Social media has become a digital buzzword, but social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter mean different things for business owners than they do for personal users. In 2015, a CMO survey set out to answer the question, “How does social media help businesses?” The answers were often surprising. Only 15 percent of respondents could quantitatively prove the positive impact of social media on their businesses. Nonetheless, social media represents a continually growing segment of the digital market, and it is essential for any brand looking to succeed online. Why is social media good for business? The key lies in understanding what social media is, how it helps businesses connect with current customers and generate new leads, and the impact it has on sales and marketing efforts overall. Popular social media sites for business include:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
SEE ALSO: List of Social Media Sites

Why is Social Media Good for Business?

The greatest impact of social media on business is the increased potential for customer relationships and engagement. Digital consumers behave in different ways from their brick-and-mortar consumer counterparts. Digital consumers live in a world where unlimited information and products are always at their disposal. Some use desktop devices while others use smartphones and tablets, but today’s digital customer expects not only quality but convenience as well. They also expect accessibility. Customer service was once the domain of call centres and physical customer service stations inside stores and company headquarters. Today, more businesses are offering the potential for one-on-one interaction with customers online through a variety of social media channels. Each social media platform presents a unique opportunity for customer engagement. There is no need to sign up for every social media platform available. The important thing is to go where your customers are. Consider your target market segments and focus on finding ways to be accessible to them on social media.

Facebook for Business

Facebook is one of the world’s largest social media platforms with nearly 1.44 billion active users each month. Originally, Facebook was intended to allow users to share links, pictures, videos and status updates with friends and family they knew in real life. Today, Facebook has become a popular platform for entertainers, brands and companies as well. Facebook allows businesses to create a branded page to act as a portal for online customer interaction. E-commerce software even allows you to run a store directly through your Facebook page. The social media platform is a hub for users and customers in all market segments, so it is also a great platform to use for customer service. The truth is that many consumers take to Facebook when they are happy with a product or service, but just as many use Facebook to complain about dissatisfactory customer experience. Businesses that fail to claim their Facebook profiles risk alienating consumers who expect to be able to connect with brands they patronise through Facebook, or even having their profile claimed by an imposter. They also lose out on the opportunity to respond to customer feedback. When managed properly, Facebook can be a valuable tool for all types of businesses. Facebook’s built-in star rating system for business pages allows customers to rate and review your services. Their friends will see the review, depending on their chosen privacy settings, which can create a significant amount of word-of-mouth marketing without any effort or financial investment on your part. Even negative Facebook comments and reviews give you the chance to demonstrate your commitment to customer service by responding in an official capacity on a public platform.

Twitter for Business

Twitter is another leading social media platform with 305 million monthly active users in 2015 alone. While Twitter and Facebook share a user base that often overlaps, these platforms have distinct applications for business. Twitter allows users to communicate brief messages to followers who opt-in to view their status updates. With a 140-character limit, Twitter marketing is an exercise in brevity. Savvy brands can use this to their advantage, sending out tweets with relevant quotes, links to high-quality, shareable content, and taglines that can easily be hashtagged and shared. The hashtagging system on Twitter makes it easy to connect with users in your niche, and clever use of hashtags in search can lead to the creation of viral marketing campaigns. Businesses can also use hashtags to identify users asking questions they already have the answers to. To make Twitter work for your business, focus on connecting with followers who are already discussing topics relevant to your brand. Retweet items from other influencers in your field and post more interactive content than promotional content to keep a positive reputation on the site.

LinkedIn and Other Platforms

LinkedIn is a social media platform that is highly focused on making professional connections within and across industries. While this platform is less often used for business-to-customer engagement, many companies successfully use it to recruit new talent and develop a network of other businesses and professionals in their field. Marketing on LinkedIn is generally more relationship oriented than sales oriented, so focus on establishing relationships with local influencers and businesses that offer complementary services. From bartering goods and services to recruiting your next talented employee, establishing a LinkedIn profile can help you succeed online.

Sales and Social Media Marketing

Despite the lack of solid metrics connecting social media marketing efforts to sales, there are some tools that can make it easier to track the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts. Important metrics to follow include:
  • Click-through rates (from your social platform to your website)
  • Email sign-ups
  • First click attribution
  • Converting click attribution
General click-through rates monitor how often users are driven to your website through social media posts and shares. Email sign-up metrics allow you to gauge how many leads you are able to generate by posting links to your mailing list form on sites like Twitter and Facebook. First click attribution helps you determine which links first brought unique visitors to your website, drawing them into the sales funnel you have created. Converting click attribution is a metric that tells you which links on your site and social media profiles led people to convert from visitors to customers. Each of these metrics plays a crucial role in determining whether specific social media campaigns were worth the time, effort and money expended.

The Overall Impact of Social Media on Business

When asking the question of, “How does social media help businesses?” it is important to remember that the answer can’t be measured in sales metrics alone. The value of using social media to promote your brand extends beyond click-through rates and conversions. Establishing a social media profile on the most relevant platforms for your business is a matter of improving your visibility and protecting your online reputation as well. Businesses that don’t claim their social profiles run the risk of being impersonated or simply missing out on opportunities to connect with consumers on their level. With more businesses adopting social media marketing strategies each day, social media has ceased to be optional in most industries. Social media profiles allow you to generate a steady stream of highly visible content, making them especially valuable in terms of SEO. The most important thing to remember when deciding on a social media marketing strategy is to carefully consider which platforms are right for your brand. The number of social media platforms available can be overwhelming, but start out with one or two to keep things manageable. An automotive business catering to local customers likely doesn’t need a Tumblr account, but a Facebook profile that keeps an updated log of hours and allows customers to share their testimonials and reviews could be an invaluable component of your marketing plan.

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