Although “word of mouth” once greatly influenced the way customers obtained the information they needed to select products and services, social media has evolved “word of mouth” into a marketing opportunity with more reach and more dominance.
According to a Nielsen report in 2015, 83 percent of consumers trusted recommendations from friends. In fact, the study found that most of the consumers took action based on those recommendations. That far exceeds the influence of TV ads and newspaper ads. Facebook has continued to grow over the past few years and is approaching nearly 2 billion active users. As of March 2018, there were 1.45 billion daily active users on the site. In 2017, there were 328 million Twitter users worldwide. Social media isn’t just a phenomenon that merely attracts younger demographics. In 2018roughly 68 percent of U.S. adults now report that they are Facebook users. In addition to this, 41 percent of those 65 and older are actively using Facebook.
And social media isn’t just a phenomenon that merely attracts younger demographics. In 2005, 6% of those aged 50 to 64 used social networking sites. That percentage now stands at 60%. And for those aged 65 and older, that percentage has grown from 1% to 43%.
Thus, in today’s marketing environment, social media presence isn’t merely a “niche” marketing option – it’s a necessity. As a result, it has fundamentally changed the way in which companies communicate with the public. Marketing is no longer a one-way communication process, but instead focuses on two-way conversations.
There are important caveats to keep in mind. Although posting to social media sites doesn’t require spending a lot of money, it isn’t “free.” And you’ll need to devote a significant amount of time generating relevant content to post and evaluating how well your social media campaign is meeting business objectives.
Social media keeps friends connected so quickly and so comprehensively that even if you don’t contribute content, you’ll at least need to “listen” to what’s being said about your company, your brand, and your industry.
But to fully participate in social media, you’ll need to adopt some best practices, which includes setting objectives, developing strategies, selecting your audience, deciding on appropriate social media sites, and executing your plan.
All too many companies step into social media by posting in a random and haphazard fashion. Before rushing in and posting to social media, consider making a a plan and set objectives that are based on your overall business goals. There are plenty of ways to use social media, but you’ll need to consider which will be most effective for achieving your objectives.
Once you’ve set your goals, you’ll need to develop a specific and well-defined social media strategy. If you skip this step, you can easily set yourself up for failure – or worse, damage your brand image. You’ll also need to decide how to deploy internal resources to manage your social media initiatives. Social media does require that someone on your team take charge of managing your social media presence, which can consume valuable staff time.
Who do you want to engage through social media? Local prospects and customers might be one group, or you may want to establish a national or even worldwide presence. Depending on your business, you might have specific demographics to consider, such as age, gender, and other criteria. Defining your audience will help you decide which social media sites you should focus on.
There are plenty of social media sites, with new ones constantly emerging. Four of the major ones include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Each has different nuances, audience characteristics, and features. Within the limits of your resources you could be on all or most of these sites, but you’ll need to base your selection on your strategy and audience.
Executing your plan will require that you allocate staff resources to generate and post relevant content, review comments, and use social media monitoring tools to assess performance and make recommendations for refining your plan. It also requires consulting with other members of your team, such as those involved in marketing, sales, and support to contribute feedback and new ideas.