It’s strange to think, given its ubiquitous nature, Facebook has been around for less than a decade. It wasn’t the first social network but it’s definitely become the most recognisable global social media brand.
In October last year, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had more than 1 billion unique monthly users. To put it in some sort of perspective, that’s around a seventh of the world’s population.
Facebook is the dominant force in most parts of the world but it’s certainly not the only player. If you’re not aware of Twitter you might just have been living in a cave for the past few years and the professionally oriented LinkedIn and the image-sharing site Pinterest are both growing rapidly. In China, where Facebook and Twitter remain officially banned, platforms like Tencent QQ and Sina Weibo fill the gap.
Last year, Tencent reported 798.2 million instant messaging accounts that were active monthly – not too far behind Facebook but with a much more geographically concentrated audience. Elsewhere, VK is the market leader in Russia and Orkut is huge in Brazil and massively popular in India.
The social media gives you access to a huge potential platform wherever you are in the world. Given the unprecedented scale and reach of these networks, it’s little wonder that social media marketing is such a hot topic.
The benefits of social media for businesses:
Okay, so social media is huge. Many businesses are turning the social media to their advantage but, as a small business owner, you might well be asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’
The benefits of social media for any type of business can often be difficult to quantify. You may make some direct sales from your social media profiles (usually via your company website) but a social media presence is more often about building brand awareness, recognition and trust. The social media provide an unparalleled opportunity to directly communicate with your customers.
This can allow you to promote both your brand vision and image, as well as specific events, products, launches and promotions. It can also serve as a sounding board. Not all posts and communications will be positive but the canny operator will turn criticism to their advantage by addressing issues and treating it as valuable market research.
An exact ROI might be difficult to calculate, especially if the social media plays a part in a holistic marketing strategy. It can undoubtedly be effective however. A recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK found that nearly 80% of consumers said they would be more inclined to buy more often in the future because of a brand’s presence on social media with 83% of consumers saying they would trial a product because of a brand’s presence.
There are many different online resources that can help small businesses. Company websites are the bedrock and essential resources such as online accounting software can help facilitate small business owners when it comes to key business procedures. That said, a social media presence is increasingly being seen as an important resource in its own right and essential to give your brand a much needed boost in an increasingly competitive marketplace.