Does your company really need to be on social media?Written by Uwe on August 20, 2013
You’d have to conclude that social media is essential to your company’s survival if you listened to most of the ‘expert opinion’ online. However, you’d also notice that the websites so passionately advocating the need for social media are usually offering their services as social media consultants. They make compelling arguments for their case, of course, but why wouldn’t they? To help you decide whether your business really needs to be on social media you need to take a more objective view. Let’s start by looking at the facts.
Who you’re selling to is important
Social media has been taken up quickly by the younger generation – after all, Facebook was originally an exclusive networking site for students at Harvard University. As a result businesses with more mature audiences may have initially passed over investing in social media believing it’s something their customers just aren’t interested in. Evidence that social media use is growing among older people may make such businesses re-evaluate their position, however. A Global Web Index study [https://www.globalwebindex.net/Stream-Social] for example found that amongst 55-64 year olds Twitter had seen 79% growth in active users over 2012.
Then there’s the difference between B2B sales and B2C sales. There’s a belief that while social media is useful for selling to consumers, its uses are limited when it comes to B2B. While studies have confirmed that social media has more of an impact when used for B2C, 43% [http://www.business2community.com/facebook/facebook-marketing-statistics-you-need-to-know-0289953] of B2B companies have nevertheless said they have gained customers from Facebook. While the figures don’t tell us whether the companies gained enough customers for their social media campaign to have been worthwhile, it does suggest that old preconceptions about whether social media could help your business must be constantly reevaluated.
You won’t get rich quick
The Social Media Examiner questioned 3,000 [http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-marketing-industry-report-2013/] marketers about the influence of social media. The numbers don’t necessarily make comfortable reading for supporters of social media, as 57% of all marketers reported no increase in sales. Meanwhile, of those that had been using social media for more than three years, an increase in sales was reported by just over a half of respondents.
So what does this information tell us? For a start, social media alone is never going to be a quick fix solution, and any business wanting to invest in social media should be prepared for an uphill battle and the need to persevere. Secondly, with so many companies reporting that social media has not increased its sales it should be recognised that an automatic, uncritical ‘yes’ should never be the answer to whether your business needs social media. While it’s probable that some companies may not effectively be using the tools at their disposal and some may not be tracking sales correctly, in other cases social media will just not be useful. Of course, that’s not to say Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other services won’t be useful in the future, but right now perhaps you should try to establish where else inward investment could be better spent.
How to make the most of social media
If you believe that on balance your business will benefit in the long-run from social media you’ll need to do much more than just send out a few tweets and get people to like your Facebook page to notice any effect on your turnover. If you don’t put a clear strategy in place your chances of social media success will be all but dead.
Hiring a social media expert
If you don’t already have the resources to come up with a coherent plan you could outsource the work and hire one of those incredibly enthusiastic social media consultants to help your business. When collaborating with someone on a social media plan make sure they talk in terms of ROI rather than followers or likes. A million likes won’t make you a penny if those potential customers aren’t converted into sales. Watch out for marketing talk and buzz words – if they’re not interested in making it completely clear how social media is going to grow your business it probably isn’t going to grow your business. Finally, remember that social media isn’t a quick fix – don’t expect miracles and don’t be lured by the promise of them.
If you’re planning on implementing social media into your business without external help make sure you educate yourself thoroughly before beginning. These are some tips to get you started.
Selecting the right social platform
One of the first things you’ll have to consider is what platform to focus on. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular but services such as Pinterest and YouTube might be able to better serve your brand and customers. Do some research on the demographics that use each service and use the figures and trends (remember, use of Twitter by 55-64 year olds is growing) to judge which platform is likely to serve your business best. Beware that the demographics can vary wildly from country to country, so don’t look at a report for American users and assume it will be the same for British users. This can clearly be seen in the fact that last year in America eight in 10 Pinterest users were female, while in the UK six in 10 were male.
Integrate current marketing efforts
Many businesses love taking advantage of social media because it can be relatively cheap, especially for businesses with few employees – in fact, the Social Media Examiner report showed that 62% of companies with fewer than 10 employers had reduced their marketing costs by using social media. However, if you can afford to continue with any existing marketing efforts make sure to integrate social media into it. For example, Ericsson have found that 67% of people engage with social media while watching the television [http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2012/consumerlab/tv_video_consumerlab_report.pdf] – if you invite your audience to interact with you immediately via social media during a television advertisement the number of people you reach with your message will dramatically increase.
Develop a social media policy
Every week there is a new scandal over someone’s use of social media. A careless tweet or status update made by an employee can potentially cause huge damage to your business’s reputation, leaving you regretting your decision to ever start using social media. A social media policy can reduce the risk of an online catastrophe. When creating a policy make sure you define what social media is, and remember that new platforms are always being launched. If employees are going to be engaging with customers through social media you’ll want to provide them with some form of specific training so they know how to conduct themselves in the online arena.
Social media an inevitability?
A growing number of people believe that any business intent on thriving will eventually have to embrace social media. Even if you agree with this, there’s still a dilemma, however. While it’s clear that those businesses making the leap early will have an advantage over those that are late to the social media party, if your business won’t benefit from social media over the next few years surely you shouldn’t waste your money. It’s a dilemma that you should only feel confident confronting once you’ve done comprehensive research to find out the likelihood that social media can help your business.