In the old days (read: way before social media was even a thing), your only options for marketing your business and building your brand were through traditional means — print, radio, television, and the like. In terms of audience reach, your advertising would only be as effective as the amount of money you’re prepared to shell out.
It’s not surprising at all — part of being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to spot opportunities as soon as they show up, and as expected, business owners quickly realized the potential of social media in helping them reach a wider audience and establishing a stronger online presence. In fact, Social Media Examiner’s findings in its Social Media Marketing Industry Report for 2014 revealed that, out of the 2,800 survey respondents, 92% affirmed that social media did play a vital role in their business.
(Actually, the biggest challenge I encountered while writing this list was limiting it to just four items!) In case you still need convincing, I think these are the most significant reasons why being active on social media should become part of every business owner’s to-do list.
1. Social media makes it easier to build your brand.
Branding is important for any business that wants to stand out in a sea of competitors offering similar products or services. Your brand is your business’s personality— what your consumers will remember you for when someone mentions your company name, their perceptions on the kind and quality of service you deliver, and the emotional “bond” that you share with them.
What we post on social media tends to define who we are, and businesses are no exception. If you want your consumers to see what you think you and your brand truly are — or if you want to raise awareness about your brand and really stand out from your competitors — the best way to do that is to be active on social media.
2. Social media is your best PR tool.
This one’s a bit tricky, as it can be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, being on social media allows you to monitor what people are saying about you and your brand. It also gives you the ability to directly reach out to customers who may already have an opinion on you — good or bad — and deal with them appropriately; for example, you can directly thank consumers who shared their memorable experiences with you, or address any complaints about your service as quickly as possible by responding in a careful and well-thought-out manner while providing a solution for the consumer who had an axe to grind with you.
On the other hand, a poorly handled social media account may alienate you from your fanbase and discourage potential customers from availing your products or services. Then again, the simplest solution to this is to make sure that you’re always careful with your updates (or to hire a social media manager to handle your accounts effectively for you).
3. Social media levels the playing field for businesses of all sizes.
Before you established your small business, were you afraid that you wouldn’t be able to compete with the larger businesses in your industry that had deeper pockets for advertising and marketing? Well, worry no more — thanks to social media, it’s possible to attract a great deal of attention from your target market, even with steep competition.
The key lies in virality. If your post succeeds in capturing the hearts and attention of your audience, they’ll be more likely to share your content (especially if it’s the sort that tugs at their heartstrings, keeps them entertained, or makes nostalgic references — those seem to be the three most popular topics I’ve observed when it comes to viral content on my numerous social media news feeds).
It also doesn’t hurt that, compared to traditional marketing and advertising methods, social media marketing is dirt cheap. Signing up for a Facebook or Twitter account is free, and if you’ve got a good pulse of what your target market needs or demands, you may not even have to spend an exorbitant amount on your social media ads.
One resource that it DOES eat up, however, is your time; this is why social media tools are available to pretty much anyone who wants to make the job a lot less time-consuming, and is also why you have the option to hire social media consultants to guide you or managers to do the work for you.
4. Social media will get you attention — the right kind.
You can optimize your posts to rank for specific search terms, attracting more attention to you from the people whom you want to notice you.
With the right keywords, you can directly target a specific niche, thereby filtering the audience and making sure that the ones who do take the next step (by following your online activities) are the users with the most potential to become your customers. Think of it as you being able to speak directly to your audience, hitting the right notes and letting them know that you can provide exactly what they need.
Always keep in mind that marketing is a multi-faceted process that involves the right balance of exchanging information, building your brand, delighting your audience, and identifying (and even starting) trends. Fortunately, these are all made much easier to accomplish thanks to social media.
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.