For many businesses, however, they simply haven´t time to speak to everyone. As such, they have to work out the best communication avenues to go down to ensure they are speaking directly to their target audience.
This extends to social networks, too – not every platform will be well aligned with what you have to offer. That´s not necessarily a bad thing, mind, as most businesses wouldn´t have enough pairs of hands if they were.
That said, being signed up to just a couple of social networks is resource-sapping enough. It´s for that reason many brands choose to outsource their social media management – because if you´re not prepared to go the whole hog, well, you might as well not bother at all.
While this may sound a little extreme, just take a look at those around you: there´s a reason why brands´ social media efforts are so exhaustive; they´ve recognised that you can´t build up relationships with customers with just one or two posts a day.
So, how do you decide which network to join?
The quick-fire answer would be to adopt a trial-and-error approach, and while this is sound advice, you can lessen the likelihood of error somewhat by swotting up on the less obvious characteristics of the platforms.
Without further ado, then, let´s look at what makes the different social networks unique…
Pros: As of the first quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.44 billion monthly active users, making it the most popular social network out there. This is why you won´t find many brands that are serious about social media marketing without a Facebook profile.
Typically, with popularity comes wealth – meaning Facebook feel obliged (if that´s the right word to use) to give their users something back. For businesses, that gift comes in the form of handy tools to help you track your fans, or customers, and gauge page statistics. This enables brands to refine their Facebook campaign, allowing them to come back altogether more confident next time.
It´s perhaps no surprise to find, then, that nearly eight of ten (77%) B2C marketers have acquired customers through Facebook, according to data quoted by QuickSprout. Over half (53%) of Facebook users follow a brand, after all.
Cons: The very fact that so many people are on the platform, however, means that competition for attention is high. If you want to get your brand´s voice heard, you´d better be good. You can´t afford to just flit in and out of the platform – you´ll have to become immersed in it, otherwise those tools we spoke about as an advantage will prove frustrating more than anything.
Also, Facebook has hardly proven itself to be the most accommodating network to brands – check out last year´s update where it effectively limited what little organic reach brands had left.
Then again last month, announcing a further update which will see brands´ content take a further back seat, with the powers that be at Facebook assuming that your average user doesn´t enjoy reading clever and useful – albeit branded – content.
Pros: Twitter is a personal favourite of mine. I´ve made all manner of good discoveries that wouldn´t have come onto my radar if I hadn´t signed up for an account. It´s every bit as useful for businesses, with updates recently being made to accommodate all types of content.
From a user point of view, it´s pretty addictive which is great news for us brands as it means we can send out a slew of posts in the knowledge that they are being read. It´s for that reason that Michelle Manafy of business advisory firm Inc calls many of the users “information junkies”, which we think is rather apt.
It´s no slouch either, boasting some 302 million monthly active users, prompting some businesses to ease up on traditional customer service and use Twitter as a means to serve their customers instead.
Cons: If you thought Facebook was an exhausting pursuit, just wait until you spend time at the helm of your Twitter account. A tweet reaches its peak after 18 minutes apparently – that means if you haven´t got any engagement on the post after 20 minutes or so, you´re best off trying again.
Tweets scroll through thick and fast, so you´ve got to be smart to extend that life expectancy further (this is where hashtags and mentions come handy). It´s no mean feat but it is possible with a bit of know-how and persistence.
Pros: Here at M2 Bespoke, we spend a significant amount of our time on LinkedIn; as well as proving a good source for finding interesting content, the content we produce and publish on the platform rarely fails to garner interesting discussion. As such, we weren´t surprised to discover that 65% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn, according to the latest research.
With nine out of ten B2B marketers now signed up to the network, LinkedIn now has more than 332 million members to its name. It´s a wise decision, too, with a host of great insights on work productivity and networking available to them – not to mention job hunting opportunities too.
Who would´ve thought that bloke from your university course, who you spoke to three times across as many years, would prove such a great source of new business…
Cons: When building up any meaningful relationship, it takes a good deal of effort and time before it turns into something substantial (there´s a time-related theme here…).
Also, B2C businesses are still figuring the platform out – while their customers are potentially using the platform, it´s not always easy to target them whilst they´re in ´business mode´.
Meanwhile, for those looking to publish content on the platform, there´s a whole lot of competition for users´ attention. Getting content read is even harder if you have only got, say, 100 connections to your name, or are not participating in a number of groups, with readers making the assumption that your voice is not worth hearing.
Finally, like so many of the social networks, getting your posts seen by a wider audience will inevitably require your business to hand over some cash – does your social media marketing budget allow for that?
