There was a time not so long ago when social media sites such as Facebook were simply a way of keeping in touch with family and friends. Today, social media is becoming a valuable marketing tool, that when used to optimum effect, is capable of making a significant impact in the business world.
The internet is incredibly important in our everyday lives, providing us with information and knowledge at our fingertips, and helping us to connect with other people all over the world – making communication and sharing much easier.
We can carry out financial transactions online, do our shopping, or sell items to make money. The internet enables collaboration, allows us to work from home and gives us access to a global workforce.
Evolution of social media
When Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard students invented Facebook back in 2004, they couldn’t have dreamed of the massive impact it would have on our lives, 14 years down the line. Initially, it was a fairly low-key social networking service, for the sole use of Harvard students.
Perhaps to Zuckerberg’s surprise, it took off in a massive way – first being expanded to all higher education establishments in the Boston area, and then going on to achieve world domination. There are an estimated 2.2 billion monthly active users in 2018.
Now, it would be hard to imagine life without Facebook and other social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and the rest. The concept of social media has evolved from being a fun means of keeping in touch with loved ones, into a successful global advertising platform.
Digital marketing benefits
Any company thinking that digital marketing is simply another chore on their already busy agenda should think again, as statistics show the use of social media is massive in the UK.
More than 39 million people had social media accounts in 2017 and 67% of internet users had been reached by Facebook, making it the most visited social networking site in the country, ahead of YouTube.
Companies who don’t take advantage of the digital marketing opportunities offered by such mediums are missing out on the huge potential of reaching new and existing audiences. Social media is increasingly becoming the ultimate tool to promote your business, as it enables a direct connection with consumers.
Digital communication provides the easiest way of opening an interactive session with your audience. Giving customers a platform where they can share insights makes them feel valued. Today, forward-thinking entrepreneurs are creating marketing strategies through social networks that attract valuable feedback from their customers.
Social media is constantly diversifying – and digital marketing campaigns can evolve with it to provide the optimum benefits. For example, Facebook is now introducing the use of video to expand the reach of an audience. The Audience Network extends the reach of video adverts, recognising they are a powerful way for brands to put across their message.
Research shows people watch 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day, while video-viewing on Instagram has grown by more than 40% in the past six months. This is just the beginning – advertisers need their videos to reach people in the right place.
As well as watching the videos on Facebook and Instagram, users can now view them on other third party sites and apps, thanks to the Audience Network extending the reach of their Facebook and Instagram adverts.
Another example of the changing face of social media is the use of hashtags. Originally used on Twitter, they are now used across all the social media platforms. They pop up everywhere these days and are a great way of expanding your reach outside your network, engaging with followers, opening up new ways of communicating and increasing brand awareness.
Hashtags enable people to search on social networks for topics with a common theme. They are also ideal for signposting a conversation topic. On Twitter, when someone clicks on a hashtag, it will lead them to a list of other tweets with the same hashtag.
Hashtags can also be incorporated into events and marketing campaigns. For example, when you’re hosting an event, you could update your social media live using a themed hashtag, enabling you to engage with others who are at the event and who are doing the same thing.
The multimedia messaging app Snapchat was launched in 2011, and it is currently under-used by digital marketers. It enables you to share videos, photos, text and drawings.
Initially, it focused on person-to-person photo-sharing and was unique in that the media sent would no longer be visible to the recipient after the period of time pre-determined by the sender. This was intended to keep the app more fluid and up-to-date.
Despite it now being possible to use Snapchat to create a lasting impression of your brand, not enough businesses are implementing effective Snapchat marketing campaigns.
Considering research shows that 76% of Snapchat users made a purchase online during the past month, there are plenty of reasons to publicise your brand to potential customers. As with the majority of social media platforms, Snapchat is accessible to every business, no matter what your budget, as there are free and paid-for platforms to access the community.
Snapchat users enjoy receiving insights into the brands they follow, such as sharing behind-the-scenes footage of what goes on in the office after-hours or at weekends, sharing the personality behind your brand.
Snapchat is also the ideal platform for offering coupons and discounts – it’s the master of flash sales and you can utilise the ability to send messages that will disappear in 24 hours by sending special offers, discounts and coupons to drive people to your website.
When changes backfire…
Sometimes, even the most advanced and long-standing social media platforms have problems after implementing changes – nothing is fool proof, it seems. In the case of Facebook, recent changes to algorithms led to users complaining they were fed up of seeing “stale and irrelevant” content due to the wrong content or contacts being prioritised.
In addition, the constantly-changing technological features and privacy settings have been turning people off. Analysts say the changes haven’t achieved their intended goal, which was to buck the trend of Facebook users spending on average 5% less time on the site.
Zuckerberg has admitted the algorithm changes that prioritise posts from certain family members and friends, which was designed to turn the trend around, have had the opposite effect so far. Although 5% may not seem a large percentage, when you consider the billions of Facebook users, it equates to around 50 million hours less time being spent on Facebook every day.
Analysts say overcoming this hurdle is a massive challenge for the social network and this is a cautionary tale that not all changes are necessarily beneficial.
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