Social media for your business - the conundrum

Social media's presence within the business community is everywhere. Seemingly every advert, poster or product features an 'add us on Facebook' or 'follow us on twitter' message somewhere. As businesses clamour for an effective online presence or to spark the next great viral video, they should take a step back and ask what do we need this for?

To help you decide whether it's worth dedicating your resources to online marketing and promotion, in this article, we provide an overview of the three most commonly used social media resources YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, together with their strengths and weaknesses.

YouTube

YouTube is a wonderful resource for both entertainment and education; your videos need to do one or the other and preferably both. YouTube gets over one billion unique hits a month this means that there are one billion possible new eyes for your product or service, by creating a video about your product/service/business you can gain access to those "new eyes".

Strengths

One of YouTube's greatest strengths is that users expect to watch a video between three to six minutes in length, which provides you with a substantial window to engage the user. For example if you run

an electronics shop you could make several three minute reviews on headphones or if you run a fish monger's create a five minute video on pairing fish with vegetables.

YouTube's greatest advantage, compared to the other two social media sites featured in this article, is how long videos are considered relevant. Relevancy means that if you create a useful/funny/emotive video, users and potential customers can easily locate and watch it. To re-use the example of the fish monger's, a user may watch that video several years after it's been posted to find out what goes well with the type of fish they just bought.

Weaknesses

Webcam's come as standard on most laptops, which means that it is incredibly simple for someone to create video content. The ease in which video content is produced results in a multitude of amateur noise that a retailer needs to cut through to reach the consumer.

Thankfully the low barrier to entry means that professional or high quality content rises to the surface quickly and naturally. The retailer's responsibility is to make their content easily found and easily searched. Whilst viewers are willing to watch a three to six minute video, it doesn't mean they will.

YouTube hosts hours upon hours of content, if your video fails to entertain/teach/engage with the audience they'll stop watching, move on and forget all about you so do ensure that every posted video is in some way memorable.

Twitter

Twitter is misunderstood by many businesses that see it as a town market with sellers shouting out prices and trying to attract customers with noise and colour. With roughly 550 million active users Twitter is better viewed as a massive cocktail party where conversation and genuine interest will garner you interest and leads more effectively than the person shouting "Look at me! Look at me!"

Strengths

Twitter is like lightning that strikes everywhere, once you make a post all your followers can see it and interact with it immediately. For example a retailer could reward those who follow them on twitter with a flash sale and notify them all at once through twitter.

Thanks to the speed of the engagement and broad range of topics Twitter is a retailer's opportunity to show off their knowledge. If someone tweets "dunno what to have for dinner" our social media friendly Fish Monger could help their fellow Twitter-er with some recipe ideas and a possible discount for buying that day.

Responding to individual tweets is an effective way of giving your brand personality as well as showing the brand as an expert advice giver.

Weaknesses

Twitter is a public space and when a retailer's view of who they are differs from the public it can be embarrassing. A few year's back, Waitrose posted "I shop at Waitrose because ..." on twitter inviting consumers to complete the sentence, which they did and openly mocked Waitrose's posh image. Waitrose dealt with the jokes poorly, responding with "Thanks for all the genuine and funny #WaitroseReasons tweets. We always like to hear what you think and enjoyed reading most of them." this showed Waitrose's lack of self-awareness and sense of humour.

Brand's that use twitter need to be ready to deal with what their brand is to everybody and not just what they'd like the brand to be. Twitter's speed and immediacy comes with a downside; the sheer amount of content created makes it difficult for users to find tweets past a certain time frame. Twitter only indexes tweets from the past seven days which means that retailers can measure the longevity of their posts in hours so, unlike a YouTube video, a tweet can be more casual and less informative.

Facebook

The social media behemoth has over one billion active users and allows them to share thoughts, feelings and interests through songs, videos and blogs. If a retailer can get Facebook right marketing is a cinch.

Strengths

Let me re-iterate that over one billion people actively use Facebook, that's 1/7 OF THE WORLD. The amount of people a retailer can reach is staggering.

Creating a conversation with consumers becomes that much easier when you have a mutual discussion platform especially when you consider that Facebook has extensive integration with other social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter.

This integration enables any update you make on YouTube or Twitter to appear on your Facebook page which makes Facebook an excellent 'hub' for your social media content marketing.

Facebook also has the added advantage of their 'edge ranking' system that essentially means that the more someone interacts with another user, the more that user will appear on their newsfeed so do remember that creating and maintaining a dialogue with consumers is vital.

Weaknesses

Content loses is 'relevance' quickly on Facebook, meaning that to fully engage with consumers, retailers need to post multiple times in a day. On that note retailers need to know about the right times to post in order to get the most exposure from a post, for example most people check Facebook in the evening on weekdays and around mid-day at weekends.

The actual posting on Facebook does not take up much time, what takes up time is creating worthwhile content that will create and sustain a high level of engagement with users. In order to create this level of engagement many have found personalising their responses to messages and representing the people behind the brand/corporation humanises the brand and makes it more relatable.

Conclusion

Social media can greatly benefit a business but it may not be for everyone. A successful social media campaign is:

  • Informative
  • Entertaining
  • On-going
  • Genuine
  • Giving

Social media is just that - social. Treat it like a conversation, treat it like you're talking to someone who you want to impress. You're using social media to subtly show-off, not to push THIS IS WHO WE ARE into users' brains.

YouTube is a powerful tool for creating long-standing media that can maintain its relevance. Twitter is amazing for staying up-to-date with trends and for acting spontaneously.

Facebook is simply a fantastic platform for sharing all sorts of content. In an ideal world where budgets are available for proper strategic engagement with social media, a retailer would utilise all three to create an extensive year on marketing campaign.

If you found this article helpful do have a read of the other features and guides listed below.

Using social media analytics to give your business the edge

Social media for customer relationship success

Social media - the great consumer shift

15 social media tips for small businesses

Security tips for social media sites

Social media the new internet security battleground

Libel and social media and lawsuits

8 social networks you should consider joining

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Guide to using Twitter effectively

Introductory guide to using YouTube in business

Winning customer loyalty through CRM and the personal touch