Using social media to market your business: the basics
Social media are internet services that let you interact with others and share and create content through online communities.
Social media present great marketing opportunities for businesses of all sizes. You can use social media to:
- promote the name of your brand and business
- tell customers about your goods and services
- find out what customers think of your business
- attract new customers
- build stronger relationships with existing customers.
Advantages of using social media
Social media marketing has many advantages:
- broad reach – social media can reach millions of people all around the world
- ability to target particular groups – many forms of social media (e.g. Facebook, Foursquare) allow businesses to target specific groups, often in particular locations
- free or low-cost – many forms of social media are free for business, and paid options are usually low-cost
- personal – social media allow you to communicate on a personal basis with individual customers and groups
- fast – you can quickly distribute information to many people
- easy – you don’t need high-level skills or computer equipment to participate in social media. The average person with a standard computer should have no difficulty.
Risks of using social media
Of course, marketing through social media also has its risks. These include:
- wasted time and money for little or no tangible return
- the rapid spread of the wrong kind of information about your business (e.g. incorrect information accidentally posted by you, negative reviews posted by others)
- legal problems if you don’t follow privacy legislation and the laws regarding spam, copyright and other online issues.
It’s important to be aware of these risks and to have strategies in place to avoid them if you decide to get involved in social media marketing.
Key social media services
Different types of social media are good for different marketing activities. The key social media services are:
- Facebook – a social networking site that allows you to have conversations with customers, post photos and videos, promote special offers, and more
- Twitter – a ‘micro-blogging’ service that allows you to send and receive short messages from customers and potential customers
- YouTube – an online video-hosting service that lets people share their videos
- blogs – internet sites that contain a series of entries or ‘posts’ about topics of interest to the author, much like an online ‘diary’
- coupon sites – websites that offer discount coupons for goods, services and events
- online photo-sharing services – websites that allow users to store, organise and share their photo collections
- location-based marketing sites – websites that deliver targeted marketing messages to customers in particular locations, through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets
- customer review sites – websites that feature customer reviews of goods and services.
Many businesses are also using online technology to support their marketing efforts. This includes:
- developing applications for mobile devices
- modifying websites to make sure that they work properly on mobile devices
- giving customers the option of paying online.
Getting started with social media
If you aren’t already familiar with social media, the terminology and the range of different services can seem daunting at first.
But it’s worth learning more. Most social media services are affordable and easy to use, and they can put your business in touch with customers like never before.