Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

Social Media and Facebook-Cambridge Analytica

There has been a bit of a backlash in business recently against social media. Concerns about data privacy – including well-publicised scandals such as Facebook-Cambridge Analytica – have led some businesses to question the necessity to continue using it. In April the pub chain JD Wetherspoon closed down its Twitter and Facebook accounts – with 44,000 and 100,000 followers respectively – and its Instagram feed. According to chairman Tim Martin the main reason for this was “current bad publicity surrounding social media, including the trolling of MPs and others”.Martin also added that recent concerns regarding the misuse of personal data and the addictive nature of social media also contributed to the decision. Mr Martin said: “It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion.”Certainly there are no signs of social media usage reducing any time soon. The number of people around the world using social media continues to grow. As you can see from the image below, there was an increase of 100 million in the first three months of 2018, bringing the current total to almost 3.3 billion.But whilst numbers of users is one thing, is it still a valid digital marketing strategy to use social media? Let’s take a look at ten good reasons for your business maintaining its social media presence:Maintaining reputationOne of the key business uses of social media is to maintain reputation. If there is any kind of bad publicity then it is important to be able to respond quickly: let’s face it your customers will already be talking about you on social media, so far better that you are there to respond than not. You can then use social media to highlight the positive and address the negative, and to share your side of any particular story in a fair and professional way. Crisis managementWe all hope that there will never be any kind of crisis but in the event of something happening then it is important to be able to communicate quickly about a developing incident. Social media is the ideal platform for this. It is essential to have an emergency communication strategy agreed in advance so that you are ready to prepare key messages and engage with a large audience should something happen. In times of crisis, silence is not an option.Brand awarenessSocial media is the platform where many customers discover new products; in fact 60% of Instagram users say that they have discovered new products this way. As the above image shows, almost half the world’s population are using social media platforms, so this is a golden opportunity to target and reach new customers. Human connectionTo connect and engage with existing and potential customers in a meaningful way it is important to show the human side of your brand. This is one of the key benefits of social media for business. You need to demonstrate that you and your product or service are genuine and that you are passionate about looking out for the best interests of your customers and also your employees.Thought leadershipSocial media offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain reputation as a thought leader ie a natural “go-to” source of reliable information and opinions on topics related to your brand. Thought leadership is a wonderful way to establish consumer trust. Recent research by LinkedIn and Edelman found that around 50% of B2B marketers believed that their thought leadership would build trust in their companies: in fact 80% of buyers said that it would do so. Increase website trafficIt can become very easy to view social media marketing in isolation and neglect the bigger picture. But one of the key benefits of social media posts and ads is that they drive traffic to your website. All you need to do is ensure that your website address is highly visible in all your social media profiles, giving people the opportunity to learn more about you with one easy click. Also consider creating different landing pages to engage visitors from different social media sites.Generate leadsNot only can social media increase traffic to your website but it can also be used to create an easy way for potential customers to register interest. For example you may want to include posts or advertisements that enable users to book an appointment or test or viewing just via a single click on Facebook or another social media platform.Boost salesWhatever your product or service, social media can help you to sell it. Social media can be used to make new contacts then gradually draw them in until they become a customer. It is essential to use accurate attribution tools so that you have a realistic handle on the sales that are originating in different social media platforms. You will soon see that social selling is an incredibly valuable tool.Customer and audience engagementIt is easy to overlook one of the main advantages of social media ie that it is interactive and enables real-time discussion with customers old and new. Never fall into the trap of viewing it just as a one-way announcement facility: encourage customers to interact directly with your brand. This means that you need to stay active, and ensure that you not only respond to customers’ comments and questions on your social media platforms but do so in a way that reinforces your brand.Customer service and customer supportBuilding on the above point, you can use social media very effectively as a branch of your customer service arm. There is increasing expectation amongst consumers that brands will be available 24/7 on social media and will be able to respond promptly and efficiently to customer service enquiries. If you do not meet this expectation and your competitors do, you may well see the effect on your bottom line. So to come back to our title: don’ t throw the baby out with the bathwater as far as social media is concerned. Yes it needs to be used wisely and skilfully but if you can do this, you have an unparalleled opportunity to reach around half the population of the world.