Most entrepreneurs and marketers have found social media marketing to be an effective solution for promoting their products or services. Some have driven visitors to their e-commerce site through Instagram Stories, a series of multimedia content that disappears within 24 hours, or driven sales of a new product through promotional content on YouTube. Others have joined the hashtag trend on Twitter.
In 2020 alone, more than half of the world (3.96 billion) was on some form of social media. Industry experts believe that the number will continue to rise because social platforms have not captured all 4.57 billion internet users (Smart Insights, 2020). With so many users yet to join social media, it is quite possible that the popularity of any social media marketing platform has not even peaked. Clearly, there is still much more to be gained for those adding social media to their marketing mix in 2021.
As social media has expanded from simply connecting people to bringing businesses closer to consumers, all social media channels have seen a huge increase in usage. Brands continue to benefit from the advantages of social media marketing, which will continue to grow as platforms evolve and technology develops. For example, Instagram's move in November 2020 to make captions searchable without the need for hashtags allows for less clunky posts, and Facebook has introduced Shops to allow small businesses to sell directly to their audience on the platform.
"Take advantage of the benefits of social media as you prepare your marketing strategy for 2021. But don't forget to consider the downsides of social media, such as trolls and reputational issues, to develop a balanced and realistic game plan."
So what is social media marketing? Also known as SMM, it is the process of creating content for social media platforms to achieve your business and marketing goals. It uses content to increase brand awareness, engage your audience or generate conversion, such as driving traffic to your site or convincing followers to contact you.
Depending on your short- or long-term needs, you can create a single or unified social media marketing strategy. You can focus your efforts on a single platform or market on multiple platforms, but keep in mind that doing the latter requires more resources because each social media application has its own standard content and messaging format. However, this approach also has the potential to have a greater impact.
Top Three Benefits Of Social Media Marketing
If you have to choose between the main advantages of social media marketing to drive your strategy, let it be three of the following:
1. Social media outreach is a cost-effective option
As the COVID-19 crisis bleeds into the new year, it is crucial to keep your business alive by reaching your target market without going bankrupt.
This makes social media a good place to start. A Forbes Communication Council publication said that, in the midst of the pandemic, "it is cheaper for businesses to build their brand and interact with their customers through social media". Setting up a business account on a social application is free, as is posting content on your business page. Some basic functions such as messaging and analytics are also free.
Of course, you have to start paying if you want to use the advertising and targeting features. But ad spend can easily be aligned with your budget. For what it's worth, hiring a social media management team can help you run an effective advertising campaign, which in turn can pay for itself.
2. Increased brand awareness can be optimised
Take advantage of the broad user base of social platforms to gain exposure for your brand. You can increase your likelihood of being recognised by more users when you place a page or profile on each of your chosen channels. Work to increase your following by consistently sharing content and interacting with your community to familiarise people with your presence.
But achieving visibility also depends on the viability of social networking applications. Take a look at the traditional ones, which have been around since the early 2000s and have shown no signs of slowing down during the pandemic. To give you an idea of how big their reach is, here are their growth numbers as of October 2020:
Monthly active users, according to Statista.com :
- Facebook: 2.7 billion
- YouTube: 2 billion
- Instagram: 1.16 billion
- Twitter: 353 million
Newer types of social networks with a notable increase in users:
- TikTok: 689 million
- Snapchat: 433 million
3. Customers can connect with you directly
One of the advantages of social networking is to make interactions smooth and convenient. Through the functions of messaging and tagging posts or comments, you can communicate with another person or organisation in seconds.
These elements can also be turned into social media marketing tools, so you can easily meet the needs of your customers. You can also ask them what they want, announce promotions and sales, and inform them about your products or services.
Online users aged 16-64 find new brands or products through social ads, use social networks to research new brands or products, and rely on social evidence (such as likes and positive comments) to influence their purchasing decisions. ( GlobalWebIndex , 2020).
