Social media can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re a small business. It’s kind of like extra time you have to put in when you already have so many other things to do.
But with 3.5 billion people using social media, it’s a fast and inexpensive way to reach almost half the world’s population. There’s a reason why you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that isn’t on social media.
You may still be asking yourself “Are the benefits of using social media really worth it?”
In this post, we’ll look at:
- 3 ways social media strengthens your brand
- 7 ways social media allows you to connect with your customers (and potential customers!)
- 4 ways it brings in more people—and revenue
- And 1 way it is a BIG advantage
Let’s get into the first big benefit of using social media.
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It’s a great way to strengthen your brand
Building a strong brand that resonates with your audience can do wonders for your bottom line (more on that later). And taking advantage of the different social media channels out there is the easiest way to do it.
1. Humanize your brand
More and more businesses are using social media to add a human touch to their brand. Essentially, the point of this is to help customers connect to your business on a more personal level.
One way to do this is to add a face to your brand—literally. Showing photos of the people behind your business makes your audience feel like they’re talking to people, rather than to a stuffy company.
So, drop the formalities and let your brand’s personality shine through on social media (but skip this if the nature of your brand requires you to keep things formal, like if you’re a law firm or an insurance provider):
2. Create brand recognition
In a world where 59% of consumers prefer to buy products from brands familiar to them, brand recognition is very important.
Social media allows you to get eyes on your brand much more quickly and easily compared to traditional media, which takes a while to produce your message and get it out there (like radio or TV). By just scrolling through social media on their phones, people can come across your brand multiple times every day—and sometimes, even every hour.
Make sure that when you do get eyes on your brand, all your social media profiles are ready for it. Keeping your profile image consistent across brands will increase your brand recognition while also making your business look more put together. Be sure to also fill out your profile blurbs with useful information that people might want to know at a glance, like when you’re open and how to get in touch.
3. Get people talking about your brand
Social media is, well, social. That makes it an ideal place to facilitate conversations around your brand.
Some of the most natural ways to do this are to:
- Ask your community open-ended questions, like what they’d like to see from your brand. Let them respond to build engagement.
- Give shout-outs to other companies you work with or who are in the neighborhood.
A strong brand is important because it sets you up to have strong relationships with your audience—and your audience is full of potential customers.
Which flows conveniently into the next benefit of using social media.
It allows you to connect with your customers directly
4. Reach the younger generations
While traditional advertising is still very much alive, research is showing that Gen Z is responding less and less to it. Gen Z refers to those born between the mid- to late-1990s to the early to mid-2010s.
It may sound like Gen Z is too young to be important when it comes to potential customers, but a large part of them are actually in their 20s. (We did the math.) Meaning they’ve been buying from businesses for quite some time now.
And of course, you won’t be limited to Gen Z either. On social media, your business is able to reach customers of all ages.
5. Level up your customer service
As more companies provide customer service on social media, more consumers begin to expect that to be the standard for all businesses. It’s now just a part of the customer experience.
The Sprout Social Index showed that 90% of surveyed customers had used social media to communicate with a brand. That’s no small amount.
While it does involve a time commitment on your end, it’s ultimately a win for both you and your customers. Why?
Social customer service is a great opportunity to connect with your customers one-on-one and make them happy.
For one, you already have a leg up on more traditional forms of customer service that are done through the phone or email. People don’t want to wait on hold for 30 minutes or have one tiny problem stretched out over a few days of emailing back and forth. (Which will probably help you keep up your customer retention rate.)
Social customer service is appealing because response times are quicker and problems get solved faster. So, it’s key that you’re checking for inquiries at least once a day. (Ideally, it’d be much more often than that.)
But what happens when you’re too busy to handle the customer support work? Or maybe there’s a question you may not know the answer to, but someone else on the team does.
This is where a messaging platform can come in handy. You can use it to message your team in real time and work together to get to the bottom of customer questions.
