Over the last decade, the unprecedented rise of social media has changed the landscape of marketing and branding strategies for businesses. There has been a shift from traditional B2B and B2C communications to utilising technologies and social platforms to engage with audiences.
Most organisations these days understand the importance of good web design to connect with existing and future customers, but what’s the deal with social media and why shouldn’t it be ignored?
In the UK alone, social media usage hit an all-time high at the beginning of 2018, with 83% of the adult population now gramming, snapping, tweeting, and liking.
Instagram is on the rise
Instagram is now the fastest growing social media platform, doubling its user base in 2017 to 800 million monthly active users in just two years, while Facebook’s user growth plateaued in 2016. With the introduction of new innovative Instagram features such as shopping, live streaming and the story feature, 2018 continued to be a successful year in terms of soaring user activity for the app.
The visual focus of Instagram (and ever- tighter restrictions of Facebook) makes for an easy and essential platform for delivering business campaigns. A survey conducted in 2017 found that 57% of companies had a dedicated social media content marketing budget. And with 80% of users following at least one brand on Instagram and 60% hearing about a product or service first via the app, it makes sense that businesses are investing.
While social media is becoming an increasingly important tool for brands to engage with audiences, some research on the impact of online communication on consumer product and services decision- making suggests that up to 90% may have actually come through consumer to consumer (C2C) dialogue rather than business posts.
Think about it: social media empowers people to connect and share with other like-minded individuals and interact with them in a public way – whether it’s food, clothing, lifestyle, travel or a place – people share their experiences online and people react.
How to take advantage of the characteristics of social media
- Make it gram-worthy – as we know, Instagram is a visual diary of people’s experiences. Whether you’re designing a scheme, building or even a hoarding – making it worthy of sharing on Instagram should be high on your list of objectives.
- Put it on the map – research shows that posts with a location get 79% more engagement than posts without.
- Hashtag it – hashtags both optimise campaigns and categorise content and, moreover, are of increasing importance with user-driven engagement. Seven out of ten hashtags on Instagram are branded. By creating a unique hashtag for your brand or campaign, you can encourage others to adopt this as part of their content.
- Influencers are your new friends – using influencers is a great way of spreading brand awareness and engagement. Last year brand-sponsored influencer campaigns were the fastest growing form of online customer- acquisition marketing, seeing over 12.9 million of these in 2017. It’s clear that marketers and brands believe in the effectiveness of using influencers and this trend is expected to increase in the future, with roughly two- thirds of marketing departments looking to up their budget for influencer marketing over the next year.
Facebook growth might be slowing, but there are still 32.6 million users out there to engage with. Though predominantly used as a platform for friends to connect, Facebook can be a great employee advocacy tool or an events- sharing platform. Setting up a specific event page (and, even better, boosting it with paid ads) is a fantastic way to allow users to discover, share and ultimately engage with your brand and its event.
Twitter is a great platform to connect efficiently and effectively with people looking for a rapid response. It can also be used as a noticeboard for your brand’s updates. Plus, the Twitter list feature provides an easy way for you to monitor and share posts from influencers, news outlets and your brand advocates. 71% of customers that have a positive social media experience with a brand will suggest it to others. That’s powerful stuff. Remember that users expect an element of customer service on social media. In fact, it’s one of the top five reasons that people use it.
Who are social media influencers?
Influencer marketing is when a business collaborates with an influential person on social media to promote a product, service, place or campaign. These people are known as ‘social media influencers’ and have a dedicated and engaged following. They can be a celebrity or a general member of the public who post about their everyday life; this type of influencer is particularly powerful as they are still perceived as mostly normal, down-to-earth people.
Influencers have big networks and a large following at their reach so can quickly and effectively endorse a message or be ‘seen’ at a particular place.
An effective strategy requires you to know your audience and create an authentic message using the right tools – sparking the right conversation about a new development or rebrand requires quality over quantity. In other words, don’t get fixated on the number of likes or followers and expect it to go viral. Create content that is relevant to your audience and brand.