Believe it or not, social media has been around for over a decade. Over half of all adults in the UK are now using one or more social networks and it’s becoming an integral part of modern life.
Why should businesses use social media?
Some reports suggest that over 90% of businesses are already on social media, and many would argue that it’s no longer optional for businesses to have a social media presence. Social media marketing offers an opportunity for businesses to communicate directly with customers and prospects.
Exactly how you use social media depends on the nature of your business, there is no ‘right way’ to use social media. Some of the ways social media could benefit your company include:
- Reaching a new audience or connecting with people in a specific niche
- Increasing your visibility online and driving traffic to your website
- Engaging with potential customers and building a network of online advocates
- Learn what people are saying about your business.
Social media channels
There are many different social networks out there, here’s an overview of four of the most popular channels:
Facebook is the largest social network with over a billion users worldwide. It is the second most visited website in the UK, behind Google. In addition to having a personal Facebook account, businesses can also set up a Facebook page which other Facebook users can ‘like’. Once users have liked your page, they are ‘fans’ and may see your updates in their newsfeed. Recently Facebook has limited the number of fans that see your updates in an attempt to get businesses to ‘boost’ (pay for) posts to reach a wider audience. Facebook is most useful for consumer (B2C) brands but is also used by some businesses selling to other businesses (B2B).
Individuals, companies and organisations can use Twitter to send public or private 140 character messages (tweets) including text, pictures and videos. Users can follow each other and retweet each others’ messages, effectively sharing them to a wider audience. Twitter has 241 million active monthly users and is the third most popular social network in the UK behind Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter is used for both B2B and B2C communications, and is a great way to stay connected to prospects, customers/clients and suppliers. Increasingly Twitter is being used as a customer service channel to respond to questions and problems. We also find Twitter combined with Followerwonk to be a really useful research tool. Our top Twitter tips: be careful about what you say as Twitter is more public than you think. Who you follow and who follows you can give away a lot.
LinkedIn is a professional social network where users can create a personal profile (think of it an a public CV) and build a personal network of business connections. Connections can endorse you and recommend you to their connections, and vice versa. LinkedIn also hosts a huge variety of groups where users can post articles and discuss topics relevant to their industry – a great way of raising your profile. In addition to your personal profile you can also create a page specifically to promote your business. LinkedIn works best for B2B, particularly IT, recruitment, professional services, sales and marketing. Interestingly, LinkedIn is the only social network used by more men than women.
Google+ is Google’s equivalent to Facebook but although there are many similarities, it’s true to say that Google+ has not yet reached the levels of adoption seen by the other three main social networks. When you create a Google+ account, other Google+ users can add you to their circles, comment, and share your updates. Like Facebook, you can also create a Google+ page for your business. Google+ can be a bit hit and miss for social media engagement, but it’s worth considering setting up a Google+ page just because of the link to search engine giant Google. In addition to potential SEO benefits, linking your Google+ page to your website means that it can appear at the side of search listings for your brand, helping improve your brand visibility.
The first steps in getting started with social media for business
Rather than jumping straight in, we recommend businesses who are new to social media should spend some time learning best practice and developing a strategy based on their objectives. Which channels and tactics you use will be based on your specific sector, goals and the demographic of your target customer. We’ll be looking at each of the four main social networks in a bit more detail over the coming weeks but meanwhile if you would like to discuss how to improve your business use of social media, please get in touch.