Business is all about creating relationships and making those connections better. Business is a reciprocal relationship, that is to say, you have a need and I can fill that need with a product or service. In exchange for meeting your need, you give me money. That is business. Now using social media for business is not very different, because we still need to make a connection, build a relationship and exchange goods or services for payment. The most significant way social media assists or changes the commercial model is that the pool of potential customers is worldwide and the costs of reaching that gigantic audience is lower than in the days before social media platforms.
There has been a natural progression in commerce over time. First there were the traders who traded out of their carts as they moved around the country, then they progressed to static carts in markets, then they moved into shops on the local high street. The move then came to offering goods through a brochue=re and catalogue and posting the goods to the customer. The internet brought the store and the catalogue into people's homes and they didn't have to move out of the house in order to make a purchase and the next big leap in commerce has been the social media platform. The social media platform now is the shop window, the catalogue and the customer recommendation rolled into one neat resource. You need to keep up with the times we are living in.
Social media, as defined by Investopedia, is "a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is Internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content".
If we take this definition and look at it more closely, we see that social media is a way to build relationships in a virtual network, and use those connections to grow ones network further still by posting content relevant to your likes and the likes of the group.
"Social Media facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts and information, through the building of virtual networks and communities".
Social Media, is a great font of information and it is also a powerful medium with which to connect across time zones, cultures and borders. As social media platforms are not constrained by physical borders, cultures or time zones, the audience with which you can connect is limited only by your ability to relate and interact with that audience.
Social media is a perfect tool for any business to grow their business, because in all its forms, social media takes up a huge part of our lives, whether we like it or not, we need to have it. That need could simply be for us to keep in contact with friends and family around the world, or as we will see later, it could be a way of developing your brand.
It has only been recently where Social Media has moved away from being purely for networking to where they are today - platforms for growing brand awareness and increasing sales revenue.
Social Media provides its users with a unique way to interact across borders and time zones, bringing together a global audience in excess 3.8 billion people, and growing.
Social Media platforms are all about building networks and communities and from a business perspective they can provide you with an easier way to connect and interact with your customer base, while at the same growing brand awareness and your brand identity.
"Social Media is just a buzzword until you come up with a plan" - Anonymous
Some interesting statistics
The explosion of social media has allowed for people around the world to be connected in ways never before seen or experienced. We can now become friends or acquaintances with another person on the other side of the world. A startling statistic of this phenomenon is that there are 3.48 billion active social media users in the world today, and this number is growing.
As a result of this surge in growth, business marketers now see the importance of tapping in to this worldwide resource for their marketing strategies. 87% of all marketers use social media as an integral part of their strategy, while 73% of business-to-business marketers distribute through YouTube, and 91% of B2B marketers distribute through LinkedIn.
Some final statistics to help you understand the importance of social media for business, 7 in 10 Americans use social media on a regular basis, and 90% of young adults, aged 18 - 29, use social media. These are the future spenders, and today nearly three-quarters of people use some social media platform when making a purchase decision. You can download the full infographic here.
The Center of The Modern Marketing Strategy
As we have seen from the statistics above, social media has now become inseparable from a businesses marketing strategy, and for many companies it has become the core of that strategy for several reasons.
Firstly, it is more cost effective to show content on social media tabs be printing brochures and literature for advertising. It is also great way to advertise, because you can be sure that your advertisement will reach a larger audience, especially if you have a large audience to begin with. The social media platforms are also ideal ways to engage with your customer and your prospect in real time. You can build relationships in the ether at a more cost effective manner.
"The goal of social media is to turn customers into a volunteer marketing army". - Jay Baer
Moving your marketing strategy onto social media allows you to achieve, what I call, the four core principles of social media marketing - education, engagement, extolling and empowerment.
Your goal, is to EDUCATE the audience in the benefits of the product or service you are offering. It is not about selling a product, it is about showing how your product, services and brand can add value to the lives of the audience.
If there is a value to the person, price becomes secondary to the choice of product.
Educate. Show the customer or prospect how to use your product or service and how that will create value in their lives.
After being consistent in your posting and offering some education to the audience on the value and benefits of your brand, you will start to engage with the audience. They will start to ask questions about the brand, and they will give you feedback.
FEEDBACK is extremely important to you and your brand. The consumer will see first hand how good your brand is, or where your brand is lacking.
Listen to the feedback and engage in a constructive, professional manner. Serve your audience.
You have been educating and engaging with your audience and they will start to sing your praises. They will start to EXTOL your brand. The audience will then become your greatest asset and your most vocal sales person.
The fruits of your labour are in the customer telling their friends and shouting out to their followers how great your brand is.
Do not forget to keep educating and engaging, because the customer can be a fickle beast.
EMPOWERMENT comes from the extolling and it is a reciprocal relationship. The consumer is empowered because you have listened and engaged with them, your brand is empowered because the consumer is extolling your product or service.
The relationship is a delicate affair, one mis-step can cause either party to lose heart, but, DO NOT let the consumer push you into making concessions on price, quality or ethos. These are the backbone of your brand and one or two lost sales in the short term are better to ingest than a lost, tarnished reputation.
"If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends." - Jeff Bezos
Build Your Reputation
By using the four principles of social media, you can begin to understand how social media can provide you with a forum to reach a vast audience around the globe and through education on your brand, engagement with the audience about the brand, extolling the brand and empowering the audience your audience becomes the customers who in turn become brand advocates.
I always come back to this point, especially for my new clients, social media is your shop window for the 21st Century. There is no high street to sell your wares, and there is no real need for a bricks and mortar store these days, because as we have seen, 74% of people research products online, and there are 2.14 billion people, worldwide, who purchase goods online, or 63% of all shopping occasions begin online, and nearly half of the consumers shop more online than in-store.
Where do you want to be?
You need to be on social media and you need to have a strategy in order to educate, engage, extol and empower.
If you are not on social media you are losing out in the race to sell your brand. You are left behind and you do not want to be left behind.
Accent on Training have been helping companies improve their social media presence and engagement through bespoke marketing strategies. If you need any information or assistance in designing your website, contact us for more information.
About the author
Jonathan Moore is the founder of Accent on Training, a Social Media Management, Brand design and website design agency based in Seoul, South Korea. For nearly ten years, he has helped clients in developing their businesses online, branding, website design, and bespoke social media marketing solutions.