demographics are not distributed evenly across the board. In fact, there are key differences between the major platforms in terms of age, gender, education—even income—that should not go unnoticed by any competitive business. Different platforms can and should be used to reach different audiences.
Instagram, for example, has a gender gap—with women using it more than men. And they’re young, too. Almost sixty per cent of users are under twenty-nine, and more than half of them follow at least one brand to keep up with the latest news and trends. One of the great things about Instagram is that it’s part of Facebook’s advertising network, giving you full access to the “smart” advertising tools at the Giant’s disposal. Another platform with a gender gap is Pinterest, with more than twice as many women users than men. Pinterest’s age gap is more evenly distributed, however, meaning women of all ages tend to visit the site. At least one study has shown that visitors lured in by Pinterest are ten per cent more likely to make a purchase on eCommerce.
Snapchat is the domain of the Millennials and the even younger “Generation Z” (though this is also starting to change as the boffins at Snap Inc. are working to bring in older demographics). And while Snapchat is working to be more business-advertisement friendly, there’s one particularly nifty way to increase your brand exposure, which involves creating what’s known as a “geotag”. A geotag is typically a logo or location that can be used as a filter on the app. It’ll cost money, but will be a relatively inexpensive way to reach out to a younger audience.
Of all the platforms, however, Facebook is the banker. With the Giant being far and away the most influential social media platform to date, with more than seventy per cent of the market share being held by the site. Almost everyone, regardless of who they are, uses Facebook, so make sure you do, too.
And LinkedIn—need we say it—is mainly used by professionals, the majority of whom have medium to high incomes. It’s also not all just about job postings and PR. General content is shared almost as liberally as on Facebook.
There are great opportunities to improve your customer service
Another great advantage of social media is that, because it operates in a real-time connective environment, it gives you access to immediate, instant feedback from your customers. This is known as “social customer service”.
Largely gone are the days when customers used to have to phone up a call centre, listen impatiently to tinny background music, only to have a hard time resolving the problem anyway. Social media affords your business the opportunity to provide a superior, no-hassle service, which will go leaps and bounds by way of customer satisfaction. According to one Sprout Social survey, ninety per cent of consumers used social media to communicate with a brand in this way, and over a third said they preferred this method rather than picking up the phone or opening their email account.
Twitter in particular is a popular platform, where disgruntled or curious customers can tweet enquiries directly at the brand. But Facebook and even LinkedIn allow businesses to make use of their messenger applications for the same service. An added bonus of this is that it lends credence to familiarity and trustworthiness. The customer talks to “you”—your business—just like they would a friend or family member on the platform.
It is critical to remember, however, that time response plays an almost decisive role in the level of customer-care satisfaction. Almost half of customers expect a response within the hour (especially if they are complaining), but if they don’t hear back within twenty-four hours…well, then, you risk losing them. These expectations can be challenging for many businesses—particularly small businesses—but they are gradually becoming more and more common. It’s worth remembering that speed isn’t everything if the issue is a particularly complex one. But most customers would at least like some form of acknowledgement of their complaint, and most will be lax if they’ve reached out to the business during reasonable “out of office” hours (i.e. at midnight, not on Sundays).
Managing your reputation has never been easier
For most companies today, social media is their de facto entire public relations campaign. As consumers will more than likely discover your business by typing the appropriate keywords into a search engine, or by noticing a smart-advertisement on their screen. The good news is that even a skilled lone-wolf can keep a relatively good company profile. The bad news is: the not-so-skilled lone wolves, with poor implementation and understanding, can stop business dead in its tracks.
Again, it is necessary to refer back to our underlying psychologies to validate this point. A good reputation is one that connects with the customer. They come to see “you”, to a certain extent, as a good friend. A bad reputation shares the many similarities of a bad associate. Examples include being too pushy. If you essentially spam your customers’ news feeds, then they are more likely to hide—or worse, remove—you from sight. This includes sharing irrelevant, political, or offensive content. Being rude, and ignoring complaints, are also big no-nos (and we hope, obvious). All publicity it not necessarily good publicity; especially if it involves former customers badmouthing your business and warning future ones away.
If you feel guilty of a poor PR campaign, then there are specific monitoring tools and platforms, such as SocialMention and Trackur, that allow you to keep an eye on what is being said about your business online. If you have sinned, then these last-defence weapons can help you to respond and solve any issues before they go viral (or enter in the top search results for your brand name). But these monitoring tools work both ways, allowing you to separate the wheat from the chaff, building an increasingly successful reputation in the process.
Manage your reputation well and your business—as well as your customers—should flourish.
Social media has been around for over a decade now and is showing no signs of slowing down; yet for some businesses it remains a mysterious final frontier, neglected, elusive, and with its resources untapped. Fortunately, at ARC Universal, our specialists know just how to charter this unexplored territory. With our website and social media audits, competitor research, and traffic building skills, your business will be able to wield the awesome power of social media to its advantage.
~Author Neil Wright