As soon as you feel that you’ve mastered Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest, a new curveball is thrown into the mix.
Rather than applying a general ‘social media’ strategy to all under one umbrella, it’s imperative to recognize the benefits of each, individually, while keeping an eye on new platforms and social usages entering the fold. In doing so, you stand a chance of keeping up with online marketing’s most prolific marathon runner of recent years.
This doesn’t mean social media is necessarily sprinting ahead in leaps and bounds, but its continuous methodical evolution means you’re likely to lose the race if you stop and rest your business’s social strategy for too long.
The key message to remember is that social media is a dual-faceted tool. While it still remains a vital portal for you to promote, advertise and share news or products; it can also be a dominant source of data and consumer trends—trends that will dictate your future offering and your future success in the competitive digital world.
Every marketing function and decision you look to integrate into your day-to-day operations—chatbots, voice searches, multimedia promotions, price discounts, etc.—can be driven by knowledge obtained from consumers. And there is no more open a highway to retrieve such knowledge than social media.
Buzzing across platforms
Across the core platforms themselves, the idea, of course, is to create a buzz. You need your products, services, promotions or news to not just be seen, but to be shared, discussed and debated. Shopify’s virtual assistant, Kit, is a prime example of a technology serving this need through automated ad campaigns and social media drives, with many more are likely to follow.
No matter what tools you use though, getting the desired coverage and exposure on Facebook and Twitter can be tougher, as you’re often relying on people reading, rather than just visualizing. The importance of clever hashtags is indicative of this, with consumers leveraging words to pique their interest in a company or service.
For example, Eyebuydirect’s #ItsHowYouFrameIt campaign has done just that across Instagram, veering people not simply towards eyeglass or sunglass collections, but towards a discussion about styles and wider fashion trends. That more word-based approach can then seamlessly link into the ultimate buzz-makers: YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Inevitably, these latter three work so successfully from a marketing perspective because they’re inherently visual based. And no matter how well you describe a product, the proof derives from seeing its application and visualizing it in your wardrobe, or on your mantelpiece, or as a living room centerpiece.
For Instagram and Pinterest especially, the interactivity they can foster has shifted the goalposts even more drastically. Moving images, changing colors and 360-degree views combine with live customer service feedback, additional shopper input, and reviews to create an experience that parallels physical retail from a practical perspective, and exceeds virtual reality from a human interaction point of view.
The next frontier when it comes to social media revolves around not simply promotion or community, but about turning those social values into direct commercial propositions.
The growth of social selling has largely fallen under the radar but is one of the most dramatic trends in e-commerce at present. Back in 2014, the number of shopping orders that took place via social media channels rose 202 percent. And as you can imagine, 2014 wasn’t exactly the summit. Rather, it was an opening salvo in what has been a continuously exponential tirade ever since.
It makes sense really. If people are spending such large portions of their day locked into their phones and laptops—invariably on social media sites—why make the process convoluted? Rather than trying to redirect people away from Facebook, via your business account, to your actual website; why not just allow these consumers to purchase products and services through said business account?
The likelihood of impulse buys, stronger loyalty to your social channels, and repeat business is massive. People—especially younger demographics—are so dedicated to the people they follow on Twitter, or the celebrities they track on Instagram. Businesses now have the opportunity to be added to their ‘favorites,’ while tapping into their customers simultaneously.
It’s a win-win situation and unsurprisingly, social commerce is booming as a result. Out of the customer-facing spotlight, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have already merged such ideologies through dedicated business apps to serve as a more seamless LinkedIn alternative within the business community. And back on the digital shop floor, the rise of gimmicks like chatbots is absolutely no coincidence, given the opportunities that can arise through social selling.
Removing humans from social
So, we know where the leading social platforms are, how best to use them, and how they’re evolving. But what can businesses do within their own internal operations to most efficiently operate these channels?
As ever, the answer lies in technology—not necessarily removing human input, but certainly in giving humans fewer ambiguities to solve.
Automation or machine learning in this context can make decisions in terms of when to post tweets, or how to price products on certain social channels, based on data being received in real time from across the global online community. IoT can then take care of the rest in delivering the right posts or promotions, on the right social platforms, at the right time, to the right demographic of consumers (preferably narrowing it down to an individual, rather than a group).
With this final box ticked, companies are in a better position than ever to turn social media into a tangible, direct revenue stream.