Making Social Media Work for Your Business
An online presence is key to increasing brand awareness
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Social media has seen its share of ups and downs over the past several years. Although some naysayers consider it to be a waste of time, social media has proven itself as an effective brand marketing tool. In fact, establishing an online presence is critical to increasing brand awareness in today’s business environment. At the same time, however, simply being active on social media is not enough. If you don’t get it right, you’ll risk doing more harm than good by alienating the very people that might otherwise become your strongest brand ambassadors. Today’s social media platforms can help you reach customers and prospects in unique and effective ways. By overcoming the challenges associated with social media marketing, you can cast a wider net and increase consumer engagement with your brand.
A Level Playing Field
One of the best aspects of social media is that it features a level playing field where all businesses (regardless of size or location) can compete for mindshare. All participants are given the same tools and expected to play by the same rules, but it’s important to remember that these rules can change over time. YouTube offers a great example of this; early in its lifespan, the most popular channels were run by individuals. The platform’s algorithms favored frequent and consistent uploads for the front page, so the best practice was to churn out low-effort content in high volumes. Over time, though, the focus has shifted to high-quality content that provides more value. YouTube evolved to include tutorials and video essays, thereby increasing the potential for branded channels to succeed on the platform.
Tricks of the Trade
When developing your social media strategy, it’s important to recognize that your social media account is rented space provided by the platform. The providers of the platform are “digital landlords” that can (and will) alter their terms and conditions without warning. Abrupt changes to layout and algorithms can factor into how, when, and even if your intended audience will see you.
By identifying ideal demographics like location, occupation, and age, you can create a customer persona. Once you have your ideal customer in mind, use the search functions on your social media platforms to explore relevant hashtags (e.g., #print, #technology). This will provide insight into how people engage with those topics. Your search will likely reveal any trending pain points among your audience, and you can use this information to identify topics of value for the content you post.
Now, look at what your successful competitors are doing on social media platforms. Is the content long or short? Casual or formal? Does it take the form of blogs or videos? Armed with this information, you can craft a strategy for approaching your desired audience in the most effective way.
All Platforms Are Not Created Equal!
Because each social media site has its own unique appeal and methods of engagement, it’s smart to establish a presence on a variety of platforms. Keep in mind, though, that the content you create must adhere to the general style that people expect from each platform. According to Statista, the most popular social networking sites on a global basis were Facebook and YouTube.
|Most Popular Social Networks by Active Users|
The good news is that there’s a platform for just about any marketing goal, so you’ll surely find one platform or several that can work for you. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few key characteristics of some major social media platforms:
- Facebook: Originally created as a site that enabled college students from all over the world to connect online, Facebook soon opened to everyone and is now widely used by all age groups. Users can post updates about their daily activities, share photos or videos, and send individual messages via private chat functions. It’s a great way for families, friends, and businesses to connect, and its widespread use and appeal makes it a must for businesses that are hoping to maintain an online presence.
- Instagram: This platform enables users to share photos and videos (with or without filters) with others. Instagram is very popular among influencers, or those hoping to become influencers. All age groups can use Instagram, but it is especially popular among younger demographics. Instagram relies heavily on mobility marketing, so those hoping to market on the platform should make certain that their landing pages are completely optimized for mobile use. Because its posts tend to be visually appealing by nature, Instagram is a great platform to create and improve brand awareness.
- LinkedIn: Some other social media sites are associated with fun or frivolity, but LinkedIn is viewed as a more “professional” site that enables users to network and develop business connections. According to the Pew Research Center, LinkedIn has become quite popular among college students that might soon be entering the professional workforce. LinkedIn is perhaps the best platform to use if you want to post a job, recruit new employees, get a job, obtain business advice, network, and connect with like-minded professionals. Because LinkedIn enables you to post long form content, it can help you position your business as a thought leader and industry expert. This content can also encourage your connections to start a dialogue, which can increase brand awareness and engagement.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is an image sharing and social media service that makes it possible to discover and store information on areas of interest. Some other platforms might be more popular among younger generations, but Pinterest’s popularity has more to do with gender—it is favored by women more than men. According to Statista, nearly 80% of US Pinterest users were female. That said, use among men is growing. Pinterest isn’t just for sharing recipes, fashion trends, or vacation ideas; it’s a great place for businesses to showcase their offerings. Because the platform often acts as an information resource, users will often visit Pinterest when they are preparing to make a purchase.
- TikTok: A relative newcomer to the social media space, TikTok has become a force to be reckoned with. As of January 2022, the app has over 1 billion active monthly users. Although it primarily started out as a platform for showcasing pranks, lip-synched music videos, dance routines, jokes, and other forms of entertainment, TikTok can also be used for business marketing. Whereas other social media platforms have become wildly popular even among older generations, TikTok remains a refuge for younger generations. The good news for businesses is that TikTok has more engagement than any other social media platform. On average, users spend 11 minutes per session on TikTok, compared to 5 minutes on Pinterest and 3 on Instagram. TikTok recently introduced business profiles, ads, and the ability for creators to collaborate with brands on paid and reward-based campaigns.
- Twitter: This microblogging and social networking service enables users to post and interact with messages known as “tweets.” Twitter’s creator, Jack Dorsey, was a student at NYU when he envisioned at platform that would enable users to send short messages (similar to texts) to groups of individuals. Tweets are limited to 280 characters, so it’s common for any links to be shortened to conserve space. Hashtags are huge on Twitter, but the site didn’t create them. In addition to attracting customers with word-of-mouth marketing, Twitter can be a great place for businesses to meet their customers where they are, create conversations, and increase brand engagement.
- YouTube: As mentioned earlier, YouTube and its user base have evolved over time. With over 1 billion users, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any cable network. Users will watch about 40 minutes of video per session on average, so YouTube is not just for short clips. Like Instagram, YouTube is most popular among younger users. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of 18-29 year olds in the US use YouTube. The same is true for 91% of 30-49 year olds, but only 49% of those aged 65+. With so many users viewing YouTube videos on a mobile device, videos must be optimized for all viewing platforms. When it comes to marketing, traditional advertising typically won’t work on YouTube. Instead, businesses must create something that tells a story in a fun and engaging way. Your videos should integrate your product or service offering, but the delivery must be authentic and relevant.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
Establishing and maintaining a presence on social media might seem like a lot of work, but you can simplify the process by taking some key steps. When you’re first starting out, take the time to establish a proper plan. The best strategy will often vary based on the audience you are trying to reach, the nature of the platform, and your overall business purpose. Social media is often the first point of contact with valuable prospects, so start small and do what you do best so you can reap the rewards right away. Over time, you can scale up.
When establishing your social media presence, think back to the strategies that brought you success in other areas of your business. These same strategies might prove effective on a social media platform, too. Also keep in mind that social media platforms change over time, so it’s important to remain alert, flexible, and nimble.
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