The Importance of Social Media

Discussions about social media in the wider, non-marketing or non-technical press, tend to be somewhat dismissive, regarding it as a fad and as a source of banal trivialities. Frankly, if I hear another person announcing that Twitter must be rubbish because no-one wants to read what someone else had for lunch, I might just throw my iPhone at the telly – there’s a wealth of interesting connections and useful information out there!

There is, too, a very real business value in social media that it’s tremendously short sighted to ignore. And it’s a growing area. According to  a recent Hitwise report, the proportion of traffic sent by social media (like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, forums, blogs etc) to online retail sites has increased by 13% in the last year and in September 2010 social media accounted for 11.5% of all UK visits to websites. Those numbers demonstrate that social media is an incredibly fast-growing area with great potential to push customers to your website.

Why do people follow companies on social media sites?

The report notes that the top reasons for people to follow companies on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are to find out about special offers and to hear other users’ experiences. So, if your company’s Twitter and Facebook sites encourage discussion and provide financial value, the chances are users will keep coming back. And due to the nature of social media sites, there’s a good chance they’ll also recommend you to their contacts – every time someone ‘likes’ your Facebook page, for example, all their Facebook friends will see it and that helps spread the word and build your follower base.

OK, but I’m a business – how do I make money from social media?

Well, as the report puts it, ‘The ‘social’ aspect of social networks is extremely important.’ You can’t just blat out straplines and sales messages 100% of the time and expect revenue to ensue – if people want broadcast media they’ll switch on the tv. This is about connecting, about your customers feeling as though you’re on the same wavelength as them and will provide them with interesting and useful information and, if they need it, help and advice.

It’s an old adage, but it’s true – people buy from people. Some of the most frequent praise we get is for the quality of our technical support because it’s all done by experts who know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a script and have no intention of putting our customers through all that ‘press one if your query is regarding billing, press two if…’ malarky. And it’s appreciated – our customers love that if they have a problem they can get straight through to an actual human being, explain their issue and get intelligent, active support rather than someone trying to run them through script questions one to six each time they call. Extrapolate that idea to social media – if your channel is all robotic retweets and sell, sell, sell with no interaction or intelligent advice, what’s in it for your customers?

To get the best from social media, you need to talk about things that your potential customer base find interesting, provide advice on things in which you’re an expert, offer them something of value (whether it’s discounts, advance notice of events, coverage of London Fashion Week or articles about SEO) and most importantly, engage with them. If your customers ask you something on Twitter, answer it! If you see a reference to yourself, join the conversation. If someone praises your services, say thank you. If you want to know what your customers think about something – ask them. The more people engage the more likely they are to buy and to stay loyal because there’s value in it for them to stick around.

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IMAD SCOTLAND Website Design - Website Updating - Internet Marketing Part of the IMAD Scotland Group