Do I need social media to promote my business?
Benedict McManus is the creative director of bITjAM and project coordinator of Wavemaker, a Stoke-On-Trent-based community-interest company teaching young people to learn how to code and use technologies like 3D printing, laser cutting and open-source IT. He asks:
How much time should I be spending on promoting my business on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? I don't want to miss out on opportunities this might bring.
Business expert Rachel Bridge replies:
The simplest way to answer this question is to think very hard about who your customers are – both existing and potential – and whether they are likely to be the kind of people who feel comfortable using social media and already spend a lot of time on it.
If your customers already actively use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to communicate with friends and engage with other brands and businesses, then that is where you need to be, too.
If they are not, then you can relax and devote most of your energies elsewhere. It basically comes down to what kind of products or services you are selling: if you are selling skateboards to kids, you need to be all over social media – less so if you are selling lawnmowers to middle-aged men. The cooler the product and the younger the customer base, the more social media is going to be important for you.
There are a few rules to doing it right.
First, if you are going to put your business on Facebook or Twitter, then you have to do it properly and maintain a constant presence there. It is no good creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or a YouTube channel, and then forgetting about it or logging in once a month. You need to be logging in every day, announcing news, answering customer queries, running competitions, offering deals and discounts, uploading photos.
On Twitter in particular you will do your business more harm than good if you have a presence which is not constantly manned by a real person – if someone tweets you with a query or a complaint, they expect an instant answer and will quickly let everyone else know if they don’t get one. And obviously link all your social media outlets together as much as you can – if you’ve put up a new video on YouTube or a new photo on Instagram then tweet about it with a link to direct everyone to it.
Second, keep it real. Avoid outsourcing your tweets to a third party if you can, and avoid scheduling tweets several days in advance – they always look really strange and out of place. Success on social media is all about authenticity.
Third, understand why you are doing this. Social media is about having a conversation with your customers to find out what they are thinking, rather than bombarding them with products you are trying to sell.
So play it cool and make sure you can come across as a brand or company that they would like to be associated with rather than as an annoying pest.
And don’t get caught up in caring how many “like” or “followers” or “comments” your business attracts. There is little, if any, evidence that the number of “likes” or followers a business has affects sales figures – and as anyone can actually buy batches of fake likes, Twitter followers, retweets and even YouTube comments via the internet, the numbers are essentially meaningless.
Michelle Morgan, digital communications consultant at recruiter VMAGROUP adds:
It can take time to manage social and digital channels effectively but failing to address them can be detrimental to any business.
When it comes to promoting your business through social media, the key is to ensure that you are providing quality over quantity. You need to know your audience and build your digital strategy to target them effectively.
For example, businesses offering a service need to recognise that Twitter and Facebook will be primary points of contact for many of their customers, while YouTube and Instagram are effective ways of providing information and staying in touch.
Essentially, monitoring perception and engaging with clients through social channels is an efficient way to elevate a brand’s reputation and build brand equity.
Ignore social and digital channels at your peril.
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