Every business needs a marketing strategy. It has to publicise its brand, share information with consumers, and connect with actual and potential customers. But the traditional methods are not sufficient on their own; it is increasingly important to include social media in the marketing mix.
What is Social Media?
Social media is any online community where people interact with one another. Facebook and Twitter are obvious examples, and sites such as LinkedIn and Google+ are increasing in popularity all the time. It also includes specialist communities like Pinterest for sharing pictures and YouTube for posting videos online. New virtual communities emerge all of the time.
Usage is widespread: For instance, there are 1.4 billion Facebook users across the globe, and 98% of 18-24 year olds use social media. But, it is not just younger people who engage in online communities. All age groups busily interact with online friends and acquaintances; to the extent that Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters author Bill Tancer notes that social media outranks all other online activities.
Building Relationships with Customers
Whatever your type of business, your customers spend a lot of time online. They use social media, and expect you to do the same. Effective use of social media helps you to make contact with a wide variety of people: Because you connect on the basis of shared interests (personal as well as business), you build up a web of contacts that conventional marketing can’t reach. This makes the benefits equally applicable to local and global businesses.
Social media brings the human touch to your interactions with people you have never met, allowing them to feel that they “know” you. This allows you to build up a relationship with existing and potential customers; the type of relationship that often helps to inform a decision as to where to purchase goods or services.
Beneficial Marketing Strategy
All of this creates some very tangible benefits for your business. Although it may take a little while before the results are evident, regular use of social media is an essential part of marketing your business. It enables you to inject some of your personal style into what you do, making your brand visible and recognisable.
Increasing your online presence, and encouraging your customers to engage with you (through likes, shares and comments) may also eventually lead to higher search engine rankings for your business website, and so ultimately to more sales.
Although you should not use social media for direct selling, it is an excellent way of showcasing what you do and of providing your customers with information. For instance, many suppliers of consumer goods (particularly clothes and accessories) find Pinterest an effective way of displaying new products. Similarly, other effective ways to stimulate interest in your business includes running contests or giveaways on your pages.
Social Media for the Modern Business
Social media does not replace conventional marketing and advertising. But, it is an essential component of the marketing toolbox, and an increasingly important strategy if you want to engage with your customers, and keep ahead of the competition.