Long before it become the commercialised juggernaut it is today, social media was seen as just another website. The earliest platforms were created in the 1960s in the form of Bulletin Board Systems. These online meeting places were independently produced hunks of code that allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games – often pirated software – and post messages to other users. However, it didn’t become mainstream until the late 1990s when Six Degrees was created. It was named after the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory and lasted until 2001. Six Degrees allowed users to create a profile and befriend other users. Sound familiar?
We live in a fast-paced world of instant gratification so it is only natural that the way we communicate has to keep up with our need for connectivity. Social media channels such as YouTube videos have become hugely popular because they are entertaining, free to use, and make it easy to connect with friends and family all over the world. As social media has evolved, it has given rise to multiple myths. Let’s debunk 5 of these here and now:
We’ve all heard this at some stage, usually from someone who don’t understand social media. Given that approximately 1.8 million people in Ireland are active on social media every day – and 38 million people in Britain – chances are your customers are included in that number.
Social media is not the domain of the under 25s. Statistics show that every age-group uses it. Grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter and those aged 65 years and older now account for 56% of Facebook users.
The best way to determine if your customers are on social media is to look at your data and insights. The other way is simply to ask them rather than assuming they are not. You might be surprised by how many of your customers are active on it.
Considering there are hundreds of social media channels to choose from, it would be next to impossible to manage more than a few. Let’s look at the most popular ones: you do not need to be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, Tumblr and Google +. As a small business, or even as a larger one, unless you have a social media team, it would be difficult to avail of all those channels.
Just because your competitors are on these channels doesn’t mean you should be. As a starting point, consider where your audience is. Which channels are they using? If you don’t have an active audience on Twitter, you don’t need to be on Twitter for business.
The key to success on social is being active and having engaging conversations. This takes time and resources as each channel is used in a different way. Thinking you can off-load the same post across all channels is not the way to go. Look at your insights to identify which channels yield the best results, and if a particular social channel isn’t working, stop using it.
When social media first launched, all you needed was to be on it and post regularly to get followers. These posts were usually centred on you and your business, and shared what you wanted your audience to know. Things have changed, however, and those methods don’t cut it these days.
Social media is not a broadcast channel. You can and should have two-way conversations with your audience. Ask for an opinion, start a conversation, do a survey or offer to answer customer questions.
Social media is underused as an internal communication and customer service channel for business. The ability to apply social listening tools such as Agorapulse, Quintly, or Hootsuite Insights means we have effectively replicated ‘word of mouth’ online.
One of the biggest benefits of digital is that everything is measurable, and that includes social media. To measure social, identify your goals and determine what your campaign metrics will be. You can do A/B testing on your content by having a different call to action, image and headline to measure what gets the best results. You can drive your social traffic to a unique landing page or promote it offline, for example by using coupons in-store to measure results. You can also hold an exclusive event for social media fans, again easily measured by the number of people who show up. Everything is measurable.
Using ‘closed loop reporting’ – closing the loop between the data collected by the marketing and sales teams – you can identify exactly how much traffic you have received from your social media channels, which will allow you to calculate your cost per lead and cost per sale.
Some 52% of companies using Facebook have acquired customers from it. Companies with more than 1,000 followers on Twitter get 6 times more traffic, and 45% of marketers believe that social media has a below-average cost per lead compared to other channels. All this data has come from measuring social media campaigns.
Never! A Facebook page is not a website for many reasons. If you think you own your Facebook fans, think again. Facebook owns them and can change the rules at any stage denying you access to them. As Facebook moves to a ‘pay to play’ channel, we don’t know what’s around the corner and soon your page might not even appear in the searches. Social should drive traffic to your ‘owned’ channels that are within your control.
It is a basic customer expectation that you have a website. A brand’s website is a key part of its digital presence and social media is no replacement for a well-designed website with good content. It also affects how your business is perceived.
Another reason not to use social media in place of a website is that content is limited on social media channels. You must adhere to guidelines on length of posts, images and how people can interact with it. On your owned platforms, you can share whatever content you like. Whether that’s a blog, a fact sheet, a video, or images, there are no rules. You are in control of your brand.
To stay relevant, social media channels such as Facebook need to ensure they are meeting the needs of their audience. Those needs change constantly, and will continue to do so. You need to have a clear social media strategy in place to ensure your goals are met no matter how the ground shifts.
Social is not a fad, and it is not going away anytime soon. As a business you have a choice: you can jump on the social train or get run over and left behind. You decide.