For instance, RingCentral is one that you can use on both a computer and your phone:
Sometimes, people will ask you a question on the public side of your social media channels (like comments and tweets) rather than through private messages.
This is a great opportunity to not only help someone out, but also show prospects how you interact with your customers. Showing how personable and helpful your brand is will go a long way in making your prospects feel comfortable about trying your product or service out—and making your customers feel good about supporting you.
6. Gather customer feedback the easy way
Having a presence on social media creates an accessible space for customers to share their feedback with you.
As a bonus, it’s those same comments left on your posts that’ll act as social proof for your brand and your products.
What is social proof? Think of it as testimonials.
Potential customers might be unsure if they want to take the plunge and buy something from your business.
If they see that other people have done the same and had positive things to say about it, it’ll help them trust your brand and your products. In fact, studies show that 92% of online consumers will look at product reviews before making a purchase.
7. Tune in to your audience with social listening
Social listening is basically the act of monitoring conversations on social media that involve your brand specifically or topics relating to your brand (such as keywords and competitors).
Why is it important? It helps you tune in to your audience’s wants and needs, giving you insight about things they like or challenges they may be struggling with. Can you help them solve that problem?
This will help you create content you know your audience actually wants—and that’s social media gold. Plus, you’ll save yourself a lot of guesswork and time.
And if you want to stay one step ahead of your competitors, social media listening helps you keep a pulse on the current trends in your industry, which will keep your content ideas fresh and inspired.
If you want to take things up a notch, there are tools to help. We’re talking dashboards set up with trends that matter in your industry or direct comparisons with your competitors to see who is getting more mentions. You could always start with Mention—it’s free.
Oh, another thing, you might be thinking that you’ll definitely see all mentions of your brand on social media anyways, because you get notifications for them.
While for the most part people will tag you when they mention you, it’s not always the case. Sometimes people might just mention your brand by name without actually tagging (@-ing) any of your accounts. Which means you wouldn’t get notifications for these messages.
That’s why it’s important to do active social listening. Every mention of your brand, tagged or not, is an opportunity for you to leave a positive impression of your business.
Make it a habit to do some social listening once a day to keep up to date on what’s happening around your brand and in your industry.
And don’t forget to sync up your social media tools with your company’s communications platform. Having everything streamlined in one place will ensure that all your customer inquiries get answered quickly and that none of them fall through the cracks. You could try something like RingCentral for that.
8. Build brand loyalty
Building brand loyalty is a key task for any thriving business.
What exactly is brand loyalty? It’s when people strongly prefer one brand over its competitors (with or without a good reason).
If you’re wondering what that looks like, think of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
We all know someone who has drank Coca-Cola all their life and only Coca-Cola. Or someone who specifically requests Pepsi at every restaurant and will refuse to drink Coca-Cola as a substitute. Now that’s brand loyalty.
There are a few ways to go about building brand loyalty. Think of it as making a new friend.
Call us jaded, but it’s usually easier to make friends with those who come with friend perks. So offer special promo codes or discounts to your followers. Using codes that you only give out on social media will give them that aura of exclusivity—and keep your social media audience more engaged.
You can even go beyond promos and discounts and give away freebies. These can be branded merchandise such as shirts or lanyards, or small products from your shop. If you sell a service and not a product, you could offer sampler versions of your services, like a consultation or a trial.
Of course, make sure to stick with inexpensive freebies, especially if you’ll be giving them out often.
Have conversations with these new friends to keep building on those relationships. Use your social media channels to ask open-ended questions your audience can reply to. And don’t forget to reply to them! These personal, meaningful interactions may seem small, but they go a long way.
9. Curate customer content
Brands and customers alike love customer content. You’ve probably seen this before, in the form of photos and stories about your brand shared by your happy customers.
Luckily, social media is full of customer content that comes in steadily without brands having to ask for it.
You can catch wind of these through your tags and mentions. (And if you do social listening, you’ll even catch anything that wasn’t tagged.)