Pros: Even amateurs can make a picture look good these days with the use of a filter, or a little subtle photoshopping.
I hear the photographers among you cursing right now, but what I´m trying to say is that there´s scope for any business to post something that´s a feast for the eyes. Well, maybe not so much for financial services businesses, but there aren´t too many exceptions.
The platform obviously comes into its own if you are operating in a highly visual industry with customers who, too, will naturally seek to express themselves through images. The key question is whether your customers are actually using the platform – that should inform your decision whether or not to sign up. If your audience is young creative types you don´t have too much to weigh up, to be honest.
If you´re struggling to decide whether or not it´s worth your time to take the plunge, just go for it and pair it up with Facebook and Twitter (presuming you´re signed up to one or the other), as the energy spent snapping and uploading is not wasted if customers are liking and sharing your pictures, even if it´s not on Instagram itself.
Cons: They say that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but is it? Without doubt some are, but is, say, a picture of your employees really that valuable? Wouldn´t a bio for them be more enlightening for your customers? The thing with Instagram is that it very much caters for the younger generation. Those that prefer a bit more sustenance from their content are likely to invest their time elsewhere.
So, whilst it is not completely useless for the more ´serious´ companies, Instagram is primarily built for businesses that deal with fashion and lifestyle products and services.
For the rest of us, it´s hard to see how a picture of a facet of your business will cause a customer to click-through to our website.
Drawbacks of social media marketing
Perhaps we´ve been guilty of jumping the gun a bit? Maybe you´re still at the stage of deciding whether or not social media marketing is right for your business?
We get asked these sorts of questions on a weekly basis, and we always seek to offer a balanced and honest answer in return – not only because it´s the right thing to do, but quite simply because clients quickly work out if they are getting a good return for their investment, and if not, they will duly depart us.
Let´s end on a positive note and look at the cons of social media marketing first:
- I´m not sure if I´ve mentioned this already, but setting up social media accounts, writing interesting and funny posts, interacting with customers, curating content and seeking out potential customers (I could go on) takes up a fair bit of your day. Are you ready for all that?
- Social media marketing doesn´t offer immediate returns. Quite often you´re having to build up relationships and brand loyalty from scratch, which don´t happen overnight. Good things come to those who are prepared to wait, though.
- A cohesive social media marketing campaign requires sufficient organising, otherwise you could have a case of ´too many cooks´ on your hands. If all your social media marketers aren´t reading from the same page you risk diluting your brand voice – regular customers might see straight through that.
- Having a presence of social media means you´re exposing yourself to the public, who can prove pretty unforgiving. On occasion, it´s possible to turn this negativity into a positive, of course, but that can take considerable skill and diligence.
Advantages of social media marketing
Naturally, we´re having to rein ourselves in a bit when talking about the upside of social media marketing, but you only need to look at how many brands are signed up to see that we´re not exaggerating.
Here we go, then, suitably concise pros of social media marketing:
- Relationship building takes a bit of time, but it´s so worth it. What other ways can you have one-to-one dialogue with customers, that isn´t as a result of a complaint? Not too many, we´d suggest and brand loyalty will be fostered, too, as a result of your endeavours – if you know what you´re doing, of course.
- Everybody´s doing it. Not just your competitors, but your customers. Of your friendship group, how many have managed to avoid signing up to one of the social networks? Quite simply, there´s a platform for everyone, regardless of demographic or age – it´s not often we´ll say this, but follow the crowd.
- It´s a chance to inject some personality into your brand. To see this in action, head to Paddy Power´s Twitter page, where their snappy tone proves a real winner with their audience – boasting 517,000 followers, compared to William Hill´s 134,000.
- It´s also an opportunity to gain vital feedback. No longer do you have to send emails requesting customer feedback, knowing full well it will end up in the spam folder.
- Finally, if something goes awry somewhere down the line, social media is your chance to set the record straight before rumours do any serious damage. Sure, you can do similar via a press release on your website, but who´s to say that´s going to be read?
So, now it´s make your mind up time. Are you going to get on board with social media marketing, or was I wrong to go skinny on why you´d be mad not to?
Perhaps you´ve made those first steps but now not sure which way to turn? Here at M2 Bespoke, our social media team will quickly gain an acute insight into your business before pointing you in the right direction. In our experience, after witnessing their followers and engagement head in the right direction, clients often aren´t prepared to go it alone again and opt for our expert assistance every step of the way – we´re forever happy for the company, we won´t lie.Ben Hollom
June 4, 2015