The rapid growth in the use of social media is becoming more apparent by the day and is changing the way we do business. It is no longer a matter of determining whether you should use social media to market your business, but rather of determining how you should use it.
Social media, then, has become an integral part of business life as social websites and applications grow in increasing numbers. It can be used to market products, promote brands, connect to current customers and generate new business.
The integration of social media in the business world, however, can also pose challenges where employees may inadvertently post statements that are not in line with the organisation’s values or current message. So social media policies should be developed and designed to set expectations for appropriate behavior and ensure that an employee’s posts will not expose the company to legal problems or public embarrassment. Such policies might include directives for when an employee should identify themselves as a representative of the company, on a social networking website, as well as rules for what types of information can be shared.
“Social media” is a broad term used to describe all the different online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily with each other via the Internet. Methods used to communicate in this way can include posts on blogs or forums, sharing of photos, audio clips, videos and links or creating profiles on social networking sites, and posting status updates—usually with a feedback mechanism.
Key Social Media Platforms and Tools
While social media may have started out as a medium for friends and family to share information, smart business owners quickly caught on to how they could leverage the many different types of social media available to them. However, this is a rapidly changing landscape and new social media sites are popping up all the time so always be on the lookout for new and emerging resources and how they can be integrated to your specific business model and target market.
Depending on the industry you are in, certain types of social media may be more relevant than others. For example, those in the travel industry will find a site like Trip Advisor a useful social media tool. In addition, the use of social media may be more prevalent in some industries than others and will work differently for businesses in different fields. It is important to do your research to find out if and how your current and prospective customers are engaging with social media. Choosing the right medium will ensure you reach the right audience.
With the multitude of media options available it is also important to consider using not just one of these options, but a range that will do your organisation justice; offering product and service information; showing your organisation at work in pictures and videos and providing ongoing information and news … all of which underpin the organisations overall business plans and marketing strategies.
From a marketing perspective, social media can help you:
extend your marketing reach in an affordable way.
increase brand awareness of your products and services.
drive traffic to your website.
personalize customer service.
create excitement for events.
promote product/service launches.
build a community of customers who, by virtue of membership, endorse your products/services.
test market ideas.
open up new markets.
complement other marketing efforts such as paid marketing campaigns.
integrate a social element in your business by personalizing your company.
Preparing to use social media
Depending on the medium you choose and the settings you put in place, using social media means that you are making information about yourself and your organisation available to the world, and as you are aware, in this fast paced world, information can spread and go viral in the blink of an eye.
Uploading information that does not send the right message about your organisation can be seen by thousands of people, and shared, by thousands more even if you remove the information just minutes after uploading it.
This means that it is vital, to your organisation’s image and reputation, that you think through what information you will share and how you will share it …. before you actually share it.
Reviewing organisational social media requirements
An organisation can spend substantial time, effort and money creating an image and reputation, for itself, within its community; an image and reputation designed to appeal to its target market and to reflect its quality and values. So it is important that any information put out to the public is done so with this image and reputation in mind.
The key to doing this successfully is to understand what message you intend to share with the public and the methods by which you will do this, and the key to achieving this understanding is to have a media plan in place. Such a plan can help you identify any pitfalls, and to make the most of the social media options available to you.
In planning your social media strategy, however, don’t try to do everything at once; take small steps when you are starting out. Bear in mind that it will take time to generate a successful social media presence as social media is about relationship building. Before using or expanding the use of social media, then, you should endeavor to answer questions such as:
Does your target audience use social media and, if so, do you know where your potential customers congregate online?
Do you know what goals you are trying to achieve by engaging in social media?
Can you allocate time and budget?
Is there someone well suited to be your voice in social media?
Do your employees require training?
Do you need to hire or outsource a social media manager?
Do you have clear key messages and branding to disseminate in the social media realm?
Can these various online tools integrate with your of offline marketing methods?
Do you have a plan in place to guide your use of social media marketing?
The answers to these (and other organisational specific) questions will give you a foundation upon which to build your social media presence.