Does every business need a social media presence?

With few exceptions, yes.

In order to succeed and thrive in today’s digital-first world, you need to have active social media profiles. Despite all the negative attention Facebook has received in the news lately, Snap’s struggling stock price, and Pinterest’s recent filtering controversy, social media isn’t going anywhere. There are roughly 14,449,000,000 active profiles (that’s right, OVER 14 BILLION) across the top 20 social media networks — that’s a huge potential audience for your business.

Today, we’re diving into 6 of the most important reasons why you need social media for your business. Then, we’ll explore some approachable ways to get started with, or “re-light”, your social media accounts.

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6 reasons your business needs social media

1.     Establish Authority & Increase Business Reputation

Your social media profiles exist to make your business look good. They increase people’s faith in you as a possible solution to their needs. Use your profiles to share content from your website, industry news, and other materials that prove to your audience that a) you know what you’re talking about and b) you’re a trusted resource. Depending on your business, you may find that sharing news and content on Facebook or Instagram suffices, but don’t rule out other platforms like Quora or Reddit just because they don’t make the news as often. All platforms have loyal, active users — you just need to figure out which platform(s) your customers use. By sharing content and advice you can “win over” these users and hopefully, convert them into customers. As an added bonus, social media users can re-share your content which further increases your reach and authority.

2.     Audience Discovery

Have you gone through an exercise to determine what your ideal customer looks like? If not, you should — like, yesterday. Identifying your ideal customer to create a customer persona will help you to refine your marketing messages and successfully sell to your prospects. You can use social media to give insight to your ideal customer persona. Search keywords, hashtags, and other tidbits relevant to your business and look at the people who are talking about those things and engaging with them.

-What motivates them?

-What concerns them and gets them talking?

-What types of posts do they share?

These are some questions you should be asking as you review your intended social media audience. At the heart of the matter is this: Understanding your audience and customers is the key to providing them with the best experience and winning them over … for life.

3.     Customer Service & Relationship Building

Consumers aren’t willing to pick up a phone and wait on hold for answers to their questions and concerns. What do they do instead? Take to social media to ask for help or air their grievances. And if you aren’t there to respond, it’s not a good look. You can use social media to capture and address these concerns and posts, both to save face for your business and most importantly, help your customer. If your customers need to share sensitive information for you to best assist them, then nicely direct them to contact you via other means or take the conversation private, and explain why you need to do that. No one likes to feel like they’re being ignored or hushed, and you don’t want your customers thinking that you’re trying to hide any negativity from the public eye. By providing timely, good service and being there for your customers you’ll build your relationships with them. In fact, American Express states that, “US consumers say they’re willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service … [and] Millennials are willing to spend the most for great care (21% additional.)” Any wild guesses as to where you’ll find many a millennial? That’s right, social media.

4.     Competitor Analysis and Business Intelligence

We’re going to bet that at some point in your childhood you briefly entertained becoming a spy. Perhaps your idols were James Bond or Harriet the Spy, but as you grew older, your interests changed. Well, here’s your chance to put your sleuthing skills to work. Social media can be used to “spy” on your competitors.

-What products are they promoting?

-How do they position their services or offerings?

-What content did they share that got the most likes?

-Have they posted anything that received any negative reactions?

These insights will prove valuable to your business. You can use this info to refine your messaging, understand your differentiators, and position your products for the right audience. Not sure who your competitors are? Try searching keywords relevant to your business on the different social media platforms to see who the biggest players are in those conversations.

5.     Free Marketing

A lot of digital marketing platforms are pay-to-play. Now, this can hold true for social media (most platforms offer a paid advertising option) but it is not the rule. Organic, or unpaid social media posts, can bring qualified traffic to your website. The content and links you share on social media should largely lead people back to your site. As more people interact with and like those posts, their reach will increase and they’ll be shown to more people. That increases the chances of more people making it to your website where they’ll (hopefully) get sucked in with your great products, on-point messaging, and then convert into paying customers. Many small businesses and fledgling business endeavors are tight on marketing funds, so free is always a win.

6.     Boost your SEO

Depending on who you ask, you’ll receive different answers regarding just how much social media affects SEO, search engine optimization. However, one thing we can all agree on is that yes, it does affect SEO in some capacity. To get to the bottom of the matter, the team at Hootsuite conducted an experiment with their blog posts to determine social media’s effect on SEO. What were their findings? “…There is an indirect relationship between social media and SEO. That is, content that performs well on social will likely earn more backlinks, which helps boost search rank.” Go ahead and share your content and keep an eye on what performs well on social media. Those posts may just see an SEO boost, too.

Now you know that your business really and truly needs a social media presence, but do you know where and how to get started? There are quite a few social media platforms out there and learning to navigate them all can be overwhelming.

Tips for getting started on social media

Here’s a collection of tips that our social media marketing manager put together to help you navigate any murky social media waters.

  • Quality, not quantity.
    • Don’t spread yourself thin by creating accounts on every single social media platform that exists. Start with one or two, and remain open to changing platforms in the future. As an example, if you run a fashion boutique, bakery, or other business that lends itself well to visuals, you’ll probably want to be on Instagram. Put some thought into your audience and desired customers — what platforms do you think they’re on? You should be there, too.
  • By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin
    • Approach social media with a plan. Take into consideration any existing time constraints you may have, what content you’d like to share, and your ideal posting frequency. Do some research into social media customer service so you have an idea as to how to handle any interactions your customers initiate on social media. (There’s nothing like dealing with an irate customer on social media when you’re utterly unprepared for it.) Remember, what happens on social media ISN’T private — you’re on a stage for the whole world to see.
  • Manual versus automated posting.
    • It’s difficult to stop whatever you’re doing multiple times a day to source content and post it to social media. While it may only take a few minutes to find the material and post it, it can take a whole lot longer to regain the focus you lost when you were interrupted. Consider using an automated tool that allows you to schedule your content and posts far in advance. There are many tools on the market today and a lot of them offer free plans for small businesses and those just getting started. Some social media platforms, like Facebook, allow you to schedule posts natively, or within the platform itself.
  • Automated alerts.
    • Time is money. Have you ever caught yourself going online or checking social media for a specific reason, only to find yourself down a rabbit hole an hour later with no accounting for your time? Resist the temptation and avoid the distractions by setting up automated alerts. You can set up alerts to notify you when your business is mentioned, if a competitor is mentioned, industry news, and so much more. Two of our favorite tools are free: Google Alerts and IFTTT.
  • Provide other avenues for contact.
    • We can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve gone to a social media profile to find contact information … and there’s none to be found. At a minimum, make sure your domain name is visible! If your website is clearly listed, people can always go there to find additional information about you, or even better, make a purchase.

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Give your business a boost by going social

Once you get started with social media, you’ll find it provides a host of benefits to your business. From customer service, to free marketing, and competitive intelligence — the world is your oyster on social media.

What other benefits can a business derive from having an active social media presence? Do you have any tips for those just getting started? Share them in the comments below, we’d love to hear them!