Your business on social media marketing

Billions and billions of conversations happen every day. Research has shown that, on average, men and women speak anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words in one day. Conversation allows us to communicate our needs, delegate responsibilities, negotiate deals, and build strategies. Words also let us express emotional responses to the environments around us.

Today, social media is not only changing the nature of those conversations, it’s broadened our ability to have those conversations, making the act of connecting with others more frequent and more transparent. Users of Twitter, one of the fastest growing online social networks over the last five years, send more than 6,000 messages every second. Additionally, Pew Research Center reports that 74% of all internet-using Americans are part of a social network, with 71% of adults using Facebook. Using social media for business is no longer a “nice-to-have” addition to your strategy—it’s a must-have tactic for your marketing tool belt. Here are 5 reasons you should consider a social marketing strategy for your business.

Direct line of communication

Research shows that traditional marketing objectives drive business decisions around social media (more on that later). But, perhaps even more important than measuring marketing ROI is understanding the role social plays in a company’s broader communication strategy with its audiences. According to research from Livefrye, more than half of global business executives surveyed stated that a leading benefit of real-time social applications and websites was their ability to establish direct lines of communication with their audiences.

When people care about the companies or services they interact with, they’re not afraid to vocalize their opinions about them — negative or positive — on social media. If your company has an active social media presence, it’s like you’re in the room listening to the conversations your customers are having about you and your products. Plus, there’s the added benefit of having a direct line of communication with that group of people at any time. With a well crafted social media presence, your customers will begin to understand that you’re just as much a company as you are a collection of individuals working to bring value to their lives.

Real-time reputation management

A primary benefit of having access to a direct line of communication with your own audience, as well as the audiences influenced by them, is your heightened ability to manage your reputation. The restaurant industry is just one industry impacted by the rise of online review websites and apps, like Yelp and Urbanspoon. Therefore, it’s no surprise that 68% of restaurants say they monitor online reviews about their companies in order to create strategies to manage their reputations, according to research conducted for the National Restaurant Association.

But, beyond restaurants, reputation management is growing as a primary use case for social media. In 2013, business executives surveyed said that social media’s use as a reputation management tool increased by 36%, more than any other tactic, according to MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Understand and build new audiences

If you regularly monitor social media, it doesn’t take long to recognize what’s popular among other users. After a year on the market, Facebook’s Trending is now a persistent feature on both and Facebook’s mobile application. Of course, Facebook is just one of the outlets to call out new and noteworthy content. Facebook, along with other popular outlets like LinkedIn and Twitter, also help you understand similarities among members of your social networks. For example, social outlets will often tell you when several members of your audience may have engaged with a common post or wrote their own posts about a common topic. The technology powering social media today give companies uncharted opportunities to collect and analyze near-conversational data about their audiences and draw connections that were previously impossible to recognize.

Because of this power, it’s become easier than ever to build audiences who “look like” your existing audiences and engage new demographics who may not have been exposed to your brand before. Last year, Social Media Examiner found that 92% of small-business marketers worldwide said the leading benefit of social media marketing was simply the opportunity to increase exposure in the marketplace. In fact, the top four benefits recognized by those surveyed in 2014 dealt specifically with building and understanding audiences.

Competitive analysis

Although it’s not the most often discussed benefit of a social marketing strategy, the benefit today is too great to leave undiscussed. If you’re considering bringing your business to social media, there’s a good chance your competitors—or at the very least your competitors’ employees—are using social media too. Because outlets like LinkedIn make it relatively simple to identify who works for a competing company, it’s now possible to “listen” in on the conversations your competitors may be having just by reading the content posted or shared by them. Additionally, watching how your competition approaches social media can be a very good barometer for how seriously you should be taking social, especially if your gut’s telling you that you may already be behind.

Low-cost, targeted advertising

Advertising technologies across the board continue to improve their targeting mechanisms, but often at great expense to the advertiser. With social media, advertising is both highly targeted and affordable. Plus, with any advertisement you choose to run, you have the freedom to customize your advertising campaigns to reach only the audience you want to reach. Think, “Right message. Right audience. Right time.”

If you’re a local business owner, social advertising can help you hone in on your local audience and eliminate the wastefulness sometimes found in the “spray and pray” tactics of television, radio, print, or outdoor advertising. Finally, if you’re looking to explore the opportunities related to mobile advertising, social media are one of the best places to start. In fact, adults under 50 spend more time with social media on their smartphones today than they do using social on their computers or tablets combined.

As you explore the diverse range of marketing opportunities associated with social media, keep in mind that it’s about knowing and engaging your audience. Experiment with messaging strategies and make sure to be a part of the conversation rather than trying to overtly advertise or preach only about yourself. Social media has the power to both help and hinder your business, but the future your embark on is completely in your hands.

If you’re curious about where to begin, contact the business consultants at Burke & Schindler.