Another way to collect customer content is by playing the hashtag game. Be warned though—many brands fail at this; few succeed. Starting a hashtag is no easy feat, and you never know when something will flop (or go viral). If you do have a brand hashtag that people use (congratulations!), you can also discover customer content just by searching it
So, now that you have all this customer content, what do you do with it? Share it, of course!
You can share a photo here and there on your channels whenever you need content, or you can use them for a marketing campaign. Just be sure to ask people for permission if you’d like to repost their content.
10. Keep your customers in the know
This is a huge advantage of social media marketing that is easily overlooked.
Social media is the fastest and easiest way to keep your customers and prospects updated on your business. What other immediate way is there to let them know about sales, upcoming events, giveaways, new products and everything else?
Updates through word of mouth, shop signs, and email marketing just don’t have the same ease and reach as social media.
It brings in more people and more revenue
11. Drive traffic to your website, online shop, or blog
Social media marketing is a great help with driving more people to your site.
Your Instagram post showing off new products could bring people to your online shop to have a closer look. The Twitter thread you shared on kitchen-cleaning hacks might encourage people to see if they can find more useful tips on your website.
How do they get there? You guide the way with neat, shortened links.
On Instagram, you can’t include clickable links in the post captions, so throw your website link up in the bio and make sure to tell people it’s there. Twitter, Facebook, and most other social media platforms don’t have that limitation, so you can just include your links at the end of your posts.
Now, when we say links, we don’t mean: www.yourcompany.com/shop/collections/new-arrivals/hey-look/its-the-longest-link-in-the-world.
It’s a bit of an eyesore, and that’s not even close to the worst of them!
That’s why link-shortening tools like Bitly are so useful. They’ll take a long URL and make it more pleasing to the eye by making it shorter.
More traffic is always a good thing. Just keep an eye on what you’re posting and how often, so that you’re not constantly trying to get people to your site. They might start to ignore your posts or even get annoyed about being overly promoted to.
12. Go viral (maybe)
Going viral is rare, but without social media it would be nearly impossible.
It starts with your followers liking and commenting on your post. They might even send it to their friends or share it on their own social media channels.
Your content is now exposed to a new audience—and potentially their friends and followers too. As this continues, your content spreads across the internet and eventually, the world.
There’s no one kind of viral post. We’ve seen all sorts of things go viral.
You might remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It was a social media campaign started to raise awareness for the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Here’s how it worked: each person had to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge a friend to do the same. Eventually everyone was doing it, even celebrities.
On the other side of things, there was the “Dumb Ways to Die” video to promote safety around trains. Metro Trains Melbourne made a cute animated video and a catchy tune to go along with it showing a bunch of silly ways to kick the bucket.
The great thing about going viral is that you can get a ton of exposure with relatively little effort. Your audience is doing the work for you.
That being said, your main goal shouldn’t be to go viral—when it does happen, it’s often unexpected and doesn’t happen frequently. And there’s no step-by-step guide or secret formula to it.
Focusing on creating quality content will benefit your brand the most. Think of going viral as an extra bonus.
13. Drive conversions
A conversion is when a visitor to your website completes a desired action. That action can be something like completing a purchase or filling out a form.
The exact conversion type will depend on your business goals. Some common conversion types include:
- Online sales
- Email sign-ups
- Quote requests
- Event RSVPs
For example, let’s say you have an in-store event coming up that you’d like to collect RSVPs for. You might post about it on Facebook a few weeks out to let people know what’s happening and to encourage them to register. At the end of your post, you’d include a link that’ll direct them to the event RSVP page on your website. They’ll have a look at the page and maybe register—and there’s your conversion!
The more traffic you have, the more likely you are to get visitors to convert. So by using social media to guide people to your site, you’ll be increasing your conversions.
A simple trick to help make those conversions happen is to add a call-to-action, also known as a CTA.
A CTA is a statement that prompts your visitor to take immediate action. So pretty much exactly what you’d expect from something called a “call-to-action”.
