The social network - People networking and creating bonds, contacts and connections

Despite the growing popularity of social media, and our dependency on sites like Facebook and Twitter for information, some businesses have still been hesitant to jump aboard. There’s skepticism around its effectiveness for local small businesses. We see huge brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Starbucks using social media with great success, but what about the average coffee shop around the corner or a non-celebrity dentist? Can they use social media to grow their businesses in 2015?

Social Media by the Numbers

The answer is an astounding yes. Social media allows smaller sized companies to compete against some of the larger companies and reach more customers. There are plenty of stats that showcase just how powerful social media is for businesses of all sizes. Here are some powerful numbers that make it more than evident that social media is the way to go in 2015:

(i) 63% of millennials say they stay updated on brands through social networks

(ii) 46% of millennials rely on social media when making purchase online

(iii) 89% of 18-29 year-olds are active on social media

(iv) Marketers will spend $8.3 billion on social media advertising in 2015

(v) 78% of companies now say they have dedicated social media teams

Social media has crossed over from being a tool that only forward-thinking companies should use. These stats show that social media marketing has become a necessity just like paid ads, flyers and other “traditional” marketing efforts. In order to compete today, businesses can’t afford not to be active on social media.

Benefits of Social Media for Businesses

Despite all of these stats, some businesses still aren’t sold on social media as a marketing tool. In fact, one in three small businesses don’t think social media is important for their business. One of the primary reasons for this is simply because they don’t realize all of the benefits it has to offer yet. And this is partially understandable due to the nature of social media. It’s used as a way to build brand awareness, fuel content marketing and other important aspects that aren’t as measurable as what small businesses on social media are used to.

It’s time to do away with the old mindset and outdated views of marketing. The Internet has completely changed the way your business has to look at marketing. And social media is the perfect example of this shift. Here’s some of the benefits of social media for businesses.

Social Media Lets You Get to Know Your Customers

When is the last time you filled out a customer survey? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been months or even years. The old ways of finding out information about consumers aren’t as effective today. People have grown to hate unsolicited messages from marketers and will only fill out a survey if there’s some type of gift at the end which can taint the data. Social media gives you the opportunity to find out about your customers in a completely non-intrusive way.

On top of that, you have the ability to see what your ideal customers are Tweeting about, what they put up on Instagram and other social media activity. All of this information lets you get a deeper look into who your customers are and what they like/dislike. Before social media you’d have to pay thousands of dollars to put together focus groups. But now it’s all at your finger tips.

Find out What Customers Really Think About Your Business

People aren’t afraid to voice their opinions on social media. That makes it a great place to get honest and raw feedback of what people think about your products or services. You can monitor what’s being said about your business and resolve issues right away. This is a huge advantage.

In the past, if a customer was unhappy with the service at your business they would just go home and tell their friends. So not only do you lose them as a customer, but you’re also losing potential customers as well without ever knowing about it. But in the social media age, when people don’t like the service they receive they Tweet about it publicly. So if you’re monitoring mentions of your company name you’ll be able to see it and fix the issue which could save you from losing customers.

Engage With Your Customers

People don’t only Tweet negative things about companies. Social media has done an amazing job of breaking down the wall that used to exist between businesses and customers. People post Instagram pictures of themselves enjoying their favorite brands, check in on Facebook when they go out to local bars and restaurants and happily show off their brand loyalty.

When companies promote their own products and services it can easily come off as an advertisement. But when people see photos on Facebook or Instagram of their friends wearing a company’s t-shirt or bragging about how much they love a certain product, it’s more genuine and effective

Send More Traffic to Your Website

Traffic is something that all business owners want, but struggle to get organically. While search engine optimization is usually the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to traffic generation, social media can be just as effective. Sharing your blog posts and other content from your website on social media is an easy way to get more visitors. Just be sure that you’re not only Tweeting your own content. Curate content from other sites in your industry, share images and other types of media.

Generate Leads

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media is that it doesn’t generate leads. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not only can you generate leads through social media, but you can also get a nice ROI.

The New Players in Social Media

We’ve seen the rise of a lot of new social networking sites in 2015. Unlike a lot of failed platforms in the past, these new players have really started to solidify themselves and become real contenders. It’s unlikely that they’ll reach the popularity or audience of Facebook or Twitter, but they’re very effective social media marketing platforms for businesses.

Some of the top new social media apps/sites we’ve seen recently are:

(i) Snapchat

(ii) Periscope

(iii) Instagram

(iv) Vine

The interesting thing about all of these is that unlike Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+, they all came out with an emphasis on mobile devices. All you have to do is download the apps and you’re set to go.

The great advantage of these new apps is that even though they have large audiences, they’re not as competitive as larger sites like Facebook and Twitter. That means that creative campaigns tend to generate a lot of attention and have a greater chance of going viral. Plenty of brands are doing a great job of standing out on platforms like Instagram and Vine.

