Trust in digital advertising is at an all-time low thanks to various data misuse scandals and the public's growing awareness about how their data can be exploited. While GDPR can be seen as the regulators big stand on behalf of consumers, the industry itself should be taking a proactive approach too. So what should advertisers and vendors do? Ben Humphrey suggests five key areas where they should take action.
Author Luan Wise begins a series of articles showing how social media platforms are an opportunity for companies and organisations of all sizes to demonstrate their expertise, add value, engage with potential and existing customers and drive sales.
Wikipedia’s answer to ‘what is social media’, is ‘an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction and the construction of words, video and audio’.
When we discuss social media, often we mean the activities we perform on a social media platform; very rarely do we discuss the technology. But it’s the technology and proliferation of smartphones that have made social media so popular.
When we read about the size and growth of social media platforms, we might be inspired to get involved. However, size doesn’t always matter: the platforms with the most users won’t necessarily be best for our business.
Knowing which social media platform will work best for you and your business is not straightforward. You might be tempted to go for the platform you find easiest to use, but this might not always be the best option. You might also be tempted to try them all, but that’s nigh on impossible and will not make the best use of any resources you have available (particularly time).
Social media works best when it is a strategic fit for your business; when you use the right tool for the right job; when you know your audience and when you have a plan.
When it’s a strategic fit, social media can provide many benefits for both you and your business, from brand awareness to customer service, market insight, lead generation and direct sales.
The ‘father of advertising’, David Ogilvy, defined a brand as ‘the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation and the way it is advertised’.
The AIDA model can be applied to communications activities and awareness is the first step. Awareness must generate sufficient interest in the benefits of a product or service to encourage a prospective customer to research it further. As the customer learns more, s/he builds an emotional connection with the product and moves from ‘liking it’ to ‘wanting’ it (desire). They then move a step closer towards purchase (action).
Personal branding is now as important as company branding. Whatever field your business operates in, people prefer to connect with a person, not a logo. Think of Richard Branson and Virgin. Think of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. With effort and focus, any individual can build a valuable online social presence.
Being present in the right place, at the right time, is important. Presenting yourself, and your business, professionally is paramount. Online content is king and engaging in conversation is a vital exercise.
Social media has changed the way customers and companies interact. Online conversations take place in real time, 24 hours a day. As a channel of communication, social media is excellent for enriching customer experiences and enabling customer service. It can be used to answer questions, respond to feedback and to build loyalty.
Customer insight and market intelligence
Another benefit to social media listening is insight and market intelligence. Social media provides real-time insights into what your ideal customers are thinking and saying. Social media is an easy way to learn about your audience, and it’s also less expensive than traditional market research methods such as surveys and focus groups. Listening does not need to be confined to audiences; you can also use it to gain key information on competitors – who they are, what content they are sharing, what their customers are saying about them and so on.
It’s only social media, so how can it drive your sales process?
Lead generation is about bringing people into your sales process. This often starts with a visit to your website. Social media can make this easy – if you understand your audience and know what platforms they use; you can listen in to conversations and find business leads. If you make connections and stay at the front of their minds you will be recalled when the time is right for them to purchase. If you share content that your audience finds interesting and relevant to their
needs, they will engage with you. Every post on a social media platform can provide an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and add value, moving prospective customers one step along the path to purchase (action).
The varying benefits of social media can only be realised when they are aligned to a business’s strategic objectives. Furthermore, use of social media cannot operate in a vacuum – social media supports, enhances or amplifies several business functions and must be fully integrated across an organisation.
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