Follow this advice to avoid becoming your own business’ executioner.
It’s easy to be dismissive of social media from a corporate perspective. Those likes and retweets don’t seem particularly valuable in isolation, yet collectively, quotes and status updates can provide a fledgling company with invaluable free publicity – often at the expense of less socially-minded competitors…
‘Must Have’ Connections
The absence of a well-maintained social media presence can be the death of a new company, particularly in certain industries. No self-respecting PR agency would survive without a Twitter account, and Facebook is increasingly pivotal to the success of retailers. Social media is no longer a novelty, and many platforms are unquestionably in the ‘maturity’ stage of their product life cycles. It could even be argued that Twitter is in the ‘decline’ stage, as the company stumbles from one disappointing trading report to the next. However, it is still a platform that delivers news, thought leadership and is a stage for influencers. You should be there.
Social Media Usage – All Time High
One of the reasons social media is so important for companies is its ubiquity. According to figures from Statistica, 78% of US citizens are active social media users, with 33 million people regularly using social media on mobile platforms. Critical mass was achieved many years ago among the leading networks, and nowadays a company without a presence on at least two of the big five platforms is in danger of appearing out of touch. Those big six, incidentally, are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Snapchat. Communications platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger offer considerable scope for audience engagement or user retention.
Oh, and it’s Free
Since advertising and marketing budgets are often strictly limited, it’s impossible to overlook the importance of free communications on social networks. Being able to build armies of followers at no cost represents a compelling benefit, and it’s one of the many reasons most firms have established social media presences. Everything from staff stories to one-day promotions can be mass-mailed instantly and freely, where costly postal mailings would take days and emails could end up trapped in spam folders. Of course, there’s no guarantee that social media messages will be seen, although an entire division of marketing has been created to maximize the chances of posts and updates being viewed by followers and fans. The key is to find the social platform that suits your business or is the place where your customers and potential clients hang out.
Lost in the Crowd
When it comes to audience engagement, there is a very clear market leader among the social media platforms – and it’s not the one you’d expect. Posts on Instagram receive almost ten times as many interactions per thousand followers as Facebook updates, though Facebook does boast far higher levels of user minutes spent on the platform each month. Instagram also has the highest market penetration among the critical 18-34 year old demographic. Instagram Stories are currently the hottest ticket in town and businesses are making great use of them. However, the sheer volume of advertisers on Facebook can make it difficult for smaller or newer brands to stand out, even with strategically targeted advertising campaigns. It is worth putting your focus on local traffic for real engagement.
Timing is Everything
There’s a certain irony that while companies can fail without ongoing social media campaigns, some social media platforms can attribute their own failure to the lack of engagement with other companies. Google+ was too late to the party, while Flickr was outmuscled by the perceived superiority of Instagram; meanwhile, Vine’s micro-video format meant average visitor lengths were far shorter than competitor services. While this is frustrating for any company that has invested time and effort cultivating an audience on these platforms, it reflects the shifting popularity of many social media networks – and the importance of being seen on the most successful outlets.
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