The past five years have seen social media make a steady march into mainstream business strategy.
More than 90 percent of small and medium businesses in Australia are on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, however, pundits warn that many businesses aren’t making the most of digital enterprise opportunities.
The biggest risk is simply doing nothing, according to a leading expert in leveraging social media for business.
Wherever customers go, businesses are sure to follow.
– Pitch PR’s Stephen Sealey
“Take Facebook as an example. How many companies can really afford not to try to build a presence on this platform when at least half the population is using it?
“Just as customers in the last decade expected you to have a website, now they equally expect to find you through social media.”
But launching or refreshing your businesses’ social media presence requires more than a Millennial with a smartphone.
With ever-tightening margins and greater demands on time and resources, owners and operators need to ensure that social media supports broader organisational strategy and has an impact on the bottom line.
“Successful social media engagement provides a unique opportunity for regular conversation with current and future customers on at a platform they have chosen and at a time that suits them,” Mr Sealey said.
“Today’s consumers have a strong voice and expect it to be heard, which is why the two-way nature of social media is so compelling for both businesses and customers.”
Use benchmarks around reputation, relationship and new customer leads to assess and refine your social media engagement strategy.
“Social media can keep your product or service top of mind in a less sales-focused environment and provide genuine information and entertainment that is seen as real value by your audience.”
Maintaining an active presence on social channels also generates valuable insights and information about potential customers and can direct traffic to your website or place of business where the real selling takes place.
Start with a goal in mind – it could be as simple as building a social media management capacity within your team or it might be around gathering data about a particular customer segment, or creating opportunities to engage with new and existing customers. Think about metrics like reach and engagement as well as sales.
When selecting which social media platform or platforms to focus on, consider the resources you can dedicate to social media management, as well as the demographics of your target markets.
“Large corporations like Qantas have the resources to operate on many different channels and their customers expect them to do just that,” Mr Sealey said. “That means using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and more.
“Smaller companies may also benefit from multiple platforms however, more does not have to mean better, especially if you don’t have the resources or expertise to manage multiple social channels.”
The latest Sensis e-business report shows Facebook remains the most popular social platform for business, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.
Different platforms attract different demographics, so find out which sites your best customers are using and follow them there.
“If you sell fast-moving goods to a young audience and have frequent sales, then Twitter might be an option,” Mr Sealey said.
“If you are a service provider or residential community, Facebook would be best, and B2B companies might focus on LinkedIn.
“Facebook is still by far the largest channel and people tend to spend the most time using it and will scroll backwards to see what’s happening on their newsfeed, so we generally recommend it as a great starting point for social media.”
Five things to do now to go social
Pitch PR’s Stephen Sealey has helped hundreds of businesses go social and shares his top five practical tips.
- Start! It’s never too late. Just remember that while you mull it over your competitors will be steadily building their own following and gaining traction.
- Set realistic goals about what you want to achieve. If you think a Facebook page will double your sales, think again. If you think it will start a regular conversation that brings you much closer to your customers and give them a voice, go for it.
- Choose the right platform for your business. What are the demographics of your customer base and what platforms do they use? Are you going to resource the management of five social platforms, or are you going to focus on starting with one or two and doing them exceptionally well?
- Get the right help. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking the youngest person in the office is the best choice to manage your Facebook page just because they spend a lot of time on theirs. Social media is an open door into your business so ensure the people running it have the skills to share relevant and engaging content, don’t make mistakes, and can manage any negativity.
- Involve your whole organisation. Select people to manage your social accounts, but make sure you still involve everyone in developing the social media strategy. From the CEO to the sales floor staff, everyone can take an engaging photo for you to share on Facebook, or provide an interesting insight into something relevant to your industry and audience.