Let’s face it, if your business isn’t plastered all over the internet, you aren’t taking advantage of the estimated 60 million web users in the UK who spent upwards of £133 billion in 2016. And with 9 in 10 people in the UK owning a smartphone and smartphone-based retail sales up 47% year on year in 2016, social media users are forming a new army of consumers who are ready to spend online.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and YouTube have become some of the biggest and most well-known brands in the world, with Facebook alone boasting 1.59 billion users worldwide, making founder Mark Zuckerberg one of the world’s youngest multi-billionaires thanks to ad revenue and stock price increases. Although the majority of social media platforms are designed for users to share information, stay in touch, or see what is happening across the rest of the user base, there’s no escaping the fact that pretty much all of the services mentioned above allow businesses to market their goods and services to what is the world’s largest captive audience.
From targeted advertising and pages on Facebook to celebrity endorsed videos and photos on Instagram, social media has developed from a 21st century communication tool into an endless commercial break that isn’t actually that annoying. The beauty of most social media platforms is that consumers choose exactly what they want to see, with favoured companies, brands and famous faces selected to follow or like depending on taste and requirements. This kind of personalised advertising works really well for businesses, as buyers are actually displaying their preferences without any outward marketing other than a beacon needed. This has allowed companies like Nike and Victoria’s Secret to amass 73 million and 56 million organic followers on Instagram each, with those followers treated to images, videos and links to the latest products, often on an hourly basis.
Although it takes a lot of money and time to build a brand portfolio on social media that many small to medium businesses can’t afford, there are still so many opportunities that can be taken advantage of. Ask any small business owner what keeps them going and you’ll likely hear the words ‘reputation’ and ‘word of mouth’. Take a look at any local group on Facebook or search for a company’s Twitter handle and you’ll quickly see who’s talking about which companies when someone asks for a recommendation. The best local businesses will soon be remembered and recommended, allowing new customers to be earned without a penny being spent.
There’s also the fact that 81% of people will google something before buying it. If you’re social media presence is non-existent, then you’re missing out on people who are physically looking to buy either your product or one like it. If your businesses has more than 1,000 likes on Facebook and multiple post mentions or links, your page will display higher in search rankings, opening up doors to people that may never have found your website.
Another useful feature for consumers that is also a great feedback tool for businesses is the ease of communication that social media affords between organisations and their followers. Without making a single call or writing a long winded email or letter, happy or unhappy customers can take to social media to vent their frustrations or sing praises, with all company followers able to see the post if the correct hashtag or handle is used. If negative posts aren’t addressed quickly and resolved, then other users may be put off by another person’s bad experience. In fact, many major supermarkets are targeted to resolve a negative social media post within 15 minutes.
A good example of a company that has developed an excellent social media strategy is 888poker. As well as plenty of exposure across a huge range of platforms, the social media experience is completely customer and community focused. Response times to their 75,000 Twitter followers are exceptionally quick thanks to the company’s established online presence and they know the importance of the power of the internet. They’ve also become a trailblazer when it comes to relatively new social media platform Twitch, with the live streaming video service the ideal way to share exciting televised poker tournaments without the need for a TV deal.
The usefulness of social media may not be apparent at first, and with a lack of tangible, visible results from things like Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that take some time to set up and manage, it’s easy to see why businesses sometimes give up on social media fairly quickly. The trick however is perseverance and innovation. Instead of posting once a month and hoping for ten new customers, why not target one photo post per day on each platform, mixed in with a weekly good news story? Hootsuite is an exceptionally useful tool to cut down posting times and mobile phone apps have made taking and uploading photos and videos incredibly easy.
Alternatively, there are hundreds of social media gurus out there who will help you to build a presence for a small fee. This beats spending hours trying to get a good social media page, when an expert can get hundreds of new followers in minutes by liking and following a few pages or tweets.
Either way, a lack of social media presence for your business in a world where US President Donald Trump announces most of his ‘policies’ and ‘strategies’ via Twitter is asking for trouble.