This week, pub chain JD Wetherspoon boldly announced that they are closing their social media accounts. Their reasons? That their likes and followers didn’t equate to pints in the pub. They felt it was a distraction. A shock move like this has prompted many marketing professionals to question whether social media still has a relevant place in the marketing mix, and whether this heralds the start of a backlash against these platforms.
I don’t believe this is the case. As with all types of marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for social media. Wetherspoons assessed the benefits against their own objectives and decided to focus their efforts elsewhere. However, especially for a small business with a limited budget, social media can be a cost-effective way of building brand presence within the right market.
Understandably for some small businesses, social media can feel like a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential part of their marketing efforts. The feeling that it can take up valuable time, uncertainty over what kind of content to post, and potential anxiety over dealing with customer feedback in a public forum can be a barrier. For others, it can feel like easy ‘free’ marketing, with very little thought to what is posted and how this can affect customers’ perception of your company.
However, when properly planned as part of an integrated marketing strategy, social media can be a great way to grow your brand and business.
Firstly, it allows you to find and engage with your customers online – and equally allows them access to you. If a customer has chosen to follow or like your business, this provides you with the opportunity to communicate with them one-to-one, to keep your product or service top of mind, and crucially for their affinity for your business to influence others who might see your engagement with them, thereby amplifying your message to a wider audience.
Whether you are a local company or purely online business, the different targeting opportunities within social platforms can help you find people interested in your brand and build a loyal audience.
Here are some important considerations for SMEs thinking about or already using social media:
It takes time
The perception that social media is ‘free’ can be misleading. Although your business page/profile might not cost you anything, it will take an investment of your time to plan and source content and to ensure you are responding to your audience’s needs, and it takes time to build a following.
Choose your platform
Think carefully about where to concentrate your efforts. Consider how and when you use different social networks and where you might respond best to a message from your business. If you have a lot of regular content then Twitter might work best, versus Facebook for a local business trying to grow a loyal community, or Instagram for a brand that works well visually and can tap into local trends and hashtags.
Planning makes perfect
Take the time to plan your posts and to find interesting and relevant content. It is still important to be responsive to current news and flexible enough to act on stories that might be relevant in the moment. The benefit of planning where possible, is that you have more time to think through your post, to ensure your tone of voice is on brand and that you are showing your business in it’s best light.