Social media has transformed marketing for businesses and organisations over the course of the last ten years or so, and it is important to understand the full potential of such platforms, and how they can be put to work on your behalf.
Because social media is such a modern innovation, many individual businesses get left behind in the continual fight for market share when it comes to using such platforms, and if you are among them, it can be hard to know where to start, and how to go about things!
Read on to learn more about the importance of social media in marketing, including the most popular platforms, how they work, and how to approach them when it comes to harnessing their power to promote your company, products and services.
How can social media be used for marketing purposes?
Social media is a catch-all term to encompass a huge number of different websites and forums, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram being just a few of them! Social media of all forms provides a platform to allow people to connect with friends, share information and news, socialise, and keep up to date with the latest happenings from both small, private friend groups, and wider collectives from all across the world.
However, it is important to remember that the vast majority of people use social media as just that; “social” media, and as such, they do not appreciate being bombarded with adverts, marketing information or a hard sell.
Making social media work for marketing involves taking a very soft sell approach, and promoting your business or service organically, using each site’s users to ultimately spread the word and let others know that they like what you do-and that means taking the right angle on how to catch people’s attention and ultimately, drive leads.
Which social media platforms should I use?
There are a huge number of different types of social media platforms out there in virtually every format that you can imagine, and each of them work slightly differently to each other. The “big four” in terms of the market share held and their number of active users are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. We will look at each of these, and how they work, in more detail below.
Facebook is far and away the most popular social media site in the world, with well over one billion active users each month. Facebook allows private users to register on the site and create a profile, then connect with friends, colleagues and things that are of interest to them. Users can then post on their own walls and view those of others, controlling who can see what they post and what information is available about them via the site’s privacy settings.
Businesses too can set up their own profiles or pages, and try to encourage people to visit them and share them. This all comes down to the Facebooks “likes” system: The site incorporates a “like” button for virtually every post and page, and how many people “like” the page or post provides it with a tangible value. The more people that “like” your page or post, the more people get to see it, and so, find out more about your service and hear your message.
Twitter again allows users to set up a profile and bio, and then post their own short messages, which are limited to 140 characters each. Each profile then aims to gain followers, who will see each message (called a “Tweet”) and find content that is of interest to them by following others, or searching keywords. Twitter uses hashtags to assign keywords and key phrases to posts, and every day, the current trending hashtags can be seen at a glance on the side of the screen.
Twitter’s power comes from the number of followers one has, and also, by the number of re-tweets or favourites any given post garners from others. The ultimate goal for many is to write a viral post, or start a trending hashtag that will go viral and become widely viewed across the site.
YouTube is a video sharing site, which allows users to make and upload their own videos to the site, and then provide a description and title for such that allows people to find them using the site’s search tool. YouTube is used for a huge range of different purposes from video blogging (Vlogging) to music sharing to providing tutorials, comedy skits, sharing camera phone footage, and much more!
Savvy businesses can use YouTube to post helpful, interesting or informative videos that will generate a buzz, which in turn raises the company’s profile, and encourages sharing. If people like the type of videos that you create, they can also subscribe to your channel.
The most popular YouTube videos and posters can make significant sums of money from ad placements at the beginning of each video, for which the video’s owner receives a share. The value of YouTube comes down to the number of subscribers you have, and the number of views each video has, which is factored into YouTube’s search algorithm to rank, and so promote, each video.
Instagram can be used for both photo sharing and video sharing, with the former being the more widely used application. Users can tag their pictures with hashtags for ease of sharing, and to allow people to search by keyword for images and content that is of interest to them. Like other social media sites, Instagram users can follow others and gather followers of their own, allowing their content to be viewed by an ever-widening audience, and again, the more followers the better!
Taking the right approach to marketing through social media
Ultimately, social media is one of the most effective forms of online advertising if done properly, which generally means being able to create a buzz and collect followers, likes or subscribers. The more of these that one has, the wider their audience, and the more widely their content will be disseminated and shared, again, spreading the message and introducing your message or content to ever more people each time.
However, social media content must, first and foremost, provide value to the users that you are hoping to attract; the general public do not sit browsing for adverts, or watching promotional videos for companies with a view to finding a new favourite! This means that in order to build a following on social media and get your name and service out there, you must tailor your marketing endeavours to sharable content that people want to see, rather than what you want to sell them.
The soft sell approach is the way to do this; get people interested in what you do and how you do it by taking a bespoke approach to your page or profile, and make sure that your content is interesting and entertaining for the people who see it. This means steering well clear of BUY OUR STUFF NOW! Types of messages, and instead spending time and effort putting a face and personality on your business, which other people want to get to know more.
Ultimately, this will lead to your profile or page collecting more followers or fans, raising your profile.
Sharing personal insights into the people behind your company, what they do, how things work, and anything novel, interesting, or fun is the best way to do this; if people enjoy reading your feed or wall, they will naturally want to share it, spread the word, and find out more. If, however, you restrict your usage of social media platforms to only direct sales-related content or continually bombard your readers with offers and attempts to sell them things, you will soon find yourself speaking to a non-existent audience, as that is simply not what people want to see within their social feeds.
Building a strong social media profile with lots of followers and readers organically takes time and effort. Setting up your profiles themselves is the easy part; getting people to click through to your pages and follow you is the hard part!
First of all, you need to establish how to target people who may want to read or view your content, and then encourage them to stop by, view it and then share it or otherwise endorse it to their friends and followers. This means that not only does your content itself need to be golden, but you must also use the right keywords and terms to make it findable and enticing, and ensure that it doesn’t disappoint when people actually view it!
The more followers, likes or shares that your page or post has, the more it will get, in a good example of the snowball effect; but building that core base of users in the first place to get things started is not easy.
Once you do build up a significant number of followers or fans, you have to maintain them and keep them interested, in order to continue to reap the benefits of a large following, and the advantages that this provides in terms of spreading the word about your future content.