More Benefits Of Social Media Marketing
Studying the pros and cons of social media marketing allows you to design a strategy that fits the realities of using social media applications for business. Here are some more positive aspects to focus on when developing your social media marketing plan:
Social applications have a precise targeting and positioning
One of the most talked about benefits of social media is reaching the right audience. Data-driven research determines where your target market is and directs them to the platforms that are important to your business goals.
You can conduct data mining or hire a data-driven social media marketing agency to obtain the following information, which should guide your strategy:
- Demographics It is based on traditional factors such as age, gender and location, and very specific factors such as education, employment and income.
- Psychography These are less tangible consumer characteristics, such as personality, values, lifestyle, activities and interests.
- Geography This is one of the benefits of social media marketing that often gets less attention than it deserves. Geography is a segmentation technique that allows you to target a market segment based on location. For example, a multinational clothing company would want to promote its winter wardrobe collection to people in colder regions that experience a full winter season.
- Behaviour These data relate to browsing behaviour and purchase history, among others.
The above are examples of real data that can help you create a buyer persona, which is a representation of the ideal customers you want to reach. Before you start thinking about personas, one more thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you are extracting or obtaining their data with the consent of the data owner. You should check which social networking applications are transparent to users about the data they collect and share with third parties and are observing privacy and data protection practices. If you plan to hire help, look for social media marketing companies that are willing to explain and discuss this issue with you further.
The launch of a sustainable presence improved
When you read about social media marketing services, they include organic posting. Posting organically means that you are using the free features of social platforms. An example would be creating a Facebook page and sharing website links, product photos and company videos in that space. These activities are free, so you can do them regularly.
Without the burden of spending, you have the freedom to post as much as you want. Of course, social media marketing companies worth their salt would advise you to implement strategic posting to make your efforts effective and sustainable. Be smart about making the most of the space.
Paid social media allows you to achieve quick results
Social media advertising is one of the interesting benefits of social media marketing. Because you can attract more eyeballs to your brand page in a short period of time, paid ads give a quick boost to your social presence. Whether you are working with a social media marketing company or have a dedicated in-house team, you can integrate paid social media into your strategy for the following purposes:
- Telling a story about your brand, product or service
- Launching a new product or service
- Acquire new customers
- Using data to predict response rates
Your social media ads appear in news feeds, messaging apps and even on search engine results pages (SERPs). Social giant Facebook also offers remarketing, which places your ad in front of a potential customer as they browse partner sites. For example, if a user found your article on Facebook and then left to visit different sites, they may see an ad for that article on those sites.
Send followers to your site with ease
In the early years, social accounts served as channels to promote website content. That remains the case even as strategies have become more sophisticated and the types of social networks have diversified. Brands still use social media to drive traffic to their site, where high-intent prospects can learn more about the company and its offerings, find answers to their problems through the blog and buy the products or services they need.
Here are four tips you can follow to maximise one of the most cost-effective benefits of social media marketing:
1. Optimise your profile on all platforms, including adding your website URL in your bio.
2. Post regularly to build brand awareness and post when the majority of your audience is online.
3. Create visual content to capture attention and increase information retention. Here's a trick from John Medina of Brain Rules: "We are amazing at remembering images. Listen to a piece of information and three days later you'll remember 10 percent of it. Add an image and you'll remember 65 per cent of it.
4. Interact with your audience by responding to comments and chats. This should help them associate excellent customer service with your brand, which will lead them to visit your site out of curiosity or when they are ready to buy.
Learn more about your audience
The more you practice social media marketing, the better you will understand your audience, industry and even your brand. Social media data can provide you with additional information about your business and marketing performance. With the help of this social media data, some businesses can see what works and what doesn't and refine their strategies accordingly.
Take note of the following metrics to include in your social media marketing strategy:
- Knowledge: publication impressions, publication reach, potential reach and social share of voice (SSoV)
- Participation: individual engagement metrics (likes, comments and shares), average engagement rate, and virality rate
- Conversion: conversion rate, click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC)
- Customer service: customer feedback / testimonials, customer satisfaction score (CSat score) and net promoter score (NPS)
Tracking data across different platforms allows you to fine-tune your individual and multi-channel campaigns. Some platforms allow you to run A/B tests, such as Facebook, to determine the most effective elements of your ads. In turn, these advantages of social media tracking help you maximise your return on investment (ROI).