While visuals are an important aspect of being successful on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, images and video are the primary focus of these new apps. The trend toward visual marketing is growing thanks to all of these apps and it’s time for your business to start taking action to be successful with social media.

How to be Successful With Social Media

Each social network has its own quirks and best practices. But there are also some general tips for success no matter which platform your company is focusing on. Here are some tips for using social media for business growth.

Define Your Audience

We’ve established that social media is one of the best ways to reach your target audience. But before you can start connecting with those people, you have to start by figuring out who they are. Defining your audience or avatar is going to help you:

  • Choose which social networks to dedicate your time to
  • Choose a voice that connects with them
  • Determine what type of content to share
  • Develop a strong social media marketing plan around them

Don’t just talk about who your ideal customer is, write it down. Include things like:

  • Age
  • Income level
  • Career/profession
  • Location
  • Hobbies

Education level

The more you’re able to define your avatar, the more targeted your social media approach will be. After you’ve put together your avatar, ask yourself what are their struggles? How can you add the most value to them? Then you’ll have a strong foundation to build on.

Don’t Get in Over Your Head

Where most businesses fail with social media is trying to take on too much too quickly. As tempting as it is to jump on every hot social network there is at the time, it could end up doing more harm than good. Social media marketing isn’t about just blasting out your new blog post across 20 different sites. It’s about establishing a real presence and adding value. It’s extremely difficult to do that on seven different sites at the same time, so we recommend starting with two to three maximum.

Take a look at this post to see the demographics of the top social media sites. Compare that information with the avatar you created and that will help you determine which site to place your efforts on.

The second issue that businesses run into is inconsistency. The fun and excitement of sending out Tweets and taking pictures for Instagram can start to fade away if you’re not gaining any traction, and then you get burned out.

A good way to combat this is to just dedicate a small portion of every day strictly to social media marketing. Around 30-45 minutes a day is a good place to start. Use that time to find new content to share, reply to any relevant social media posts and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.

Breaking social media marketing into smaller bite-sized pieces will make sure you don’t get overwhelmed and give up too soon.

Don’t Spam

This tip can’t be shared enough. People don’t want to follow businesses on social media that only publish promotional content. If every other Tweet is about your newest product or a 10% off sale, you’re not offering any real value to your audience.

Instead, focus on sharing content that’s helpful or entertaining. People use Vine, Pinterest and Facebook as a way to get a break during the day, not to be bombarded by advertisements.

Take a Unified Approach

Do you have consistent branding across all of your social media platforms? If your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages all look like they’re for different companies, then it’s time to reevaluate. Each profile doesn’t have to look completely identical, but your company’s core message should be evident in all of your profiles.

Aside from just aesthetics, you should also take advantage of the ability to connect different social platforms. For instance, you should be sharing all of your YouTube videos to Google+. And Vine is owned by Twitter so the two integrate very nicely. All of these different connections can make it easier to publish content across multiple channels easily.

Also consider the role your website plays in your social media marketing plan. As the home base of your business, it’s very important to have all of your social media profiles prominently displayed on every page of your site. Make it as easy as possible for people to connect with you. To help spread your content across social media, you should also consider having social sharing buttons on your blog posts.

Don’t Be Afraid to Connect

If you want to grow your business with social media, you have to engage and connect with other users. Unfortunately, the only time a lot of businesses interact with people on social media is when:

  • They’ve been @mentioned
  • Someone shares a link to their content

That’s not real engagement. Instead of being on the defense, how about going on the offense? When you see someone share a good piece of content that’s not yours, reply. If you see someone post something funny on Google+ give it a +1 and comment. Follow some new people on Instagram, participate in Twitter chats and really dive in head first. If you’re sitting around waiting for everyone to follow you and share your content, you’re going to be waiting a long time.

The companies that get the most love on social media are the ones that are the most active and engaging.

Social Media Management Tools Are No Longer Optional

There was a time when social media management tools were seen as something that only large corporations needed. That’s not the case at all, especially today. There are so many tasks associated with social media marketing that trying to juggle them all through separate dashboards can become a mess.

The Secret to Social Media for Business

The secret is work. You may be looking around at your competitors and wondering what you have to do to achieve the same level of success as they’re having on social media. We’ve outlined all the steps for you in this guide, the next step is putting it into action. Here’s a recap of the most important things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t believe the myth that social media marketing isn’t effective for businesses
  2. Define your target audience
  3. Start small and focus on three social networks at the most
  4. Add value by sharing amazing content, not just your own
  5. Be consistent
  6. Engage and interact
  7. Stay organized with a social media management tool

If you can do this, your work will pay off. Social media marketing is here to stay, and it’s proven to be one of the most effective tools for business growth in 2015 and beyond.


© sproutsocial

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