Whether you’re running a bricks and mortar store, a large corporate, or a start-up in the digital space, social media offers universal benefits for every business.
Initially seen as a gateway to connect with customers and promote products and services, social media has evolved to become one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools available today.
Realising this potential, many businesses make the mistake of rushing in and launching multiple social media accounts without any planning or strategy. The 2016 Sensis Social Media Report found only 31% of Australian small businesses using social media have developed a strategic plan, compared to 76% of large businesses.
Pretty soon, they realise they can’t keep up with the demand for content across every channel, and their efforts aren’t rewarded with the ROI they’d like for their precious time.
Then there are those businesses still resisting the social movement. Although social media uptake is growing, less than half of Australia’s small and medium size businesses use social media, compared to 79% of large businesses. Some are simply overwhelmed by the growing number of social media platforms to choose from. Often though, they are corner stores and real-world businesses that struggle to see the benefits of an online presence. Key to realising this connection is understanding that wherever and whatever your business is, chances are your customers are using social media.
The latest statistics show 69% of Australians have a social media profile, and 50% use social media every day. For 49% of Australians, social networking is the first thing they do when they wake up. What business doesn’t want that kind of exposure?
Whether your business is new to the world of social or you’re thinking about a social media makeover, we take a look at the benefits of some of the most popular social media platforms to help you find the best fit for your brand.
Facebook has become a virtual home for almost two billion people right across the globe.
Now the largest social media platform in the world, Facebook has transformed from a social networking site to a multi-faceted virtual reality that allows people to bring almost every element of their real-world lives, online.
It’s where we connect with friends and family, watch and broadcast videos, shop online, find and review businesses, research interests and hobbies, listen to music, network in social groups with colleagues and peers, and even buy and sell secondhand goods.
Brands have realised the potential of being in this always-open digital marketplace, with more than 70-million business pages now active on Facebook, including 5-million active advertisers investing USD$7.86-billion in advertising revenue in Q1 2017.
Facebook’s following continues to grow, reaching a record 1.94-billion Monthly Active Users in the first quarter of 2017. With 90% of that audience accessing Facebook on mobile, marketers now have the unprecedented ability to deliver brand messaging direct to their target group’s fingertips.
Facebook’s wide-ranging features provide businesses with a suitable platform for a variety of content, including blogs, videos, live streams, images, competitions, even messenger bots and of course, targeted advertising. But perhaps one of its greatest features is the diversity of Facebook’s following, with user age ranging from 13 to 65+. Worldwide, people aged 18 to 34 make up 59% of Facebook users, while the largest demographic is males aged 18 to 24, accounting for 18% of all users on Facebook.
Closer to home, the Sensis Social Media Report found 95% of Australian social media users are on Facebook, towering above the next most popular platforms of Instagram with 31%, LinkedIn 24%, Snapchat 22%, Twitter 19% and Pinterest, 11%.
In addition to providing a flexible marketing platform for all industries and all ages, Facebook also offers businesses built-in analytics and tools to help manage and monitor social media performance, from scheduling posts, to recording click through rates and conversions.
Best for: Facebook is an extremely diverse platform that almost any business can use efficiently. Facebook combines the best features and functionalities of all social media platforms, with the ability to post photos, videos, live streaming, clickable links, long-form copy, blogs, competitions, promotions and targeted advertising. If your business is just getting started on social media, or you only want to use one social media channel, Facebook is probably the best place to start.
We all know there are only 24 hours in one day. That is of course except on YouTube, where an average 1 billion hours of video content is consumed daily.
As of the first quarter of 2017, YouTube has 1 billion users, or around one third of the world’s internet users.
And while its primary purpose is a video hosting site, YouTube also qualifies as a social media channel because it allows users to interact with each other, building relationships between the YouTuber and their audience.
