Like it or not, Social Media is here to stay, so it’s time for businesses of all sizes to join the party and make the most of it – after all, it’s where your customers are (and most likely your competitors).
Social Media platforms offer a fantastic opportunity for companies to directly communicate with existing and potential customers – they can be used to not only influence, but listen too.
The Social Media phenomenon began with a company called SixDegrees in 1997, which dissolved a few years later when so many of its users (allegedly) cancelled their accounts due to being bombarded with pushy marketing emails, trying to encourage them to “bring others into the fold”.
This starting point for the concept of Social Media led to others, such as MySpace and LinkedIn being developed in the early 2000’s.
…then along came Facebook in 2006, which ultimately changed the world. It continues to dominate the internet today, recently reporting its “two billion users” milestone. Facebook now has a ‘Business Pages’ feature, which allows companies to “build an active and engaged audience” with posts and call to action buttons.
Twitter was also launched in 2006, and currently has around 330 million users – in my opinion, this is the best option for small businesses due to the snippet style “tweets” which allow users to post, read and share content; the ability to easily track (local and global) trends; and being an all round simple way of finding and communicating with your target audience.
Having said that, if numbers are your thing…Instagram rocked up in 2010, and flew straight past Twitter into second place with over a million users signing up in the first six months, creeping up to 10 million users nine months later. Facebook liked what it saw and bought the company in 2012, then three months later it was up to 80 million users. Instagram recently announced its “700 million users” milestone – nearly double the amount that Twitter has. It specialises in photo sharing, using hashtags to categorise posts and invite comments – ideal for companies who want to show more than tell.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are so popular because they continue to invest, listen to feedback and develop their features and services to keep both business and personal users interested. The timing, with the rise of the internet and smartphone usage over the last decade hasn’t done them any harm either!
They make their money by offering advertising options as an extra service to help promote products, services and events to a specific audience, based on the criteria you choose (demographics, interests and behaviours, etc).
There’s something for everyone out there, from LinkedIn (b2b) and YouTube (videos) to Tumblr (social blogging) and Flickr (photos). As they all offer completely different features and benefits, it makes sense to work out where the bulk of your target audience will be before you set anything up. I’d recommend focussing on one or two accounts to begin with so they can be efficiently managed to entice followers and convert them into customers.
I’m going to be writing another post soon to provide some advice on how to capitalise on the opportunies that all of these different websites have to offer to small and new businesses. In the meantime…