Should Every Business Marketing Strategy Have a Social Media Presence?
Do all Brands Need Social Media?
It is no secret that over the past decade social media usage has skyrocketed. As of the fourth quarter of 2019, Facebook reported over 2.5 billion monthly active users making it the most popular social network in existence. In the same 2019 report, the organisation reported total revenues that amounted to $69.6 billion, the majority generated through its 7 million active advertisers. In 2018, Instagram reached 1 billion active users with 100 million users in the United States (that’s almost one-third of the US population). Meanwhile, YouTube recorded an estimate of 1.68 billion users in 2019 and $15.15 billion in advertising revenues. With an overall total of 3.6 billion monthly users worldwide, 90% of brands reveal that they gain revenue from social media. (Statistics according to Statista and Mobile Marketer).
While overtly popular and ever-growing, social media marketing has become saturated and highly competitive. No matter the popularity of social networks, many businesses rely heavily on personal interactions and face-to-face networking to increase leads/sales. This begs the question, should every business marketing strategy have a social media presence?
A Look at Your Business – Micro-and Macro-Environmental Factors
To establish whether or not your business should have a social media presence, it is essential to take a look at your business marketing strategy. In order to do this, both the micro- and macro-environmental factors that affect your business must be considered.
Micro-Environmental (Internal) Factors
An internal, birds-eye-view of a company is critical to establishing a business marketing strategy. Is your business product-based (selling tangible products) and/or service-based (selling skills)? Other variables to consider include business operations, logistics and finances. Analysing the make-up of your company will help you understand whether or not your business requires a social media presence.
A business’s customer base can be either B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-customer). B2B companies exchange goods or services with other businesses while B2C companies exchange goods or services with individual customers. Another important factor to consider is whether your brand is serving local or international customers (or both).
Suppliers sell goods or services to businesses enabling them to produce goods or services to sell to their customers. A supply chain is the sequence of suppliers needed to produce a business’ goods or services and can affect operational costs and efficiency. The term ‘supplier power’ is the degree to which a supplier exerts power over buyers, influencing variables such as price, quality and quantity.
Every business needs to complete a competitor analysis, focusing on competitors’ ‘marketing mix’, which includes their product, price, place and promotion. Understanding this can yield insight into what value competitors are giving customers, providing your business with leverage. There are several different types of competitors including ‘direct’, ‘indirect’ and ‘future’ competitors.
An important aspect to consider is the general public which is defined as a group that has an actual or potential impact on a business. With the prevalence of social media, the public (not only customers) can perpetuate positive or negative word-of-mouth. This can either damage a brand’s reputation or the public can become ‘brand evangelists’.
*Brand Evangelist = A person who believes in your product or service so passionately that he or she actively promotes it to others.
Macro-Environmental (External) Factors
The demographics of a business’ target market will affect all marketing activities, including whether or not a social media presence is needed. Demographics include the socio-economic variables of a target market such as age, income, ethnicity, gender, education, etc. Businesses can have primary and secondary target markets.
Understanding the economic climate in which one operates is paramount. Economic conditions such as economic growth, inflation and interest rates will affect a business’s profitability thus must be monitored constantly. Not only will this determine whether a social media presence is needed but how a business will approach its social media strategy.
Cultural and Social
The cultural and social landscape in which a brand operates is vital to its success, both in terms of its product offering and marketing strategy. With the rise of social media, individuals have a public platform to propagate cultural and social issues. For example, users of social media have been instrumental in the widespread understanding of various charity movements.
Political and Legal
Businesses must take into account political and legal factors, not only in terms of operations but also in marketing. Political and legal factors such as governmental policies, political stability and legislation (e.g.: employment law, consumer protection and competition law) could mean the difference between success and failure. Ignoring these variables could result in legal action being taken against your business.
Natural and Environmental
Over recent decades, many businesses have committed to protecting the planet and preserving our natural resources. Businesses must consider how renewal resources (e.g.: forests, agricultural products and marine life) and non-renewable resources (e.g.: oil, coal and minerals) affect business continuity. Negligence towards these issues could be detrimental to a brand’s image.
