It goes without saying that in this day and age most businesses, whether a mom-and-pop operation or a large corporation, need to have a visible social media presence. An essential piece of modern marketing, the sheer volume of people utilizing social media makes it the ideal place to increase your brand awareness, connect with consumers far and wide and generate new business.
And while Twitter, Facebook and Instagram seem like obvious choices, other platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Clubhouse and many more are all vying for a piece of the pie. In most cases, those who consume social media do so daily and across several platforms, so identifying your target demographics goes a long way in determining which is right for you. Is a law firm served well by posting on Instagram if their audience aren’t millennials? Is LinkedIn only good if the nature of your business is B2B? Does YouTube’s soaring popularity make it the best bet? Having a definitive social media strategy will help to generate content that is not only relevant, but that also resonates.
“For businesses determining their social media strategy, choosing the right platform is the key,” says Glenn Davila, president of Performance Marketing. “Businesses need to forget their personal preferences and consider the strengths and audience on each platform. … Like any social media network, the potential of the technology is only half of the equation. The other half is to attract the audience.”
Nathan Fong is an associate professor of marketing at Rutgers University-Camden and his research focuses on the role of social media in business growth. He feels it’s important that companies don’t put all their eggs in one basket and instead diversify their approach and cast a wider net.
“Making sure the audience you are looking for is on the platform you are using is important, but you also have to think about how the nature of that platform gets used,” says Fong. “Rather than building your business for the platform, it’s better to build your presence on multiple platforms to suit your business and your target consumers first.”
A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that roughly 7-in-10 Americans are active on social media. And so regardless of the desired platform, it’s evident that the social media landscape has become extremely competitive, especially when vying for coveted advertising dollars.
“COVID basically put the investment in digital marketing spending on warp speed. That said, it’s becoming more expensive and harder to fight for the real estate on Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth,” says Len Ward, founder and president of Commexis. “With how competitive things are right now, it’s critical you are in front of the right audience on social media.”
At the heart of most social media platforms is the idea of connecting people, and Kristi Howell understands that better than most. As the president and CEO of the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce, she regularly uses any number of platforms for target marketing, to link with members, engage the community and get the chamber’s message out to the masses.
“If you’re not using social media and using it correctly, you are behind the times,” Howell says bluntly. “It has helped us to be able to expand our reach and allowed us to engage with people we otherwise wouldn’t.”
Howell is in the process of refocusing the chamber’s social media presence in her constant effort to stay ahead of the curve. While most people first discovered Zoom during the pandemic as a way to hold meetings and stay in touch with staff, Howell and her team had been using the service since the summer of 2019. Of late, she’s been using Blitzr, a one-on-one conversation platform she equates to “speed networking,” where you connect with someone for a few minutes before the host brings you out and connects you with someone else.
“It’s a great way to idea share across the country with someone else who may be going through what you are going through,” she says.
Despite the expansive reach of social media, Howell still feels in-person connections have an important place in the business world and that won’t likely change anytime soon.
“I am seeing a lot of higher-level executives use this tool, but I think smart businesses know that you follow that up with face-to-face interaction. People do business with people they know,” she says.
Ward agrees, saying, “I do think the companies that find the right mix of human interaction and digital marketing are going to be the ones who really thrive in this new world.”
But for now, as the pandemic lingers and folks are increasingly using digital means to do business, more and more companies are starting to align their business goals with strategic social media use. According to Davila, it’s something that is beneficial for businesses of all sizes.
“Social media marketing provides companies with an opportunity to use creativity and sweat equity while controlling the costs, which is great for small businesses. For larger clients, social media is an easy and affordable way to build impressions to support other marketing activities,” he says.
“Social media platforms will eventually break out and emerge as the dominant player for ad dollars,” adds Ward. “You have to think about how people are digesting content; a lot of that content is being distributed via [these platforms].”
Because of the large number of people who use Facebook and Google, that is where you’ll find the majority of available ad space. But Fong thinks those who dig a little deeper can find useful ways to get ahead of the competition.
“Savvy marketers are looking for the next thing because it can be cost-effective to get there first. If you were advertising on Facebook Stories early on, you were probably getting a really good deal on the ads, whereas that’s not the case now because there’s a lot of competition for that inventory,” he says.
For Ward, it ultimately comes down to a little self-evaluation to determine the right direction for your business.
“Are you having a problem closing a business? Are you having a problem getting people to know who you are? Are you having a problem getting people in the front door? The answers to those questions will show you what platforms you should be on,” he says.
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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 11, Issue 8 (August 2021).
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