The Cons Of Social Media Marketing
Understanding the pros and cons of social media marketing gives you a balanced view of this booming digital marketing channel. It also saves you from wasting time and money on poor services.
Social media marketing companies that avoid discussing the pros and cons of social media can only be profit-seeking. If you plan to hire an external team, you can separate the wheat from the chaff by asking them about the pros and cons of social media. Here is a checklist for the cons:
Social networking is a resource-intensive task.
While organic social media marketing services are free, keep in mind that content creation can take time, effort and money depending on the types of social networks you are on. Let's say you plan to use TikTok: you will need to produce clips on a regular basis, which can test your ingenuity and creativity.
If you don't have any knowledge of how social media works, you may have a steep learning curve. And if you or an employee spends a large part of your day learning the ins and outs, the right opportunity cost could lead to mediocre performance.
Suggested solution: hire someone who can hit the ground running to save resources or partner with a reliable social media marketing company to reduce costs in the long run. Either way, you should get a lot of value from your chosen route because it streamlines the process for your business.
You leave yourself vulnerable to negative criticism
Remember what we said about social media users relying on social proof to make decisions about brands, products and services. What if the signal refers to something negative, such as a bad review or an angry backlash? Unfortunately, this is part and parcel of leveraging the channel. You are not exempt from experiencing the pros and cons of social media marketing.
If you receive negative feedback, treat it as an opportunity to communicate with the dissatisfied customer. Respond with an apology if you are at fault and even ask for suggestions on how you can improve. And if you choose to respond, do so quickly to improve your chances of retaining customers or winning them back. Users who see your proactive response may also be intrigued and take a look at it.
Suggested solution: provide customer support by responding to negative comments on social media and other channels immediately. Alternatively, find a social media marketing company to handle reputation management and let them conduct an audit, fix the issues and get you back on track.
You have to deal with trolls at some point.
Are social networks a good place or a bad place? The presence of trolls seems to suggest that it is the latter. Internet trolling is said to have originated in the 1990s. But our concern is its current form: users posting off-topic, inflammatory and sometimes harassing comments online.
If your brand is on social media, which is 83 percent of businesses in the United States, be prepared to encounter trolls at some point. Some trolls have anonymous identities, allowing them to target individuals or organisations without fear of consequences. Of course, trolling is not always that serious.
Suggested solution: Take advantage of social media marketing tools, such as comment moderation tools for Facebook and YouTube. Report trolls on Twitter or take a page from Wendy's book on how to deal with trolls using humour.
Results take time to show
You may not get consistent results in the first week of posting content. Brands don't gain momentum overnight, unless you have a trick up your sleeve that allows you to produce one viral post after another. This can be a challenge for anyone starting out, especially if you have a lean team and everyone is already worried.
Suggested solution: Don't be afraid to consider using a social media marketing agency or social media marketing services. Do your research before you commit, so you can be sure of the results.
Putting Your Social Media Marketing Plan Into Practice
Pandemic or no pandemic, social media marketing has become a valuable marketing channel for a number of companies. Your potential customers are already on these platforms every day. It is also cost-effective, diverse and entertaining. These opportunities make it a viable and accessible option for any business, regardless of niche or industry.
To help cement the idea, we discuss in this article the advantages and disadvantages that social media companies should be aware of. We include social media marketing tools and tips, trends and tactics to prepare you for the year ahead.
With COVID-19 recovery plans still underway, most brands will benefit from focusing on marketing through social platforms.
The new year comes with uncertainties and challenges, but it is also full of opportunities. Partnering with someone who has proven to deliver results improves your chances of overcoming the disadvantages of social media while taking advantage of its benefits.
Contact us today or give us a call and let us map out your social media strategy for the channel where your customers are likely to converge again in 2021.