Why social media should be part of your business growth strategy

Imagine that instead of a website your business had a shop, full of great information, interactive displays, competitions and areas people could talk to your staff and.

Now imagine that shop is in a beautiful, easily accessed shopping centre frequented by your target audience – it would be worth a sticking that in your marketing plan wouldn’t you say?!

In reality, that’s social media. The average person spends a staggering 1 hour and 40 minutes in that shopping centre each day and any the ‘friend’ interaction is really just a smart way of Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms keeping a person’s attention long enough to show them more advertisements or encourage more business interaction.

Social media’s got the potential to significantly impact your brand’s growth – this is how the most successful companies are taking full advantage of the various platforms:

Work out which platform is for you

Before you get moving on exactly how you plan to take full advantage of what social media platforms have to offer you should consider which are the services best suited to you and your brand.

For example, business to business services are probably far more suited to a platform like LinkedIn than Instagram or Snapchat – based on their user demographics and content.

There are a staggering number of social media platforms in existence – and even some of the lesser known channels have big followings with particular audiences, especially when you’re looking to target foreign markets. This list runs you through 105 of the most popular – choosing where to spend your time and energy is up to you…

Expose your brand

There are many companies who never truly get to express their brand through their website – but social gives you the perfect place to do exactly this a great example of this is Atlas Ceramics.

Social media is often a lot more interactive that your site. You can use it to share pieces of content you like, speak to your customers publicly, update the world on what’s happening right now in your business – all the things that are less practical to put on your site’s homepage.

Brand is much more than just your colour scheme and logo – it’s the way your business is, the way it interacts. Social is the best place to show it to the world and reap the rewards.

Finding your customers is easy

Sure, there are some great ways to drill your targeting down when you use other online advertising platforms – but the nature of social media gives you a chance to get laser focused on your audience.

Where most advertising platforms can give you an indication of their core demographic, that’s much trickier for a service like Facebook. With 2 billion users that’s little more they can tell you about their typical user other than the fact that they’re human!

So, they let you get deep into their user data when it comes to targeting. You want someone who’s shown an interest in self-development, yoga and healthy eating? No problem. You only want your advertisements shown to males, within 23kms of your business who have an interest in one particular TV show? No problem.

Social media is exceptional at giving you opportunities to test your approach with a massive range of potential audiences.

Great feedback tool

While you’re testing your product, approach, brand, content or anything else that’s going to be driving your growth social media virtually guarantees one thing – feedback.

Now, that feedback might not be quite what you’re expecting, but it’s data none-the-less.

Virtually every platform will let you dig into the engagement each post or advertisements receives. Strong engagement? You could be on to a winner – lots of exposure but lacking in clicks, shares and comments? You’ll probably need to tweak your approach with that audience or choose another.

And if it’s more direct customer voice feedback you’re looking for too – platforms like Facebook and Twitter are a great number of people’s go-to choice for telling the world about their experience. A word of warning though – when you open channels of customer interaction you can’t just shut them and pretend they don’t exist! If you’re a growing brand, you can expect to dedicate some significant time to talking with customers on social media…

Experiment with new markets

The beauty of having such incredible audience targeting tools is that you can quickly and simply gauge how a product or advertising approach will perform with different people.

And if split testing is your thing – you’re in for a treat.

Running the same advertisement with one male and one female audience is a piece of cake. Perhaps different age groups? Perhaps targeting different devices would work? Or maybe you want to run with the same audience but you’d like to test some different product images on a handful of different adverts? No problem – and you’ll be rewarded with a huge bundle of information that can inform your next run of adverts or posts too…

Drive traffic at your site

If you’ve got an exceptional website and you’re keen to drive traffic there then social media is an ideal tool.

Now, it’s not going to be quite as simple as posting a link and hoping for the best – but it’s not a great deal more complicated. Give your audience reasons to visit and watch them come in serious numbers. Blog content, special offers, product launches, competitions – they’re all great incentives for people to add to your monthly unique visitors count.

Offers a platform for content

While we’re talking about reasons to visit – you should recognise that social media gives you one of the very best outlets for value driven content.

We’re not talking about thinly veiled sales pitches here either, we’re talking about legitimately valuable content that’s likely to get clicked and read by people with a wide range of interests and requirements.

