The Developing Role of Social Media in the Modern Business World
Social media, although a relatively recent phenomenon, is becoming an increasingly important part of any business’s marketing and client base development platform. The perception of social media marketing has shifted quickly—no longer viewed as a trendy or passing fad, having a flexible and well-managed presence in each of the “big three” (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) has become a must for any business seeking to secure a place in both the traditional and digital marketplace. What could once be accomplished by a traditional website now needs to be supplemented by a robust and responsive utilization of the tools social media offers. Navigating this strange, new world can be quite confusing at first, so here are some tips for those looking to bring their business up to speed.
Social Media Quick Facts
Here are some quick facts about the role social media is currently playing in the business world, courtesy of the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report:
- 94% of all businesses with a marketing department used social media as part of their marketing platform
- Almost 60% of marketers are devoting the equivalent of a full work day to social media marketing development and maintenance
- 43% of people aged 20-29 spend more than 10 hours a week on social media sites
- 85% of all businesses that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy reported an increase in their market exposure
- 58% of businesses that have used social media marketing for over 3 years reported an increase in sales over that period
The “Big Three”
There are three primary social media outlets that businesses use. Here is a basic overview of each outlet:
- Facebook: Facebook’s modest beginning, as a simple networking tool for college students (mainly designed to allow students to let their friends know where the parties were, and to look at the pictures from those parties afterward), belies its current status as a variable and integrated tool for business marketing. The primary method that businesses use to exploit Facebook’s marketing possibilities is by creating a “page” for their business (akin to having a website “on” Facebook itself—think of it as having an interactive yellow pages listing), which Facebook users can follow. Businesses can then use their page to market their products, offer deals, and build their brand.
- Twitter: Like Facebook, Twitter began as a social networking tool—a way for friends to keep in touch—but has blossomed into a full-scale business marketing tool. Twitter uses 140 character “tweets” (short messages) that appear in the homepage of all users who “follow” the account. Businesses can use these to release news, market their products, and direct attention to special offers and new content. Hashtags (a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign) can also be searched for on twitter, meaning that followers or users looking for info on that topic can be directed to your account by simply attaching a hashtag to particular concepts or ideas in your business’s tweets.
- Google+: Google+ is a relative newcomer but is quickly becoming an important tool for businesses looking to increase their presence in the world of social media marketing. Google+ has features that enable businesses to utilize its model in the ways Twitter and Facebook are used (product marketing, news release, the building of a “follower” base, etc.), but also has several facets these others do not. Google+’s “Promote” option allows you to customize your promotional content by creating different groupings of followers that you can then market differently to, and their “Measure” feature gives businesses an interactive measurement of how their Google+ page is being used. Google+ also offers a tutorial for businesses which gives advice on how best to use its features.
Know Your Business
One of the keys to a successful social media marketing platform is knowing your own business. A large corporation is going to have needs and attributes which require a very different approach to social media marketing than a small, local business will need to be successful. Play to your strengths—if you’re a larger company, focus on using social media to connect with a larger audience in order to get national exposure for your brand and products. If you’re a small, local business, use social media to build a dedicated, loyal customer base by offering the personal touch that only a local business can provide. If your business has a product or service that is primarily used or purchased by other businesses, use social media to network with other businesses in order to increase your visibility in the commercial marketplace. If your business offers a product or service which is primarily used or purchased by individual consumers, aim to use social media as a way to develop a pool of customers who see your brand as quality, hip, and available. No matter the size or nature of your business, a knowledge of your company’s strengths, target market, and product or service niche is an essential part of any successful social media marketing platform.
Consider Creating a Social Media Marketing Position
Lastly, if it is within your company’s financial position to do so, consider creating a position specially designed to create, develop, and maintain your company’s social media marketing presence. More and more colleges are offering degrees specifically tailored to social media marketing, and graduates of these programs are trained and ready to help utilize the powerful marketing tools social media offers to increase the exposure of your brand and the sales of your products. If your company is not able to afford a dedicated in house position for social media management, be sure to hire a third-party service provider that specializes in social media marketing. It is much easier and effective to hire a trained expert in this field instead of attempting to figure it out on your own or task one of your other employees—whose training and expertise are better used elsewhere—to try to manage your social media marketing.