by Cassandra Cooper-Bagnall
Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. For years, social media channels have represented our ability to have a share in each other’s lives – whether it’s posting pictures of a new arrival, sharing embarrassing birthday moments, or creating online memory banks of our favourite experiences. During lockdown, it has been a great way for friends and family to stay connected.
And it’s been around for a while.
Six Degrees, the first recognizable social media site, was formed in 1997. Then came MySpace and LinkedIn in the early 2000s, YouTube was launched in 2005, and by 2006 Facebook and Twitter were available to users around the world.
Facebook has dominated the market, but it hasn’t been all sun and roses. Calls for greater regulation surrounding political elections and this July’s boycott over hate speech, has seen the mogul trying to swim through some very turbulent waters. But with the likes of Unilever, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola all previously advertising with the giant, the question remains – how powerful is social media?
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have long since exceeded their mandates of being merely ‘social’. They are now critical mediums for business success, and this has only been exacerbated by COVID. During the pandemic, companies redirected almost half of the marketing budgets (46%) towards social media and mobile activities, according to a survey from Deloitte. Uses ranged from brand awareness and brand building, to focusing on the retention of current customers and the attraction of new ones. When it comes to social media, there has never been a better forum to find out what your customers are really looking for, and you neglect it at your peril. But getting together the right social media strategy for your business, takes work.
We’ve all seen those Facebook pages that get a post every few weeks – if they’re lucky. If you’re not going to commit to a social media presence, better not to have any presence at all. To get the level of engagement that turns browsers into new customers, posting regularly with exciting and new content is a must.
Creating relevant content to boost engagement
While it’s important to produce consistent content, posting for posting’s sake isn’t helpful. As a general rule of thumb, posts need to either: inform, educate, or entertain (or a mixture of all three). Potential customers want to see that you’re engaging with current industry thinking, and are on the lookout for how your business is different to everyone else’s. Don’t forget to use a range of content mediums. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading text, so get those video cameras out.
Don’t neglect LinkedIn
It’s easier than you think to forget about your LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is often separated from other social media sites, because its primary function is forging personal business relationships. People use it to create a professional online profile that helps them build their careers, and forget that their business could use the same level of care and attention. Different social media channels need to be treated and interacted with in different ways. Facebook is fun, social, go nuts with the hashtags and photos. LinkedIn is for the company insights, future plans, comments on your industry and the wider picture. Think of LinkedIn as your company’s voice of authority.
Turning customer data into actionable insights i.e. social listening
How do you know the right people have been viewing and, more importantly, been engaging with your content? Get the analytics right and it will tell you who’s been looking at your content, who’s been actively engaging with it, the split between positive and negative reactions, and what your customers are really looking for. This applies to all social media channels, including LinkedIn. This is the most important step of your social media journey, because it will tell you where you have things right and where you need to think about recalibrating. If your launch, announcement, and other collateral isn’t getting the right level of traction, you have to start asking yourself, ‘what do we need to change?’
Richard Branson is often quoted as saying: “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad." And I agree with him. But, what if you had both? PR, advertising, and social media are not separate entities – not any more. In a world that is increasingly virtual, the lack of an engaged social media presence can be damaging to both brand recognition and company growth. A business is going to need the trinity to get their voices heard in a landscape that is already saturated with innovation and talent.