Saturday, 12 August 2017

Digital Strategy for SMEs (4): Social Media - your launch pad for interactive engagement

The famous snapshot of the social media universe
by Brian Solis & JESS3 - Creative Commons

Promoting your business with social media - whether it’s an article, news about an award or a prestigious contract, a blog post, a photo, a video showcasing your product or eye-catching infographics - is a crucial part of digital marketing. Think of it as a cost-effective way to raise awareness of your brand, get more traffic to your website and foster customers' loyalty, which all lead to increased sales. But which social media platform should you invest your time and resources in?

Just take a look at the colourful social media prism above, but don’t get cross-eyed or panicky about it. There is a multitude of names – some of which might have been replaced by newer platforms - the digital pace is relentless. For all this mind-boggling variety, there are six main social media platforms you need to get to grips with first: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. The rest is only relevant for particular audiences, for instance snapchat is the platform to target younger generations. You also need to make decisions depending if you are B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer)… Facebook is not used that much for B2B marketing. The stats mentioned below have been taken from the channels' corporate websites.

Nearly everybody knows Facebook, which was launched in 2004 as a network for recreational use. It has now been embraced by B2C businesses trying to ignite and boost engagements with their customers. With 1.28 billion daily users, you are bound to find your customers and engage them with samples, competitions, interactive discussions with prizes and even raise awareness of worthy causes you are supporting. Some extra stats (2017):
  • 1.94 billion monthly active users
  • Approximately 85.8% of daily active users are outside US and Canada.

How to use it
  • Create a Business Page (if required)
  • Promote events
  • Boost posts with advertising
  • Promote sales, promotions and offers
  • Get feedback
  • Ask questions 

It has been around since 2007, has 313 million monthly active users and is available in over 35 languages. It’s defined as a micro-blogging platform because of its text restriction (up to 140 characters). You can easily set up a free account and tweet your content - links, photos, views, even ask a question - and follow online influencers, celebrities and reporters – news tend to break on LinkedIn first. Some extra stats (2016):
  • 82% of active users are on mobile
  • 79% of accounts are outside the U.S.

How to use it
  • Create a Twitter profile
  • Follow influencers, celebrities and media personalities
  • Build up your following by offering/retweeting links to good content
  • Broadcast blog links

Boasting over 467 million members, LinkedIn is the main platform of international professionals. It has been around since 2003 and is available in 24 languages. This is the network for finding professionals, recruiting staff and discussing industry topics and trends. It is perfect for the promotion of B2B products and services. Members are sharing insights and knowledge with status updates and in groups. The premium account offers benefits for audience segmentation and email marketing campaigns. Some extra stats (2017):
  • In over 200 countries
  • 67% of LinkedIn members are located outside the U.S.
  • Over 40 million students and college graduates
  • Over 10 million firms have Company Pages

How to use it
  • Create a company profile
  • Join groups and become involved in discussions in groups
  • Follow influencers and get involved in their updates
  • Connect with employers and clients
  • Ask/answer questions or give/ask for recommendations
  • Ask for introductions

It's the second largest search engine after Google. Launched in 2005, it currently boasts over 1 billion unique users each month. Online videos have moved from entertainment to education, including “How To” videos. It is used by media agencies to showcase TV adverts - a one-off, 30-second TV ad does not provide the same viral potential.
Some extra stats (2017):
  • Hundreds of millions of hours of videos watched every day
  • Localised in 88 countries
  • 76 different languages, covering 95% of the world’s internet population

How to use it
  • Create a series of videos 
  • Upload your videos and embed them on your website
  • Use keywords to categorise videos and place links on your website
  • Broadcast your videos through other social media channels

Last but not least, Pinterest and Instagram, two photo-sharing platforms that allow you to share visual content. They are fast-growing platforms launched in 2010, with Pinterest prevailing at first and now being challenged by mobile app Instagram.
Pinterest stats (2017):
  • Over 175 million users worldwide
  • 50% outside the US
  • 80% on mobile
Instagram stats (2017):
  • 600 million monthly active users
  • 400 million daily active users

How to use Pinterest
  • Gather photos, grouped in theme boards
  • Re-pin other users’ photos (the equivalent of a retweet)
  • Launch a competition and invite users to post their best photos

How to use Instagram
  • Post photos from your phone. You can edit photos in the app
  • There is a workaround trick to use Instagram on computers but it's not good enough; most users share photos from their phones
  • You can have competitions to build your audience
  • Bear in mind that it's a channel popular with celebrities and bloggers 

Once you have your social media accounts up and running, place a link on your website or a widget so visitors can follow your activity – this is a really basic thing to do, but it’s amazing how many businesses still don’t promote their social media presence on their website. 

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