The world’s most popular YouTube stars each have a cult-like following of tens of millions of viewers, and a handsome salary to match. The number one YouTuber known as PewDiePie has over 54-million subscribers and made an estimated US$15-million in 2016. The top-rated YouTube content ranges from beauty vlogs and comedy to gaming commentary and well, however you define WhindersonNunes.
While businesses can also launch YouTube accounts to broadcast their own branded content, placing an advertisement on already viral videos provides a much easier pathway to reach large audiences. And although nearly half of all millennials think YouTube has the most annoying ads, YouTube’s video advertising revenue reached USD$5.18-billion in 2016 alone.
So who is watching all these videos? Not surprisingly, mostly young people, but the audience is probably more diverse than you think. YouTube reported it reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the US, including 91% of US internet users aged 13 to 17. But the older generation is also embracing digital video. The time spent on YouTube by viewers aged 55+ tripled between 2015 and 2016.
Best for: Unless your business has a budget for high quality video production, or experience in vlogging, creating DIY YouTube marketing videos might not be the best solution for you. But advertising to YouTube’s captive audience is certainly an option for brands to consider. Companies can also store corporate and promotional videos on YouTube for distribution via their other social media channels.
Instagram has grown from strength to strength since the Facebook acquisition in 2012.
The photo-sharing app had only 30-million users and zero revenue when Facebook purchased Instagram for a reported USD$1-billion. Official advertising revenue figures are not released, but with more than 700 million monthly active users now on Instagram, the app’s revenue for 2017 has been estimated at more than USD$5.3-billion.
Instagram’s capabilities and features have grown too, expanding from simply sharing photos to creating collages and videos, Boomerang animations, and more recently, Instagram Stories (disappearing videos and images), Instagram Direct, and digital stickers.
For businesses, this means a multitude of different ways to market your brand and promote your products. And best of all, the Instagram audience is primed to buy. More than 80% of Instagram users follow a business on Instagram and products have the highest engagement of all content types on Instagram.
Globally, 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35. While in Australia, Instagram is our second most favourite social media platform behind Facebook, and people aged 18-29 make up the greatest user demographic, accounting for 58% of the Australian audience.
Best for: Instagram is primarily a visual medium, allowing businesses to showcase their products and surroundings on a digital global stage. The addition of features like Instagram Stories gives businesses even more flexibility and creative freedom to connect with customers in new ways. Above all, Instagram’s association with Facebook makes it easier to integrate the two channels together, including cross-channel advertising, and automatically sharing posts from Instagram to Facebook, saving you time and money.
It’s the social media platform of choice for celebrities, media outlets, and corporate companies. And it has an audience of 328-million monthly active users, and growing.
Twitter’s short and sweet 140-character limit makes it the best network for getting a message out fast. Although recent changes to Twitter’s messaging structure mean you can now fit more content in each Tweet than ever before, including links, images, videos and live streaming.
Twitter is also the birthplace of the hashtag, used to categorise themes in posts. The hashtag continues to play a key role in this and other social media platforms, identifying trending topics and making Twitter the modern day go-to source for breaking news and world events.
Engagement rates for businesses on Twitter are notoriously low, achieving a 0.02% interaction rate for major brands with at least 10 million followers, and 0.18% for smaller brands with an audience of 1-1000. Yet an estimated 65% companies use Twitter for marketing, indicating Twitter is achieving results and reach not measured by the traditional likes-driven analytics of competitor platforms like Facebook.
Twitter claims 85% of users believe Promoted Accounts help them discover new businesses on Twitter, while 75% feel better about a small or medium business after following its Tweets, and 69% have been influenced to purchase something from a business because of Twitter.
In Twitter’s Q1 2017 Letter to Shareholders, the company revealed quarterly revenue was $548-million, including $474-million from advertising. In the same period, total ad engagements had increased 139% year over year, and cost per engagement was down 63%; results Twitter attributed to ongoing improvements to algorithms for accelerated ROI and engagement rates for advertisers.