What are your Marketing Goals?
Once there is a clear understanding of your business’ micro- and macro-environmental factors, it is important to establish your marketing goals. This will define your business marketing strategy, as well as establish whether or not a social media presence is needed. Business marketing goals could include:
• Increase leads/sales
• Build brand awareness
• Improve relationships with existing customers
• Launch a product or service
• Enter new markets
• And others etc.
Define Your Target Market?
Defining your target market is crucial to establishing your social media marketing strategy. As mentioned previously, your target market can be either B2B or B2C, and you can have primary and secondary target markets. Aspects to consider include gender, age, location, language, income and interests.
What Each Social Media Platform Can Offer You
Now that you have analysed your business, marketing goals and target market, let’s look at several popular social media networks. Each social media platform has distinct functionalities and features which will appeal to different businesses. It is critical to align your business marketing goals to the correct social network(s). And it will ascertain whether or not there is value in having a social media presence.
Facebook is a social networking website that enables its users to connect with family and friends online. Individuals can create Facebook Business Pages which allow the user to post, share photos and engage with its audience. In 2007, Facebook introduced Facebook Ads which has become a vital digital advertising tool for many businesses. After all, Facebook’s share in the digital advertising market is 19.7% and the potential reach of its advertising is 1.9 billion people. According to Pew Research, 69% of US adults use Facebook and it has the most generalised audience with users mostly between the ages of 18-65+.
The third most widely used social network, Instagram is a photo-sharing App used primarily on smartphones. Visual in nature, users are able to upload photos/videos to a feed, post 24-hour Instagram Stories and IGTV videos. Signing up as a business, users can market their brands, sponsor posts to a wider audience and gain useful customer insights. Pew Research stated that while 37% of US adults utilise the platform it is extremely popular with users between the ages of 18-24. Only 8% are over the age of 65.
Twitter is a microblogging social networking network that enables users to interact using ‘tweets’. Users can post, like, and retweet tweets, and sign up as a business to advertise and gain customer insights. According to Sprout Social, the social media network is highly popular amongst news sites and is useful for customer service. Pew Research reported that 22% of US adults use Twitter, primarily in urban areas with some form of a college degree and who earn $75,000+ per annum.
LinkedIn is a popular social network used by professionals. Signing up to the platform, users can apply for jobs, connect with colleagues, and strengthen professional relationships. Individual user LinkedIn profiles display details such as work experience, skills, education and articles. A LinkedIn business page enables businesses to engage with its professional audience, advertise and gain customer insights. According to Pew Research, 27% of US adults use LinkedIn and are between the ages of 18-29. This group earns well with 49% earning $75,000+ and 51% having a college degree or higher.
The second most popular social media network, YouTube is a free video-sharing website. The platform enables users to upload or watch online videos, as well as rate, share, comment and subscribe to channels. With the rise in popularity of video-format media, YouTube has become a powerful business marketing tool. YouTube Ads are short video ads that encourage users to take action and utilise the ‘Pay-Per-Click’ advertising model. Pew Research reported that 73% of US adults use YouTube with a diverse age group ranging between 18-64. Similarly to Facebook, it serves a somewhat generalised target market.
*Pay-Per-Click = An internet advertising model used to drive traffic to websites. An advertiser pays a publisher when the ad is clicked.
Pinterest is a visual discovery engine that allows users to find inspiration over a broad range of topics. Users are able to upload or save ‘pins’ to boards which, in turn, are discoverable by other users. A visual platform, businesses can share beautifully crafted and useful pins with actual or potential customers. With Pinterest Ads, businesses can pay to have products or content reach a wider group of people. According to Pew Research, 28% of US adults use Pinterest with a dominant female user presence. The majority of users are aged between 18-49 and earn in the higher income bracket with 41% earning $75,000+.
Use of Different Online Platforms by Demographic Groups | © Pew Research Center
Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
While social media networks are evidently popular, there are several disadvantages to using these platforms to promote your brand. Here, we look at both the advantages and disadvantages of brands having a social media presence.
