Social networks are the new media democracy, with marketing budgets, company size, and revenue irrelevant to how well a campaign can work. Virality is something that many companies have tried to bottle, with few having any sustainable success. Its level playing field is why success through social media can be so stratospheric for a brand.
Social media gives businesses of every size the platform to speak to their customers directly. Favourites with celebrities, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram give users a glimpse inside the worlds of pop stars, actors and more, and this is something businesses can also use to build their brand. The fast, ad hoc nature of social media, especially the micro-blogging networks like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, give brands the chance to provide new insight into their business and personality. Social media is perfect for creating communities and engaging with users on their terms and, as it gives the power to the audience, it is truly reliant on the quality of the content and infectiousness of your brand’s identity and values.
Social media has become a key component of marketing campaigns, both big and small. Its ability to draw a direct line between the customer and the business means that companies are less able to hide behind spin and diffusion. Even if your business isn’t talking on Twitter, if it does something wrong then it is undoubtedly being talked about. This means that there is no longer the option of simply ignoring it and writing it off as a fad. Twitter and Facebook campaigns that have been thought out and planned have gone hilariously wrong, so imagine the damage that could occur with no planning at all.
For better or worse it removes the layer of impersonality that often occurs between brand and consumer. Making this connection work to your business’s benefit is important and if done well, can build an engaged community around your brand. Trust is a big aim of branding and allowing customers behind the curtain a little is a great opportunity to show off your company’s personality and showcase why your product or service is the right one for them.
Like any marketing, the object of a social media campaign is to improve sales, but it more complex than ever before. Like content marketing, social media is a long term game that requires patience and an understanding that it will pay off further down the track. It is about creating brand awareness and planting a seed that will lead to future conversions. This is achieved through producing content that users find valuable and want to share with their friends and family. With so much being shared every minute of every day, only the very best succeeds and “best” is a hard concept to put your finger on in the social media realm.
The Three Basic Functions of Social Media
Transparency – As mentioned earlier, social media is a great way to give users a peek inside your business. This allows small businesses to build a marketing campaign that shows off their personal side, without the budget required to contrive a personal side that larger businesses attempt to do. Apple is a massive corporation, but it has a carefully created image of being a caring company where people fall in love with their products, services, and image. This is achieved through spending a lot of money on R&D, but also through the appearance of transparency.
They have their WWDCs with big stage shows where the CEO talks directly with developers and advertising campaigns showing people just like you using their products. While there may be an element of truth behind the construct, it has been carefully planned to yield a particular result. A small business doesn’t have the time or money to create such a complex plan, so social media is perfect for showing off how relatable you and your people are and give your audience something they feel they can trust.
Communication – Social media bypasses the usual customer service channels. There is no waiting for emails to be returned or phone calls to be answered. When a customer complains or offers praise via social media, it is immediately visible to other customers and potential customers. This makes it the most efficient way for people to get a fast response.
Businesses don’t want an unattended comment being seen by their audience and work fast to diffuse the situation. It also works the other way. Companies can get user views and feedback, allowing their customers to take an active role in how the brand develops and grows. This direct contact is ideal for growing trust and engagement, making your business a part of your customers’ lives.
Information – More than anything, social media is a great source of demographic information. Customers must provide a certain level of detail to sign up, then everything they like or post is available for businesses to use to target particular audience segments. Facebook especially has a wide breadth of consumer data, allowing businesses to pitch their products and services at the users they think will be likely to make a purchase.
A Great Way to Enjoy Big ROI
Social media is free and although there are many paid options available, these offer no guarantees of a good return on investment. Its fickle nature means that it is possible to spend virtually nothing but time developing a solid strategy and work hard to engage customers and build your brand’s trust and visibility. This allows you to concentrate on creating high-quality content that users will find valuable and share with their followers. The holy grail of social media is a piece that goes viral, but the unpredictability and impossibility of planning it makes this an exercise in hope, however great content will always find an audience.