Twitter’s audience continues to be dominated by the younger generation, with 55% of users aged 25 and under in the first quarter. Closer to home, 19% of Australian social media users are on Twitter, and of them, 53% are aged 18 to 39.
Best for: Twitter is a great option for corporate companies unsure about the bright and colourful world of the more visually dominant social media platforms. While Twitter’s imagery and video content is significantly increasing, it is still an appropriate platform for a brief text-only message, which isn’t suitable on any other platform. Still, companies in all industries should embrace any opportunity for sharing content and storytelling, corporate doesn’t have to be all black and white.
If you’re in the wedding industry, and you haven’t already, go and open a Pinterest account right now.
Same goes for any business specialising in food and drink, home decor and art, DIY and craft, women’s fashion, health and fitness, travel, technology, hair and beauty and tattoos.
These highly visual business categories are among the most popular searches on Pinterest which now has 150-million active users worldwide. Perhaps not surprisingly, a reported 85% of those are female. Pinterest is the 6th most popular social media platform in Australia, and women aged 40 to 49 are the leading demographic of the Australian audience (19%).
Pinterest users or ‘Pinners’ are encouraged to create digital vision boards of their favourite images, including artworks, products, and an inspirational quote (or 12). It is believed this time spent curating images encourages greater brand affinity, which might explain why Pinners spend 50% more compared to other shoppers referred from different social channels.
Best for: If the core offering of your business is visually appealing, or female oriented, consider setting up a Pinterest Business Account. As with the other social media channels, Pinterest allows you to pay to expand your reach and target specific audiences, as well as track and monitor your performance. The key to success here is to use high quality imagery, update regularly and ensure all pins are linked back to your website or online store.
Snapchat is still the new kid on the block when it comes to social media marketing tools. Which is also why it has some of the most exciting growth potential. Snapchat has 158-million daily users globally, and each Snapchatter spends an average of 30 minutes using the app over 18 sessions each day.
With those figures, what was perhaps first dismissed as a passing fad or entertainment app, is now being realised as an influential marketing platform. Snapchat’s advertising revenue has been estimated at $770-million in 2017, and that amount looks set to grow with the introduction of Snapchat’s new advertising products including Snap Ads, Sponsored Geofilters and Sponsored Lenses.
But you don’t need a big budget to reach people on Snapchat. A growing number of businesses are using the app as a way to connect with customers on a more human level, sharing ‘stories’ (pictures and short video clips) snapped or filmed with a hand-held smartphone camera.
In Australia, Snapchat is ranked the fourth most popular social media platform, capturing 22% of social networking users down under. Young people aged 18 to 29 make up 60% of Australian Snapchat users.
Best for: A great add on to the more mainstream social media channels, especially for bloggers, retail and commercial businesses with a young target audience. Best of all, Snapchat is still a new and evolving platform so it’s an exciting opportunity for marketers to pioneer this new technology.
For some brands, a combination of several social media platforms is often the best way to reach multiple niche markets within target audiences. For others, focusing more time and resources on just one social media account will reap the best results.
We’ll leave you with some takeaway considerations for solving your social media struggles:
- Identify your audience and their social media platform (or platforms) of choice, and put your brand and products in that space.
- Develop a social media strategy, content plan and image archive to ensure continuity and consistency BEFORE launching your social media account.
- First impressions last. Remember your social media presence might be a customer’s first and only interaction with your business. Make sure the personality, appearance, messaging and tone of your social media matches that of your brand.
- Monitor and measure your results. If you’re investing time and money in social media, you want to know what’s working, and what’s not. Unfortunately, more than a quarter of Australian small and medium size businesses and over one third of large businesses don’t even know how much they’ve spent on social media advertising. And only 21% of Australian small businesses measure their ROI on social media, compared to 61% of large businesses.
- Consider and plan your response to customer queries, compliments, complaints, negative reviews, trolls and cyber-bullying, and appoint several page admins or hire a professional digital and social media marketing team to ensure appropriate, responsive and timely action.