Advantages of Social Media
It is a common goal amongst many businesses to build brand awareness. Traditionally, this was achieved via face-to-face marketing, print advertising and events (to name a few). Nowadays, social media marketing allows brands to reach and interact with its following frequently, in real-time and much more affordably.
In a highly saturated marketplace, it is important to become a brand that is recognisable and that customers will favour over competitors. Posting on social media platforms regularly increases reach and therefore puts your brand in front of customers more often. Thus, customers will likely identify your brand more easily which could ultimately increase brand preference and loyalty.
Reach More, Globally
Simple ways of reaching more people include posting unique and visual content, following, and interacting with different brands and using ‘hashtags’. In addition to social media enabling brands to reach more people, businesses can circumvent borders, creating a following on a global scale. Plus, having social media accounts helps with SEO.
Social media is a two-way street, and this can be leveraged. The ability to interact with customers online allows brands to build engagement and customer loyalty. Additionally, it gives businesses the ability to respond to customer queries and complaints in real-time thereby increasing customer satisfaction.
Advertise your Brand Identity/USP
Communicating via social media provides brands with a platform to advertise their brand identity or unique selling point (USP). From branding and expertly crafted graphics to photography and animations, brands can get creative and signal how they differ from competitors.
Brand Authority and Thought Leadership
As social media allows us to reach more people, it enables brands to become thought leaders and authorities on topics. Linking social media posts to blogs or news articles on a website can lead to customers seeking out brands for advice and looking to brands as thought leaders.
With paid advertising, reaching and engaging with customers is more achievable than ever. On Facebook Ads, brands are able to choose advertising objectives, such as brand awareness, driving traffic to a website, or encourage store visits. Additionally, brands can target these adverts to a customised audience (including age, location, interests, etc).
A huge advantage of social media is the ability to study digital analytics. From your target market’s most prominent age group to the best time of day to post, studying analytics enables brands to use insights to optimise marketing efforts. This means that brands have the opportunity to continuously improve on marketing material.
*Hashtag = A word/phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media platforms to identify specific topics and make them discoverable.
*SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) = Driving website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website to users of a web search engine.
Disadvantages of Social Media
More Room for Error
Building brand awareness and recognition are beneficial but this can also leave more room for error. Posting on social media in real-time means that when mistakes are made or incorrect information is disseminated, it could result in negative brand associations.
A Public Platform to Vent
Although social media is a two-way street and this can be seen as a positive, this is not always the case. Social media channels enable the everyday customer or ‘trolls’ to take to these public platforms to vent and potentially damage a brand’s reputation. This might result in the need for crisis communication.
Social media has perpetuated a now-oriented society. And, while this can offer brands more opportunity for brand awareness it can be detrimental. With the rise of social media, customers have become increasingly demanding and require real-time responses. If customers feel that a brand isn’t responsive to queries or complaints, it could result in customer dissatisfaction.
Lacks Face-to-Face Interaction
Social media has allowed brands to market themselves with more freedom and affordably. However, not all brands generate leads/sales from digital marketing. Particular brands require face-to-face interaction and networking which is something (other than VR) social media cannot offer. Additionally, if done incorrectly social media can come across as disingenuous.
*Troll = An internet “troll” is a person who intentionally upsets people on the internet by posting confrontational, provoking and sometimes off-topic messages.
In conclusion, it is vital to have a coherent overall view of the micro- and macro-environmental (internal and external) factors that affect your business. A better understanding of your company and the landscape in which it operates will not only give you insight into your marketing goals and target market but your business marketing strategy.
Overall, there are far greater advantages than disadvantages when it comes to utilising social media to market your brand. If done correctly, businesses can build awareness, reach more people, engage with customers, and gain valuable insights. Never before have marketers been able to target actual or potential customers so precisely and engage with them so freely. However, brands must consider that these are public platforms and users have the potential to exacerbate negative messages which could be detrimental to a brand’s image.
Whether it is engaging with professionals via LinkedIn or sharing visual content on Instagram, social media marketing has proven itself as the new norm. The question isn’t whether every business marketing strategy should have a social media presence but how to align these platforms to your business, marketing goals and target market.