When used productively, social media can help your business grow and thrive. The 2018 digital report from the firms We Are Social and Hootsuite reveals that over four billion people all over the world use the internet—more than half the global population—and most internet users are also active on social media.
With more than three billion regular users, social media is a valuable tool in today’s marketplace. Here’s how you can effectively incorporate social media into your business.
Share only mobile-friendly posts
Business owners looking to capitalize on modern usage trends must ensure their ads are both mobile friendly and that they appear on social media platforms commonly used by the business’ target demographic. The We Are Social 2018 report shows that of social media’s three billion users, nine out of ten access their platforms of choice via mobile devices. In fact, the report attributes much of the internet’s growth to the increasing affordability of smartphones and data plans.
Data shows that Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform. Other top contenders include YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and of course, LinkedIn. Businesses need not be active across all platforms, but choosing two to three social media sites on which to post regularly helps to grow your web presence and establish your business as trustworthy and approachable to clients.
Social media posts should feature no more than a few short, intriguing sentences, accompanied by an eye-catching image that links to a company webpage or blog post on your mobile-optimized site. Online marketing guru Derek Halpern, who runs the social media strategy site Social Triggers, has nailed content marketing down to a science. He states that the goal of your web copy should be to get people to read the first few sentences; this is the real challenge. Once they have read that, they are much more likely to keep going. For optimal visual appeal, he recommends a page of 480 to 600 pixels in width, starting your article with short sentences (even bullet points work well) of 100 characters per line, and having a 180 to 300 pixel image to the right of the text.
Select your ambassadors
In addition to having active company pages on social media sites and encouraging your team to follow them, businesses should also consider allotting marketing-savvy staff to be brand ambassadors or advocates, creating, for instance, a Twitter or YouTube account where they can post updates and information. Examples can include “[Jane Doe] of [Acme Inc.],” “[Jane Doe, [Acme Inc.] Marketing Specialist],” or even simply “[Jane Doe] Customer Service.”
Ambassadors can use these social media pages to promote the company within their own networks, and all employees can follow the business and like or share the posts. However, when choosing your ambassadors, be sure to select team members who truly understand your brand’s values and are passionate about them.
Keep in mind that since social media is a place where the line between personal and professional is blurred, entrepreneurs, business owners, and their brand ambassadors will have to tailor their strategies when engaging on these platforms. This is because when it comes to social media, traditional advertisements don’t work. Users want to feel that they are interacting with a human, rather than a business.
Use social media to start conversations, not to sell
A consumer survey conducted by Sprout Social, the social media management platform for brands and agencies, shows that people were more persuaded to buy from brands on social media that were responsive, offered promotions, provided educational content, and shared interesting visuals. The top four traits that they appreciated in a social media brand account were honesty, friendliness, helpfulness, and a sense of humour.
But while your target market may want your product, they do not necessarily want to see an ad for your business while they scroll through their social pages in bed or on their lunch break. The Sprout Social survey shows that you can craftily maneuver around this catch-22 by posting useful information relevant to your business’ target demographic.
Brand ambassadors should use warm, casual language when constructing posts that aim to inform their target audience rather than sell to them, as traditional ‘salesy’ posts come across as crass on social media and may leave a sour taste in the mouth of your followers. For example, if you run a renovation business, share DIY tips on how to paint your bedroom like a pro or fix your own leaky faucet. If you sell organics and specialty health food items, share an article on the best smoothie recipe of the season.
Involve the office
Unless you plan to outsource your social media duties, business owners should allot some time during the workday to allow brand ambassadors to use social media. But as the Pew Research Center informs us that seven in 10 Americans use social media—most of whom check it multiple times a day—many business leaders worry that encouraging social media use could lead to a slippery slope. On the other hand, with three billion users, not being present on social media means missing out on an important way of reaching many potential clients who may otherwise never hear of your business.
To tackle this issue, many proactive businesses have instituted social media workplace policies. Emily Bennington of Monster.com suggests researching policies of other businesses such as Coca-Cola to use as a starting point for crafting your own, paying special attention to how they address issues like confidentiality, appropriate behaviour, intellectual property rights, and so on. Keep the policy simple, and consider following it up with training sessions so employees are clear on how to responsibly engage while representing your brand.
Use only the best platforms for your business
When choosing which platforms to join, businesses should consider both the popularity of the platform as well as how many members of its target market are using it. January 2018 data from Statista shows that as of January 2018 there are 2.17 billion active users on Facebook, 1.5 billion active users on YouTube, 800 million active Instagram users, 330 million active Tweeters, and 260 million active LinkedIn members.
Because about half of all people who use the internet are active on Facebook, a business Facebook account seems like an obvious choice, but entrepreneurs and business owners should also keep in mind the demographics of the platform. The Pew Research Center tells us that eight in 10 online Americans have an active Facebook account. In addition, women continue to use Facebook at somewhat higher rates than men (83 percent of female internet users and 75 percent of male internet users). Though it is popular among all age groups in general, to reach a more mature audience, Facebook might be your best bet. A Business Insider report shows that users aged 45 to 54 are spending more time on Facebook, representing 21 percent of the total time spent on the platform – more than any other age group. The Pew Research Center adds that 62 percent of online adults aged 65 and older now use Facebook as well.
With well over a billion users, YouTube is another major social media platform that actually reaches consumers aged 18 to 49 better than traditional TV in the United States. While millennials love the platform – preferring it twice as much as TV – Generation X and baby boomers are its fastest growing demographics, and data shows a majority of adults will take action after viewing an ad on YouTube. Most people tune in to watch videos uploaded by individual users (80 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds) with content uploaded by brands, companies, and institutions at a close second (74 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds). These trends suggest that a YouTube account may be the right option for your company’s brand ambassadors, as viewers enjoy watching other “real” people.
Meanwhile, Instagram and Twitter are popular among younger users, and should be considered by companies selling to a teenage or young adult demographic. Instagram is also a smart choice for companies whose products or services are very visual, such as clothing or jewelry businesses.
While LinkedIn seems like a drop in the pond next to Facebook, YouTube, or even Instagram, the Business Insider report also shows that it is more popular among high-income users than competing platforms: “Forty-five percent of U.S. adult internet users with an income higher than $75,000 annually are on LinkedIn.” In fact, over the years LinkedIn has garnered a reputation as being a professional’s social media staple, so business owners should at least consider creating a company page and/or using the platform when searching for new talent.
More and more people are using social media every day, and for many casual users it can seem like a time sink. But when utilized strategically, it can also be a growth tool. For business owners, social media is an asset in a time of increased digital communication, keeping you connected to your clients and prospects.