Media influences opinion…
…there is no doubt about that. But do we mindlessly follow what is presented to us? Some media researchers used to argue that what we watch and read is fed into us like a syringe and there is little we could do to stop it. Then along came social media.
Audiences are no longer directly influenced by the media. Viewers have an opinion and they can write about it. In other words, they are actively involved.
It’s good to talk
Marketing a business nowadays is not about talking at your customers, it’s more about interacting with them and having a conversation. The customer is always right, so the saying goes, well now businesses can quickly find out what ‘right’ is. Allowing a customer to be heard gives them a sense of value, and trust is quickly gained.
Through social media businesses are easily found. They can be ‘liked’ and recommended in an instant. Twitter for example, has allowed consumers the chance to react immediately. If something wonderful happens we know about it. The same as if something isn’t right – we can Tweet about it straight away. With Social WiFi a business can create vouchers which can be sent out in real time to allow access to a real bargain in moments. This increases footfall once word gets out that there is a deal to be snapped up.
How important is social media?
Let look firstly at statistics on Facebook. There are 1,310,000,000 active monthly users who spend six hundred and forty minutes per day on Facebook. (To put that in perspective, approximately 20,000,000 people watched the Olympics opening ceremony). Nearly half of all users log on at least once a day with almost half of all 18-34 year olds checking Facebook as soon as they wake up. Each Facebook user has an average friend count of 130 people and a whopping 70 languages are available.
Facebook’s potential for business is unprecedented, as it allows a business to actively engage with customers in a way never seen before. It is a platform for concerns that can be quickly addressed and a place to show off positive customer feedback, all of which can be transmitted very quickly to each customers network of friends.
Let’s talk about Twitter
Similarly businesses should make use of Twitters massive audience, 15m users in the UK alone. These microblogs are tiny messages that can be mass broadcasted in an instant, and customers can respond on a personal level. Kate Rose reports ‘Twitter has also told us that almost half of its users worldwide prefer to read, rather than send out tweets themselves: 40 per cent of users worldwide simply use Twitter as a “curated news feed of updates that reflect their passions”. This is well worth remembering when it comes to setting goals for a social media presence; a significant proportion of your audience are never going to respond to you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t absorbing your content’.
Of course many do respond to tweets with retweets, posts and follows. On Twitter you can ‘talk’ to anyone at anytime. Imagine the cost to a business to pay for this amount of advertising.
Mark Scheafer goes so far as to say that Twitter saved his business. ‘I have a thriving international business built almost entirely through social networking. My three largest customers and five most important collaborators all came to me via Twitter’.
What about LinkedIn?
Another invaluable Social Media platform for businesses is LinkedIn. This social networking website was created primarily for people in professional occupations and statistics show that there are 250 million users worldwide. LinkedIn allows a user to build a professional identity but also creates opportunities for businesses.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff explains here how LinkedIn can boost a business. Creating a LinkedIn group will automatically build new audiences. LinkedIn also enables businesses to join the groups where their customers are. A clever way to do this, she suggests, is to select membership of a limited number of groups, then be fully active and participate in the discussions of those groups. This leads to connections that are worthwhile and ensures that a business is noticed. Obviously LinkedIn helps to promote a business but by providing useful content on the site rather than pure promotion it allows business to grow in a natural way. An additional feature on LinkedIn is free marketing polls, an economical and timesaving way to find out what your market thinks. LinkedIn can also involve a businesses employers to increase presence and extend networks further.
What is Pinterest and should businesses use it?
Pinterest is like a bulletin board for sharing photographs. It enables users to create theme-based image collections of events, interests, and hobbies. Users can browse other pinboards for images and “re-pin” images to their own pinboards. If businesses have something visual to sell or talk about, they can use Pinterest like a virtual shop window and research has shown it to be very effective at driving sales – even compared to to other forms of Social Media.
To see some expert advice on how to use Pinterest for a business look at entrepreneur.com who emphasise the best way to work this platform is to be active with Pinterest’s 70 million users. This includes organising your themes well and branding your logo onto the photos. Other users are then sharing your logo too.
One thing is certain, social media is not going away and it’s either engage or disengage.
It simply isn’t enough to just get likes any more: David Behady sums this up nicely.
‘It is hard for brands to shine in social media, a place where users are in the driving seat and will screen out anything that fails to interest them. But a social media campaign with the right creativity and relevance can create deep engagement with audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.’