Social media. Social channels. Social norms. If you didn’t check in, you were never there. If you didn’t read it first on Twitter then it’s already old news. Snapchat isn’t just for sending rude pictures anymore and if you aren’t hashtagging the life out of your Instagram posts then why even bother posting them? #likeforlike #followforfollow
That’s all well and good for your personal life, but how do you harness the power of social media and apply it to your business successfully?
Firstly, accept that, in many cases, the personal touch is actually good when it comes to business. Truth is, some of the best social media campaigns we’ve seen from companies in recent years have embraced the personal and seen incredible results. It’s why they’ve stood out and ultimately gone viral – personalised content is often the most shareable as it’s something your audience can relate to. It doesn’t feel like aggressive advertising. Remember sharing a Coke last year and posting selfies with your name on a coke bottle or can?
A recent report by Ogilvy and Forrester found that Facebook posts from brand pages reach just 2 percent of their fans. Why’s this significant? Well, it means with social media, power is being taken away from brands and instead being put firmly in the hands of the consumer. Doing social media well is becoming more reliant on good, engaging, user-generated content. The notion that people buy from people isn’t a new, but the often missed element of this saying hinges on trust. People actually buy from people they trust, and generally speaking, your social networks are built around friends and family. In other words, people you trust. Thinking about buying a new cooker? You’re scrolling on your Facebook feed one day and happen to see a video featuring your mum’s pal, Denise, talking about the super easy process she’s just followed to get her new cooker. The Brucey bonus being that said cooker saved her dinner party. It works. Everyone knows a Denise and it’s such a relatable scenario that you almost forget they’re promoting a product.
It’s fair to say that the personal approach lends itself to B2C somewhat more comfortably than it does B2B. That’s not to say it won’t work, there are just more good examples of how it’s successfully been applied in B2C than B2B, perhaps because the conversational, friendly tone sits better with people buying things from supermarkets or placing bets online than it does with those seeking legal or financial services – there’s not much call for jokes and pictures of cats on the average solicitor’s LinkedIn page.
What does that show us? Well, most importantly, that you should always tailor your social media to your market and your audience. Finding out more about your market and your audience means conducting market research. A good agency’s discovery process should seek to understand all elements of the buying process for your customers and include the hosting of focus groups, calling existing customers, carrying out surveys and interviews as well as using a range of tools and data sources. The information gathered from this research should be used to form your social media strategy. You’ll have gleaned everything from the most appropriate tone of voice to use to whether or not a cat meme or two would be appropriate to post from time to time.
So, you’ve got the content and tone of voice nailed down, how do you then know which social media channel to get your message out on? Should you just register on all of them and spread posts far and wide? Only if you’ve got too much time on your hands. The best results come not just from talking about the right things in the right way, but doing so in the right places.
We recently conducted a poll on our own blog asking, ‘Which social network do you think is best for marketing your business?’ As it’s a live vote, the results may change slightly after publishing, however, at the time of writing, Twitter was way ahead, with 62% of the vote.
Now understandably, the sample from our vote may not represent the UK as a whole – but it’s interesting to see once channel in particular storm ahead. So why Twitter? We know that many consider it to be the best social channel for customer services. Digital and in particular, social media, has completely changed the speed at which it is acceptable for a company to respond to their customers – mainly by making contact between the two so east. Within 140 characters, customers will tweet their problem and tap anxious fingertips on their keyboard or mobile phone as they expect an immediate response. Over 30% customers expect a response on twitter in 30 minutes or less.
But Twitter isn’t the universal solution for all businesses. Consumer brands such as AO.com are finding huge success on Facebook creating highly shareable content and video with over 1.7 million likes on their Facebook page and counting. LinkedIn remains the stalwart social channel for professional services and is still seen by many as the most serious channel. Even new, almost entirely visual channels such as Vine, Instagram and Snapchat are being used by brands who want to share visual content with their audiences.
What you have probably realised by now is that the question of how you should be using social media has a different answer for every business. The most successful businesses base their answers to the question on a solid, properly researched understanding of their audience.