Is social media really important to or useful for your business?

Social media has changed the communications landscape forever, offering businesses a means to distribute their own messages and content and interact directly with customers.

With all the implicit power that comes with this, it can be tempting to believe that social media can be the solutions to all your communications woes. After all, social media could help you reach endless numbers of people, raising awareness of your brand and attracting sales leads, couldn’t it?

In theory, it could. However, the reality is far less simple.

The social media environment is gradually changing. As social media becomes an accepted and expected part of daily life, the number of channels available to browse are increasing. Audiences are becoming fragmented and harder to reach, surrounded on all sides by social noise from brands, businesses and media outlets. This problem becomes compounded by the changes social networks are making to their own platforms as they seek to balance profitability with maintaining their credibility with users. For example, Facebook recently announced that it will be altering their algorithms to show less content from brands and businesses and Twitter is experimenting with filtering its timeline.

All of this results in an environment where it is much harder for businesses, of all shapes and sizes, to make a noise with their organic posts, even when it comes to their immediate followers.

Consequently, it’s no longer enough to maintain channels, put a few posts out now and again and expect your businesses’ social media to achieve what you desire. Instead, like all tools, it is becoming increasingly important to carefully plan your approach to social media.

Here at 360, we believe that there cannot ever be a one-fits-all approach to social media. Every business has different needs, goals and resources and, consequently, the strategies required to serve them need to be equally unique.

This leads to the question: how useful is social media to your business?

Well, that depends. To find the answer, a business needs to ask itself two further questions.

What are you using your social media for?

  1. You are using it as a customer service or engagement tool – Your customers are likely to use your social media as a resource and pay attention to your actions. If you are responsive to enquiries and your community, you are likely to increase your customer’s satisfaction and create good feelings towards your company.
  2. You are using it to deliver company news to your fans – Your results may vary. If you create engaging posts, you will increase likelihood of your brand being seen regularly in your followers’ feeds (especially on channels like Snapchat or Instagram). However, to reliably reach an audience on Facebook, you are very likely to need to pay to boost your post to reach a good audience.
  3. You’re looking to increase awareness of your brand or to drive sales directly – Given how few business posts are delivered to a wide audience beyond immediate followers on most social media platforms, you are very unlikely to see a return on investment.

Social media lends itself more to certain aims than others, so it is important to consider this in your strategy.

However, we think it’s also important to ask another question: could you achieve these aims another, easier way?

Although social media is very powerful, it is not easy to manage or use effectively. Choosing the right channels to achieve your aims is an art in itself. Once you have identified channels and set up your accounts, creating engaging content takes time and careful curation, especially if you are posting several times a week or day. This job is even more time-consuming if you are using multiple platforms or using your chosen platform as a customer service tool.

Consequently, social media can end up being very time intensive. For some businesses, this will be the most effective way of achieving their aims and will be cost effective. For others, the resource they have to invest may outweigh the benefits they gain.

With this in mind, organic social media may not be the ‘answer’ some businesses are looking for. This is where carefully crafted and tailored boosted posts may come in handy, delivering your messages directly to the audiences you desire.

However, it’s important to remember that there are many other tools available to achieve the same aims – some of which may be more effective for less time investment.

For example, if you’re looking to target a specific audience online, generic social media sites may not be the place for you. Increasingly, communities are popping up around areas specific areas of interest/for certain audiences in the form of blogs, review websites, or tailored social media. A well-known example of this is media tailored to mums and parents, where there are many websites like Mumsnet, Netsmums and MummyPages. Individuals who are invested in certain topics (such as wine, beauty or living gluten free) are also managing their own personal blogs, becoming sources of information and insights in their own rights. Utilising these by producing guestblogs (where a blog hosts content you have created) or asking influencers to promote your product for you may benefit your business. Additionally, some industries also have their own social networks, such as Houzz for home improvement businesses and Avvo for legal help. Local social media platforms like NextDoor can also help you connect with people in your immediate vicinity. Utilising these tools is likely to put you in front of more far more relevant people than traditional social media.

However, if you’re looking to raise your profile generally, you might be doing yourself a disservice by focusing only on social media. Traditional PR and marketing activities, such as media interviews, event sponsorship, advertorials, entering awards, advertising and direct marketing may put your brand in front of the right audiences. Whatever your communications or business aims, ultimately there is never going to be a quick fix. Some form of social media activity is likely to become an integral part of your comms plan, to a lesser or greater degree. However, it is important to maintain perspective when it comes to what it can and can’t do for you and to use it strategically to support your goals.

If you are considering reviewing your reputation-boosting activities, including your social media, 360 integrated PR provide a wide range of communications workshops and consultancy activities that might suit you. Get in touch today to book your free no-obligation consultation.

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