Just a few years ago
Social media was known as a domain for school-going kids.
It was looked upon as a set of forums that were used by youngsters to socialize, share personal details, and discus the topics of their interest.
It is estimated that over 70% of internet users are present on at least one social network, which means that a majority of users can in fact be reached through social media.
‘Once upon a time, social media didn’t exist…Today, can you imagine not checking Facebook daily?
Since opening up for everyone to sign up on September 26, 2006, Facebook just crossed 1.978 billion monthly active users in June 2017.
It surpassed China and India, in terms of “population numbers.”
Facebook Subscribers in the World by Regions – June 2017
Social media is the fastest growing trend in the history of the world.
Definition “Social media can be a platform that lets you talk directly to your customers and prospective customers alike, share content, get involved in conversations, build trust, reach more people, grow your sphere of influence, and ultimately understand your customers better”.
Today, business without social media is not even an option.
According to Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia.
Online networks, or “social media” as we call it, allow people to link, interact, share and exchange information.
They’ve quickly become something we can’t seem to live without.
Literally millions of people connect and share on social media every single day.
Even if a business wants to stay out of social media, it just cannot bear the risk of losing all those customers who are present on it.
One such service that channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn started to provide was customized and intimate pages to represent a business and connect with its customers.
This great graphic, called “The Conversation Prism,” gives a good overview.
While this list is fairly up to date, it may come as a surprise to you that it’s entirely different from the first version of this graphic created back in 2008.
All versions aggregate around 200 services, but from version to version (usually updated every 2-3 years), the creators remove over 100 social media platforms and add another 100 in.
Early adopters of social media started promoting their products, engaged customers in lively discussions, built a brand and perception and even scored orders and repeat purchases.
Social media marketing is a type on online marketing that is geared towards social websites and forums.
Such marketing efforts are made to achieve communication and branding goals because each of these is at the heart of a promotional campaign.
For example you own an ethnic boutique. Your customers might already be using social media to talk about you.
They might be sharing their amazing experiences, asking for advice about alterations or even to post photos of celebs in luxurious Indian outfits.
When you join these social networks, you can join these conversations and start new ones.
Maybe you’ll start by sharing photos when you get new items in stock, and this will help you stay “top-of-mind”. It also gives people a reason to visit, again and again.
This way your network can grow quickly.
Those people might see your posts and share them with other fashionistas, which can score you new followers and new connections.
These are people who just might become your next customers.
Social media can also help you build trust with your audience.
Imagine a potential customer reading reviews, or watching videos of real people—not models—wearing and raving about your clothes.
Social media provides an opportunity for your customers and fans to promote your products, and when this happens, you earn trust. Why?
When someone else says how great you are, it carries more weight.
You’re not promoting yourself—your customers are doing it for you.
You can learn by watching how people interact with your brand online.
Sounds good? Right!
Let’s talk about how you can make social media really pay off for your business by joining the right social media sites, sharing content and participating in lively conversations and growing your networks.
You can’t tap into the power of social media unless you’re there.
First, you’ll want to get to know the different networks. Which ones are your customers using most?
This will help you decide if you need a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Pinterest account, a Twitter handle, a Google+ page, a LinkedIn company page, or some combination of these and others.
Then, you’ll need to create your profile, or what usually ends up being your “home page” on each of the sites you’re going to participate in.
Each social network is different, but whenever possible, you’ll want to add particulars about your business, like your location and contact information.
Some let you add more information about your business or even photos and videos.
Once you “move in” to a social network, it’s time to get to know the neighbors’.
Making friends takes time and effort, but if they can help get the word out about your business, it’s an investment that really pays off.
It’s important to know that while you may be using social media for business gains, it’s a very different medium than your typical advertising channels.
The people you interact with on social media don’t want to just to be “talked at.”
Think of it more as a conversation – a give-and-take relationship that ebbs and flows.
Treat this network as you would with your friends and colleagues in the real world.
Making friends on social media won’t happen overnight, and it can’t be forced.
Start by recruiting existing customers, maybe with a sign in your shop that says “Follow us here” or-even better-a 10% discount if they connect with you online.
Follow that up with other ways to grow your network: contests, special events, members-only offers, entertaining content, or even real, face-to-face meet-ups for members of your social circles.
And remember, every member of your social network has a network of their own.
Social media is a great way to start a conversation with people and ultimately grow your customer base.
And just like anything else in the online space, you’ll need a plan.
The Right Social Media Site for You
There are some really big social networks that are important to know about, but there are also smaller, more niche networks that can be really valuable to your business, too.
When getting started with social media, it helps to sort all the different networks into categories so that you can understand where you need to focus your attention.
Let’s start with some of the biggest social networks out there.
For example, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn have some very big audiences.
Did you know that Facebook alone has more than 1.9 billion users across the globe?
This means that your existing and future customers are likely participating in these huge networks, so if you’re a business, you should probably consider having a presence on these large networks so you can find them there.
There are lots of different sites out there dedicated to lots of different industries, and you should search around to find the most important ones for your business.
