Though social media is still a relatively young concept in the grand scheme of modern technology, its impact on nearly every part of our daily lives is undeniable. As of 2018, there are approximately 3.03 billion active social media users on Earth – to put that in perspective, the world’s total population is currently at about 7.6 billion people.
But social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more than just “fun distractions” – they’ve become one of the primary ways that we stay connected with one another at all times. One study estimates that up to 61% of people check their phone for email and social media updates within five minutes after waking up in the morning. Roughly 80% of all smartphone users check their phones before brushing their teeth.
All of this is to say that if you had to make a list of all the areas of our lives that have been virtually upended by the domination of social media, business marketing would undoubtedly be right at the top. Gone are the days where out-marketing your competition meant simply out-spending them. Social media has essentially leveled the playing field, making it easier and more affordable than ever for even small businesses to compete successfully with their larger counterparts.
Make no mistake about it: the organizations that will survive into the next decade aren’t just the ones that are using social media. They’re the ones that are using it well. This in turn requires you to keep a few key things in mind.
The Challenges (And Victories) Of Social Media For Business.
One of the major impacts of social media in terms of business marketing has to do with the ways that the lines have been blurred – both for the better and for all time – between the “marketing” and “customer service” branches of a company.
Keep in mind that if a customer reaches out to you to answer a question or address a concern on a site like Twitter, 42% of those users will expect you to respond within the hour. This isn’t a rarity, either – 71% of people between the ages of 16 and 64-years-old use the Internet and social media to find solutions when they’re having a hard time engaging with a particular product or service.
One of the biggest implications of this has to do with the idea that marketing is no longer a “passive” form of outreach. You simply will not be able to generate the outcomes you need by creating a digital ad, publishing it and waiting for the traffic to roll in.
Part of this has to do with social media, yes – but the broader implication is that people just don’t trust traditional advertising any longer. According to one recent study, only about 7% of people say that they view online ads (including those on social media and on places like search engines or websites) positively. There’s a reason why an estimated 30% of all Internet users will employ ad blocking software by the end of 2018 and this is very much “ground zero” for that idea.
So this in and of itself becomes both a challenge and a victory depending on your perspective. Yes, “marketing” as a concept now requires far more time – and an entirely different skill set – than most organizations are used to. But with the right perspective, it can also help with the most important goal of all – improving experiences on behalf of your own audience, whatever shape that audience may take.
Empowering Your Marketing Via Social Media.
But understanding that all of these points are important is one thing. Actually acting on them in the way that you (and your customers) need is something else entirely.
To truly be successful in terms of business marketing on social media, you need to first not just use ANY platform but the ones that your audience is most likely to be using themselves. A B2B company, for example, would likely have success with a more professional-oriented social networking site like LinkedIn as opposed to Facebook or Instagram. B2C organizations, however, are thriving with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Don’t follow other brands when you choose your channels – follow your audience and listen to what they’re telling you.
Next, you should be employing tools that allow you to track every mention of your brand on social media. Tools like Buffer, Social Cloud, Feedly, Canva and others are terrific in that regard. Use these tools to respond to any and all mentions that you can. But don’t try to steer a conversation in your desired direction – pay attention to the conversations that people are already having and find new ways to add to it and empower it as a result.
But above all else, social media marketing is all about crafting the right content for the right audience at the right time. Focus on creating helpful, informative, visual-oriented content that is more than just another advertisement. Whitepapers, Infographics, presentations and similar types of collateral all work incredibly well on social media because they help inform and educate an audience. They help them get the most out of an existing purchase and get them excited about making new ones. This, above all else, is the goal of marketing in the social media age.
In The End.
For businesses of all sizes, of all types and in any industry, social customer care has become the new marketing of the 21st century. Focusing on delivering an exceptional customer experience via social media checks all of the boxes of traditional marketing – encouraging repeat business, generating word-of-mouth, etc. – all at the same time.
While social media is undoubtedly valuable in terms of major marketing goals like increasing engagement and building awareness, the true power of this platform has to do with what happens after first contact has been established. Marketing in the digital/social age can no longer involve “straight selling” – those brands that simply take their traditional collateral, create digital copies and tweet them out into the world will quickly find themselves left behind by the competition in ways that even they likely won’t be able to explain.