Social media is a hot marketing ticket these days, and one that has become increasingly more beneficial to a company’s bottom line.
A June 2021 poll done on behalf of Sprout Social found that 78% of consumers are more willing to buy from a brand after a positive interaction with that brand on social media. And a vast majority of executives — 91% — anticipate that their company’s social media marketing budget will jump over the next three years, with most convinced that it will increase by more than 50%.
While social media can indeed be an effective marketing tool, it’s crucial for small businesses to know that it takes some finesse to use it effectively. It isn’t always obvious how to make it work: A study by Forrester reveals that 77% of companies feel that it’s difficult to create a cohesive customer journey across channels and platforms.
Let’s look at the ways your social media presence can play a role in your business, both good and bad.
Benefits of social engagement
More feedback. Engaging directly with your audience provides a way to easily solicit customer reviews and feedback. While the response might include bad reviews or spam, there is also likely to be much positive feedback to help bolster your online reputation.
Greater brand loyalty. Customers are far more likely to become repeat buyers when they are in a company’s social orbit. Surveys show that 60-66% of customers aged 18-34 are more loyal to the brands they engage with on social media.
Word-of-mouth. According to Nielsen, 83% of customers worldwide say they trust recommendations from friends and family. Since social media is a crucial way for such word-of-mouth to spread, social presents a massive opportunity to grow your audience.
Broader exposure. A 2021 report from Social Media Examiner reveals that 88% of marketers say use of social media has led to increased exposure for their business. You can segment your social audience to reach people most effectively and use visuals to draw people into your content.
Opportunities for engagement. Social media provides a playground for trying new ways to engage with your audience. Try creative ideas including giveaways, contests, games and requests for user-generated content to get people interested and talking.
Business intelligence. Social accounts give you access to an ongoing stream of valuable data about your audience. Sprout Social finds that 85% of executives say they are planning to use social data as a primary source of business intelligence.
Potential pitfalls of social engagement
Reputational harm. If you mismanage your social presence, anyone looking to characterize your company may end up with the wrong impression. This can have unanticipated consequences. If you’re seeking a business loan, for example, the evaluators of your creditworthiness may take cues from your social presence that you hadn’t intended. And with some funding options clocking in with as high as 44% interest, you don’t want to mess around here.
Creating the wrong tone. While companies often finely tune the brand voice they present on their website, they may take more liberties with social media due to its casual nature and constant requirement for new content. If the voice that comes across on social feels stiff and official, people might think your brand is boring or staid. But if you’re too casual or inadvertently offensive, you’re even more likely to turn people off.
Customer expectations. Customers today often turn to social media as a way to reach out to and correspond with the brands they follow. A hefty 42% of them expect to get a response to questions on social media within an hour. This means your team must be obsessively responsive or risk letting potential customers down.
Poor-quality content. While you may have heard that frequency of engagement is a key element of social media success, the goal isn’t to create as much content as possible at the expense of quality. If your team feels too much pressure to churn out Tweets and posts, you might end up not adding much value to your customers’ feeds, causing them to tune you out, or worse, block you altogether.
One key thing to remember when evaluating whether and how to use social media is that the longer a company uses these platforms, the more effective this method of marketing becomes. Social Media Examiner found that while only 35% of marketers that have been using social for less than one year agree that using it increases sales, 69% of those who have been using it for more than five years agree with that statement.
Social media’s increased effectiveness for generating sales after several years is likely due to both a company’s growing savvy about how to use these platforms and its audience’s perception of its stability and longevity due to its continuous presence.
The upshot is that while social media is a world of quick takes and instant gratification, using it effectively for business purposes is a longer-term project.