And although membership on these sites might be smaller, those members can be exactly the kinds of people you’re looking to attract.
Another thing to think about when you’re deciding where you should participate, is the purpose of each social network.
For example, some social networks are mostly used for personal relationships. Some are more focused on sharing content, and some are used more for professional networking.
Let’s dig into that a bit more.
Personal networks are one way that people keep in touch with friends and family online, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t participate as a business: people discuss products and services all the time.
You just need to be aware of the context.
That means your updates should be light, interesting and useful — not salesy.
For example, an Ethnic store could post photos of a customer donning a smart kurta, and that might get referenced or shared by people on the network, exposing the business to more people.
Content sharing networks give potential customers information they can sink their teeth into: facts, figures, graphics, reviews, and things like that.
For example, YouTube, where that same ethnic store could publish videos that show “how to wear it,” or Pinterest, where beautiful photos of bridal outfits could be featured.
Professional networks tend to be aimed at the business world and attract people looking to network, find jobs or hire people.
Again, it’s important to know your context here: you’re not likely to get much of a response by trying to sell ethnic clothing here, but you might be able to locate your next employee.
On the other hand, if you’re a business that sells to other businesses, this might be exactly where you want to advertise your products and services to other professionals in very specific industries or job roles.
In the end, it’s all about understanding the objectives of each network, and the people hanging out there that you want to connect with.
The big networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and others have lots of users, so you’re likely to find lots of people there.
But beyond that, you might find smaller networks dedicated to exactly what you do, filled with people who are super-interested in the types of products or services you offer.
With each network, spend some time looking around to see how people are using it.
This will help you better understand how you can participate in the conversations, or what kinds of content you might share.
Some of the most famous ones are:
1,800,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors as of February 1, 2017
Facebook is one of the oldest and the most popular social networks around.
The platform has a very casual and upbeat feel to it, where users interact, look for products and services and recommend the same to the list of friends and family they have added.
Marketing on Facebook has proved to be quite effective. Over the years, many businesses have sprung up solely because they made a Facebook fan page and started to market their products and services.
Facebook also offers a paid advertising service to businesses that allow them to choose the image and text that goes in the advertisement.
Using the pay-per-click strategy, a business is charged whenever the ad is clicked on.
310,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors as of February 1, 2016.
This social media marketing platform is all about gaining a solid base of followers.
Twitter is a social website that lets users post or ‘tweet’ small updates related to new product launches, sales, and upcoming events or simply wish followers a good day to ignite a thread of conversation.
The “re-tweet” option is the perfect excuse to share a positive review from a customer.
Twitter is present to counter just that. The more you communicate, the better you will connect with the market.
Twitter helps you provide quick replies, which can help you improve you customer support. Like Facebook, Twitter also allows companies to advertise through this social media platform.
120,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors as of February 1, 2016.
A strong competitor in the social media market, Google+ has been customized so that it provides many new features for SMM that other websites do not.
The possibility to integrate several Google services, such as Google Maps, is perfect for integrating those into the promotion of your business.
Google+ also has a fun and casual approach to sharing pictures, videos and links.
The website also has a feature called Google+ circles that lets businesses segment their entire market into various groups.
SMM can then be targeted to each group separately.
For instance, if you want to offer discounts only to selected fans, who have made the most purchases, Google+ circles will be useful to you.
Similarly, Google+ communities allow groups of people to communicate and interact through a single community focused on particular interest.
Hangout is another versatile feature of this website.
With Hangout, a business can host online video conferences and tutorials to keep users interested, to introduce or promote a new product or service, to announce events, etc.
255,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors as of February 1, 2016.
LinkedIn is a professional social website that attracts business people from various industries.
This forum is perfect for initiating a conversation with people from the same industry and post content rich articles that will be understood by like-minded people.
There are many features like LinkedIn groups, that help you segment the target market and attract them with different content, and LinkedIn profile, where customers can give testimonials and in effect, recommend your business to others.
YouTube needs no introduction.
Being the number one channel for video communication, businesses have taken advantage of the various audio and visual features of YouTube to create content rich videos and target them at customers and fans.
YouTube videos can also be posted on Facebook and Twitter to double the SMM effect.
In an average month, 8 out of 10 18-49 year-olds watch YouTube.
By 2025, half of viewers under 32 will not subscribe to a pay-TV service.
The total number of hours of video watched on YouTube each month 3.25 billion.
‘How-to’ videos are a tried and trusted way to gain following and appear in the top ranks on the website.
The usage of platforms is also affected by their compatibility on mobile devices.
Smartphones and tablets have replaced the traditional desktops and laptops in the last decade or so.
These mobile devices are now fitted with technologies that enable users to browse through the internet, look through social content, pick advertisements and communicate with friends on various forums.
With these devices, social media marketing has definitely found an avenue to attract attention and retain it using efforts that are customized and tailored for smart phones and tablets.
New applications are available every few months that let smartphone users explore social media content with a lot of convenience.