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Kids are doing it, moms are doing it, even cats and dogs are doing it – so why not businesses too? We’re talking about social media and it seems that everyone from the dog with his own Instagram account to moms sharing the neighbourhood block party photos on Facebook has found the best ways to use social media to meet their needs.
Businesses have been taking advantage of social media for quite a while – some successfully, some less so. To use social media as part of business practices, there needs to be an understanding of how the tools of today work and the expectations of others who use them. Unlike traditional advertising, social media isn’t a place for a company to do all the talking. This is a forum for sharing and exchanging ideas.
If you want your business to be in control of your messaging at all times and need to have the final say about your company’s brand and products, you will struggle with social media. It’s logical to say “well fine, I just won’t be on social media then,” but even this approach doesn’t provide you with the desired outcome of control. People will talk about brands and products in whatever way they choose in a public forum – which social media ultimately is. So, even without your business’s official social media accounts, you may have people talking about you on their own private pages or even a page they’ve created specifically to rant about your company. Consider the Facebook pages “I hate Ford’s” which has 35,000 followers. The 2,400 people who are part of “Get rid of the Island Bay Cycleway,” or the fledgling “I Hate Tim Horton’s” page with just 156 members.
Take the reins on social media and establish your own social media platform. The good far outweighs the bad when you are an active player and if the bad does happen, you’ll be in a better position to navigate it. One of the places to start is to identify your social media marketing plan. Consider your priorities for social media: Is your goal to create brand awareness? Talk about new products? Share special tips and tricks with a loyal fan base? Provide an outlet for that fan base to talk and give feedback? A combination of these things?
You can also use social media ads on many of the platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. While ads are a valid way to reach an audience, they should never make up the majority of your social media strategy. You want a balance of information sharing, interaction and selling so that selling makes up 20% or less of your content.
Once you know what you want to achieve with your social media efforts, consider where your audience is. If you’re looking to use social media as a hiring tool (depending upon the type of business you have) LinkedIn may be the best bet to find professionals in your industry. However, if your company is looking for people to host product home parties at social events, Facebook or Pinterest may be better options.
Of course, running a business doesn’t often allow the time to create a social media plan or determine the best tools to reach the right audience. Fortunately, there are a number of operations that specialize in this kind of work. Social media agencies have popped up everywhere as an essential component of a marketing team. If you don’t know why you’d want to insert a photo into a Twitter tweet and haven’t got a clue what your company’s hashtag should be, it’s a good indication that it’s time to call in some professional help.
Not only can social media agency teams help you understand the basics of social media and all the tools available, they can also develop a comprehensive plant that makes use of keywords, existing messaging and positive interaction. They may manage your social media accounts through the use of social media management software like Hootsuite and they will also provide you with social media analytics so that you can see how the program is working and discuss the right changes going forward.
Social media, as mentioned above, can be effective in a number of ways for businesses. Brand recognition is a big one when a company simply wants to get their name, product name or a sense of the company more ingrained in the public consciousness. This isn’t easy, it takes a lot of time and strategy, but social media is an excellent way to achieve the result. Consider creating messages that help your customers with problems they are likely to have, talk about common issues, ask questions and post neutral, amusing photos or videos.
You’ve probably already guessed that social media is an excellent way to connect with customers and potential customers. You’ll want specially trained, highly-positive customer relations people working with the social media team so that any questions are answered quickly, accurately and positively. There will be negativity, there will be rants when a product or service doesn’t work right – having the right people responding can turn some of those negative situations around and create a more positive environment for all online conversations.
By offering a forum where customers and potential customers are free to speak, you will build a community that, in most cases, is extremely loyal. You must take the time to interact with them and be sure to respond quickly as social media is expected to be instant by many users. Nurture those who use your social media channels and even consider offering them something special that other customers don’t receive. Imagine the benefits from giving away free product to someone who already supports your brand and uses social media – they are likely to sing your praises even louder and share this on social media channels they use.
Social media is a great business tool to take advantage of for brand recognition, selling products and services, creating engagement, hiring staff and more. Be sure to understand the pros and cons before rushing into setting up social media accounts and accept that not everything you deal with on the various platforms will be positive. Give high-energy team members authority to interact with customers and help turn any negatives into positives to establish an enviable loyal customer base.