CTAs can look quite different but still be effective. It comes down to what action you want people to take and your brand tone of voice.
14. Use #s to get more eyes on your brand
A unique advantage of social media marketing is the hashtag integration. We’ve touched on hashtags briefly before, but let’s dive a little deeper into this neat feature.
The hashtag is a simple, yet powerful way to connect people with like-minded interests.
By using existing hashtags or creating your own, you can expand your reach beyond your own community.
They’re easy to use, so why not try it out? Especially when they work so well.
Tweets with hashtags get twice the amount of engagement (clicks, retweets, favorites, and replies) compared to those without.
But how do you pick which ones to use?
First, take a look at the platform you’re posting on to see how many hashtags you should use.
On Twitter, throwing a ton of hashtags into a post clutters your main message and is bad for engagement. One or two hashtags is the way to go, with anything higher dropping your engagement down 17%. Stick to one to two hashtags for Facebook as well (and make sure you optimize your audiences).
Instagram is where you’ll see the most hashtag use. Eleven hashtags is the sweet spot, with a 79.5% interaction rate.
Now, see what hashtags are popular.
Look at what’s trending and see which of those hashtags could apply to your content. They can be location-specific or industry-specific.
For example, there might be a marathon happening in your city. As a major event, it’ll probably have it’s own hashtag. Let’s say it’s #MegaMarathon. You can use that same hashtag in your posts to reach that audience. So if you’re a cafe, you might post something like “In town for the #MegaMarathon? Come by for a cozy coffee with a great view of the track.”
You can also look at what hashtags influencers in your industry are using. If it’s working for them, then it could work for you.
Now, for the disadvantages
While the advantages of social media generally outweigh the disadvantages, there are a few things to keep in mind.
You could receive negative feedback
Being on social media opens your business up to all kinds of feedback—good and bad.
There will always be naysayers or people who are looking to damage reputations. But they’re usually few and far between, and it’s not worth giving up all the benefits of social media simply to avoid them.
It can be time-consuming
A strong social media presence is an active one.
You need to post consistently to grow your following and your engagement. Aim for one post a day as a baseline to keep your channels active. If you have time to do more, then go for it!
Just make sure you keep it up. If you post a few times and then go quiet for a few months, you’ll probably see your follower count drop.
In addition to posting regularly, you need to always be engaging with your audience. Liking their comments, answering questions, and being a part of the community you’re building are very important aspects of social media. (And this is why many businesses hire social media managers—it’s tough to do this on your own, especially when you have other things on your plate.)
Measuring results can be difficult
When you put so much time and effort into your social media, you want to know it’s making an impact.
Social media comments, likes, and shares are simple to measure. But at a certain point, you’ll wonder if those things are actually making any difference when it comes to your bottom line. That’s the tricky part.
And you’re not alone. Sixty percent of brands find that their biggest struggle on social media is successfully measuring their return on investment (ROI).
It can be difficult to trace an exact path from someone who sees a social media posts of yours and someone who makes a purchase. But there are things you can track.
When someone makes a purchase on your website, you should be able to see which part of your website they came from using Google Analytics. It tracks the path users take once they’re on your website and can show you how long they spend on each page or where they’re engaging the most.
And when you look at that page on your website, you can see how people got there. Some of those people will have come from your Facebook or maybe your Instagram page.
But before you get into all that, figure out what exactly you want your ROI to be. It could be an increase in home renovation quote requests on your website. Or it could be an increase in sales for your craft store. You can find more details on how to define your social media ROI here.
While it may all seem hazy at times, there are definitely ways to see the payoff from your social media efforts.
Despite the challenges, let’s not forget the biggest benefit of social media:
15. It’s free
Yes, it does take time, which is arguably the most valuable asset we have. But when it comes to cold, hard cash—nada.
Social media platforms are free to join and free to post on. Plus, most of the social media management tools out there have free versions you can use.
So with this many (15!) benefits, why not give social media a go? Learn more about social media best practices here.