Running an online business without investing in social media marketing is like starting up a restaurant and not putting a sign outside. People spend a fifth of their time online on social media sites, which is why almost every big brand (and millions of small brands) in the world is active on social media.
Social media offers one of the least-costly ways to reach a potentially massive audience, a way to voice your brand’s message and a way to engage with customers and fans – and it also helps bring more traffic to your site, and ultimately boost sales.
To convince you that social media is too important to ignore, here are 10 ways that social media can help grow your online business:
Social media is an extension of traditional marketing (TV, radio, billboard ads etc): it’s also about increasing brand awareness and promoting your products and services. (Unlike traditional marketing, social media is a two-way conversation. It’s not just about putting your message out and waiting for people to respond to it – it’s about engaging with people and sharing other brands’ content.)
2. Improving SEO (search engine optimisation)
For almost any online business, you’re going to want people to be able to find you by searching for relevant keywords. Search engines now incorporate social influence into their search rankings. Social media influence helps your content get indexed by search engines faster, and search engines favour content that has been shared a lot. By building up your social media following, and promoting your content via social channels (where it is hopefully received well), you’re going to help the rankings of your business website and products or services pages.
3. Referring traffic to your site
Social media can be a huge driver of traffic to your site if you’re creating great content that people want to share. More traffic means more chances to make conversions and gain new customers.
4. Increasing customer base
Social media allows you to reach out to potential customers who wouldn’t have otherwise heard of your business.
5. Gaining loyal fans
By connecting with people on a personal level and sharing engaging content, you’re likely to build up a bigger fan base for your brand than you would through word-of-mouth referrals. Loyal fans will not only become customers – they will share your content and recommend you to their friends.
6. Managing brand reputation
Social media allows you to see what is publicly being said about your brand. You can use online reputation management tools to monitor what is being said about you, and then engage in those conversations – either to gain new customers from positive conversations, or to do damage control for negative ones.
7. Customer engagement
If your approach to social media is engaging, informal and fun, then customers will feel like they can connect with a personality rather than just a faceless brand.
8. Industry expert positioning
By sharing knowledge and expertise in your industry niche (whether it’s adventure travel or organic baby food), over time your brand will become associated with that niche, and people will automatically think of you the next time they want to book an adventure holiday package, or when they need to buy baby food.
9. Customer engagment and feedback
Social media is a great way of engaging with your already existing customers, and finding out what your customers want, and what they think of your products and services. There are options such as running polls, surveys or just asking questions about what people like or dislike about particular products and services your business offers.
10. Making conversions
Ultimately, it’s all about sales in the end. The good news is that social media, done right, will increase conversions – whether it’s selling products or getting people to sign up for your services. Research has shown that the chance of a consumer making a purchase increases when they have a social connection to a brand or its products, and that fans of brands are 51% more likely to purchase from that brand than non-fans.
The next step is working out which social media platforms are going to work best for your business. My advice is not to try and cover them all, because they won’t all necessarily work for you, and you’ll waste your time on ones that aren’t going to give you any return. Instead, read my next blog post, where I cover this exact topic: how to go about how to choosing which social media sites to concentrate on.