INTRODUCTION: THE DIGITAL LANDSCAPE
When marketing turned digital, it was a game-changer. Brands could now reach a global audience of millions or even billions, and accurately measure the success of each and every campaign. Digital forms of entertainment were now taking over, and marketers had to adapt in order to reach the masses. Now, marketers have another massive shift to adapt to in the form of social media. Social media marketing is a powerful force, and is a valuable tool to tap into for all businesses.
EASE OF USE
One of the reasons for the immense success of social media marketing is how easy it is to use. You can instantly set up a profile now, for free, and reach your audience. This is in stark contrast to traditional marketing like TV ads, magazines or even websites, in which businesses have to wait months for their advertisement to be approved and finally run. With social media at our fingertips, businesses can now make announcements, share blog posts, reveal discounts and communicate with their audience right away.
The time effectiveness of social media marketing is undeniable: in fact, by spending as little as six hours per week, over 66% of marketers see improvements in their lead generation with social media. It can take up to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to make a purchase, and social media allows this repeat exposure without overwhelming the audience like eight consecutive billboards would!
In the beginning, digital advertising was often a free avenue, although this led to some quite spammy approaches. While this has since changed, social media marketing remains affordable. Some portions of advertising are still free, such as the act of creating an online profile on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Pinterest.
Free account creation aside, brands are now able to utilise a small budget to reach a larger audience. By carefully choosing how to advertise, companies can make the most of even a tiny budget and run a successful ad campaign. This is radically different to traditional advertising, in which the biggest players with the biggest budgets get ahead of the competition. The best billboard in the best location or the a two-page spread in a magazine don’t come cheap. However, this is no longer the case thanks to advanced yet affordable targeted advertising programs which allow businesses to select their ideal customers based on things such as location, interests, age and browsing habits.
AUDIENCE INSIGHT & TARGETED ADVERTISING
While social media marketers are able to access the entire world at the touch of a button, it is even more effective to market in a targeted manner. 71% of companies are now using social media to gain marketplace intelligence, allowing them to tailor their advertising to a specific demographic. Budgets are now more effective than ever, as brands can tailor exactly those that are more inclined to respond to their message. For example, a homewares company could create an Instagram campaign that directly targets those who follow home and design accounts. Businesses can also narrow down an audience based on factors such as location, job, age, gender, and much more. Sometimes, it can even be possible to see the results of your social media efforts in real time.
What’s remarkable is that according to Forbes, 83% of organisations don’t analyse the demographics or profiles of their customers that are on social media. This means they are missing out on valuable information that can shed light on the behaviours and interests of their audience, allowing businesses to compare promotions to see what people are drawn to more, or monitor comments to see the honest opinions of their customers. Using monitoring tools, businesses can access information across all forms of social media in real time. There are billions of active users on these sites and apps, and businesses are missing out if they do not tap into the customer data and use this to inform crucial marketing decisions.
Geotagging is another effective way to target a specific audience. Through apps such as Snapchat, companies can market to people in certain locations. For instance, a local restaurant can add a geotag to their location to encourage customers to take photos of their dishes, or for passersby to drop in. Geotagging can also be used on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to send messages to followers in specific companies, as well as to discover company-relevant online conversations.
Another powerful aspect of social media is that businesses can directly communicate with their audience. Businesses can ask questions to their audience and immediately gain valuable feedback, especially if they provide an incentive such as a discount or giveaway.
While it is often overlooked, another key advantage of using social media is that it allows for improved customer relations. While 86% of companies are comfortable marketing with social tools, only 41% use those tools for communicating with customers. Social media is a great tool for directly communicating with customers and creating a sense of transparency, all while being able to do it much faster than sending a letter on even an email. Customers have begun to expect brands to have a social media presence – they want fast response times and 24/7 availability. Nowadays, it’s the norm for people to head to Facebook to leave comments, questions or reviews.
While phone and email support is still relevant, many customers prefer the instant accessibility of social media. Those experiencing problems want to have their issues resolved as quickly as possible, and social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter allow them to communicate with brands directly. This also means that customer relations is now a public experience, and allows potential consumers to observe the quality of that brand’s communication.
Successful customer relations through social media improves business: 71% of customers who receive a quick response on social media say they are more likely to recommend that company to other people. Social media marketing allows for the development of relationships between consumer and company, and when people feel as though a company really cares about their issues and opinions, their loyalty to that company increases. Companies that want this loyalty understand that social media is a place to have conversations with their followers: it is not a one-sided environment like traditional advertising.
There’s no doubt that traditional advertising avenues such as TV and radio pale in comparison to digital forms. Many consumers use adblockers and streaming services, and therefore watch their shows and podcasts commercial-free. Additionally, traditional marketing only gives brands access to a limited amount of people, while social media gives these brands a much larger audience. For instance, Facebook has over 750 million users. You are also more likely to reach a more engaged audience, as consumers can choose to follow specific pages in order to receive notifications and instant updates.
SUCCESS & INCREASED EXPOSURE
92% of all digital marketers have noted that their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses, and 80% of digital marketers noted that their social media efforts created more traffic. Social media also allows you to monitor your competitors, letting you come up with creative strategies for staying ahead of the game, such as offering products or content that their competitors lack.
As a company gains followers and likes, its influence continues to grow. If a brand is, for instance, “hashtagged” on Twitter and consumers begin to use that hashtag, that brand will appear more valuable to other Twitter users. Social media also allows brands to interact with authoritative social media influencers to increase their reach and influence. Additionally, as businesses put out more and more valuable information, more and more consumers will share (or “retweet”) that content.
By not having social media, you greatly limit your own reach to only those who are already familiar with you. Companies that share content online draw a bigger audience to themselves. The greater quality this content is, the more followers the brand will gain and the more traffic will be generated for the website. If your website traffic is down, social media marketing is especially worth considering.
More than 58% of marketers who have been using social media for at least a year have noticed an improvement in their organic search engine (SEO) rankings. Optimising a website is not enough for companies to outrank competitors – a strong social media presence is now an integral part of any digital marketing strategy. If you want to rank highly for specific keywords, you must also post and generate content on these topics to build authority and trustworthiness.
Marketing in the digital age is ever-evolving, and social media is just the latest change on the scene. As of 2016, 92% of marketers agreed that social media is necessary for their business, a notable rise from 86% in 2013. Social media marketing has leveled the playing field somewhat between small and well-established businesses, forcing everyone to become marketing-savvy. Anyone and everyone now has the potential to succeed online. 90% of brands have a presence of some sort on social media: has your brand adapted to the social media age?