The latest in my series of blog posts inspired by the Greater Birmingham Digital Summit is mostly motivated by a fantastic session in the afternoon given by Jennifer D Begg, a social marketing trainer who managed to both educate and entertain her audience (it also helped that she’s a lovely Scottish lady like myself!).
I was so impressed with Jennifer that later on in the day I wanted to tell her personally that she inspired me, both in terms of content and as someone I could identify with. When doing so, she instantly commented on my accent and it turns out we grew up not too far away from each other in Aberdeenshire and even have a few mutual acquaintances in my home town! ‘Tis a small world indeed.
Anyway, on with the blog…
The internet is a truly barrierless platform. Regardless of location, age, gender, race or wealth nearly anyone can access the internet and encounter its many wonders. In fact, Google predict everyone, everywhere will be online by 2020.
The advent of the Internet, and in particular social media, means that customers now have a way of communicating with you 24/7. Whether it’s email or Twitter, people can simply type a few lines on their phone or computer and instantly fire off a message.
One way you can really get to know your customers is by engaging with them on social media. Here you can get instant feedback on you and your products and learn what makes people tick.
Why use Social Media?
Approximately 38 million people in the UK alone have active social media accounts (that’s about 59% of the entire population). Considering around the equivalent number of people are of working age (though not necessarily in work) that’s a huge number of people with spending power. So no wonder social media is now seen as a key advertising avenue for brands big and small.
Digital natives in particular (millennials who just call a digital camera a camera – I’m showing my age here) use social like it’s going out of fashion. But older generations, arguably the decision-makers, are incredibly active too and it’s said that 57% of sales decisions are made before contact and 75% of B2B purchasers are influenced by social media.
At the time of the Greater Birmingham Digital Summit the top 10 social media networks were presented as:
- Facebook (>40% users)
- Facebook Messenger
- Snapchat (<10% users)
Which Social Network is right for me?
You’ll no doubt already know much about the main players in the social network sphere and may even be active on them to some degree at the moment. However, it’s all very well having accounts with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram et al, but you need to be actively engaging with the right audience. So, if none of your customers are using Facebook then there’s really not much point in spending your precious time using this social medium.
In general terms, Facebook is more for friends and family and specific interests whereas something like Twitter is somewhat of a mixed bag where you can interact with nearly anyone across multiple interests. LinkedIn, for example, like to distance themselves from the competition by saying that, “You spend time on Facebook, you invest time on LinkedIn”.
There are so many social networks available now, some of them quite niche, that to get the best return on your investment you need to intelligently target those which will produce results. There are a number of ways to do this:
- If your customer base is large enough some simple market research may yield results. Sending a 30-second, incentivised online survey asking your loyal customers which social media they use could give you the best starting point from which to base your research. Various online tools exist – Survey Monkey is a popular option and just this morning I completed a survey using GetFeedback which I found to be slick and easy-to-use. You’ll notice I have highlighted the word incentivised above: something as simple as offering a discount code for your products or entering each person who completes the survey into a prize draw to thank them for their time can dramatically increase participation.
- Perhaps social networks are already playing a part in your sales and you don’t even know it. Check your analytics package (if you don’t know what this is, please get in touch!) to see if any referrals are coming from social media. If a buzz is naturally being created you may be able to capitalise on this and increase conversions.
- Use the advertising tools provided by individual social networks to gauge how many people you can reach in your demographic. These tools allow you to use the social network in question’s own user data to set up targeted advertising and the best thing is you can often get the info you need before you even have to enter any payment details. You can drill down through many variables, such as age, gender, education level, income, location and more, to accurately see whether your target customer profile can be effectively reached.
Ensure that you do all of the above regularly – social is changing all the time and networks drop in and out of fashion.
Coming back to Facebook as an example, did you know that the average age of a Facebook user is now 42? In particular, this social network is seeing a shift towards older generations. This could be attributed to Facebook being the most commonly known network and therefore acting as somewhat of a “gateway drug” for the social side of the Internet, but it could also be down to parents and grandparents wanting a way to connect with younger generations and then discovering the ability to connect with old friends and acquaintances. Either way, if your target audience is teenagers then perhaps Facebook isn’t the way forward.
It’s very tempting to sign up to each and every social network you can lay your hands on but this “spray-and-pray” method really won’t work for you in the long-term if you don’t engage actively. In fact, spreading yourself too thinly could even have detrimental effect; it’s really quite off-putting to see a long-forgotten feed with the most recent post languishing somewhere in the middle of last year (the same applies to blogs – if you have one make sure you contribute to it regularly).
How to engage with your audience
- Keep an ear to the ground by checking trending topics and following relevant feeds regularly. There are many feed aggregators available allowing you to monitor everything in one place and some can even save you time by emailing you daily digests. Opportunities may present themselves in unlikely ways and “piggy-backing” current trends could help you reach a wider audience.
- Your tone is really important. Keep in mind that, even though you might be representing an entire organisation, companies don’t use social media, people do. So sound like a real person and use the first-person. A bit of personality can go a long way and humour always helps too.
- React quickly to current events and post content that your followers will find value in. Quality content creation is key, whether you’re posting a link to an interesting blog, a product video or a photo.
- There is such a thing as being too active though – don’t bombard your followers with content. The Internet is a fickle place and users can easily get sick of seeing you in their timeline, especially if you’re just posting for posting’s sake. Conversely, if you can’t think of anything relevant or unique to say then consider the “trusted resource” approach – by posting links or reposting interesting, quality content from third-parties you could become a valuable resource for your followers by bringing them content they may not otherwise have found. Anything you then say about your services or products may have more weight.
- Closely monitor whether your content is performing for you. Google Analytics is obviously a valuable resource but individual networks often have integrated analytics data showing number of impressions and reach, with more stats often available if you sign up with a business account.
- Respond quickly to anyone who reaches out to you over your chosen social networks and keep the conversation flowing. If someone goes out of their way to contact you directly (even to complain!) this is an opportunity not to be missed. You have an open channel of communication with a current or potential customer, use it wisely and glean as much as you can from the interaction.
- Study up on social media etiquette and beware that anything you post is pretty much there forever – even if you later delete it. There are many horror stories to be read about companies reading situations wrong and making terrible faux pas that, in the worst cases, go viral. Ensure your staff are clued up in this area too as anything they publicly post on their personal accounts could come back around to you, particularly if it includes hateful language or sentiment.
With the vast majority of social accounts being free and the time needed being relatively small, the risk to your business in embracing social media is low.
Done right, social media can be a goldmine and raise your profile. It can be incredibly rewarding to interact with customers on a personal level, especially if you’re not in a customer-facing industry and spend most of your time squirrelled away in an office or factory. What’s more, you can learn about what makes you appeal to a certain audience directly from the horse’s mouth and discover new ways to create meaningful products and services that your customers will love.
Websites and social go hand in hand and it really can’t be one or the other so make sure you back up a great social media presence with an amazing website that performs for you. In most cases, the goal of your social media interactions will be to drive people to your website to make a purchase or trigger another conversion event. Even the most beautifully crafted Tweet can’t help you if your website is unattractive or difficult to use.
If you need any assistance in setting up social profiles, researching which may have the most value for your business or ensuring your website is prepared for all the extra traffic you hope to bring in then please feel free to contact Ballyhoo either by telephone on 0121 295 5352 email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the contact form on our contact page.
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