In fact, some of the best brands on Facebook have no product to sell – instead, they operate as affiliate platforms for other people’s products – with numerous motivational pages, recipe and cookery page and general interest channels doing exactly this – with exceptional word, image and video based content.

Content is likely to be quite a slow burn method of growth on social media – but many see content probably the most solid foundation for an online marketing strategy you’ll find.

How has social media has changed how people get their news?

The news has become more accessible than ever. We no longer need to wait for the news of today to be available tomorrow, or indeed at the end of the week. Now, everything is readily available online, as it’s happening. What’s more, the team behind each story has shrunk. Everyone with a camera is a film maker, each person with a keyboard is a reporter. And most of the western world possesses both a camera and a keyboard in one device, small enough to fit in your pocket.

Thanks to social media, we also have access a place where we’re able to publish our own news. For the news websites such as the Telegraaf, social media has become a platform where their news can also be shared.

Do people want to get their news from social media?

Back in 2012 there were 2.4 billion internet users, according to a study conducted by the University of Florida Online. Of these, an impressive 1.4 billion were using social media, in one form or another. When asked about their social media use, nearly half of the social media users said they had either regularly or occasionally heard a breaking news story on social media, prior to it being reported on mainstream platforms. In short, people are finding news on social media, whether they’re looking for it or not.

An increasing number of people are indeed looking to social media for their news. Official news websites still pull in the majority of the news market, with 64.5% of users choosing to visit their sites for their fill of the news. However, social media is catching up, with 27.7% of consumers heading to the likes of Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s going on in the world.

This seems particularly true of Facebook, which dominates social media sites for its figures when it comes to breaking news stories. According to Pew Research Center, its position as a news site is set to further grow, with a 24% increase in the number of people who looked to Facebook for news stories between 2013 and 2016.

Why are people using social media as a news source?

Many people hold millennials responsible for the decline in print newspapers. However, this doesn’t mean that millennials are not interested in the news; they’re simply looking elsewhere to find it. A study by the Media Insight Project found that 85% of millennials declared that it is at least somewhat important to keep up-to-date with the latest news. So, where are millennials finding their news stories? It’s where they find the rest of their content, of course: social media. This is because checking social media has become part of the daily routine for millennials. News companies have figured this out, and are now tailoring their content to be available on social media. As a result, 60% of millennials report coming across news stories when they’re engaging in online activities.

Are millennials happy to get their news on social media? Actually, yes. In fact, millennials prefer to get their information from people that they know. Rather than trusting a brand, people rely on their friends and family to discover the ‘important’ stories. The whole concept of sharing news on social media feeds is therefore favourable to millennials.

Thanks to the algorithms that organise social media content, users are presented with adverts and content from other users based on their preferences. The site tracks what users are clicking on, which other users they tend to like or retweet, and then tailoring their news feed accordingly. Likewise, users will often see news articles that they are likely to click on to find out more. This corresponds with research conducted in the US, which states that Americans will spend 36% more time reading a news story if it agrees with their views. In turn, the social media algorithms continue to learn from their sessions and continue to present users with more and more tailored content.

Facebook is very much leading the way in this sort of content advertising. Because of this, it generates around 36% of traffic referrals for news sites, says analytics provider Parse.ly. This makes Facebook the second most popular source of traffic for news sites, with Google just ahead at 41%.

Does social media benefit the news?

There are numerous benefits to utilising social media from a news perspective. The main ones are:

Newsgathering – Rather than having a reporter on the street move from person to person asking for their take on an event, the question can be posed online so witnesses are able to quickly respond. With more people reached, there’s a wider range of voices being heard.

Fact checking – Having so much information readily available online gives readers the opportunity to fact check what they’re reading. People can quickly find multiple articles on the same news story and use them to establish bias, slander and fake news. According to a recent report from Pew Research Center, 26% of Americans now check multiple social media sites for news stories. That’s a rise from 18% in 2016.

Provides a platform – Instead of waiting for a reporter to arrive at the scene, witnesses are able to share news in real time. Social media has become a platform for journalism. For a news business, this has an added benefit. By looking into the type of news available on each social media site, businesses can utilise the platform that best suits their demographics and make the platform work for them.

Engagement – For the companies distributing news, social media allows them to interact with their audience and find out what their readers want.

In short, social media has had a significant impact on the way people get their news. It’s a change that has been recognised by the people behind these social media giants, and the platforms continue to change to keep up with the way sites are being used. The next question is: how will these companies report on their own news?