Have you ever given a great sales pitch at a party? Gotten a new customer at a barbecue? Perhaps made a sale pool-side? You probably weren’t there to sell anything—you went to socialise—but at parties people let down their guards and open up.
Social media is a party that your business can’t afford to miss. Not convinced? Forbes, citing research by event-promotion company Eventility, reports that a staggering 78% of small businesses get at least a quarter of their new customers through social media.
Our own experience confirms the value of social media. When Rocketspark launched in 2009, we were doing everything on a shoestring. Our no-budget launch strategy was to get the word out about our launch on Facebook, a tactic that led to many of our first customers. And like the proverbial stone thrown into the pond, we’re finding that the ripples continue to spread out and grow in size.
Social media has become so enmeshed in people’s lives so quickly that it’s radically changing how people engage with businesses. People generally don’t want a bunch of hucksters crashing their party, but social media is one party where users usually do expect some business communication (as long as permission has been granted). That means you’re invited! And it’s not fashionable to be late.
This overview is split into two separate blog posts. In this first post, we survey the social media landscape to see what sites will be most beneficial to your business (in the second post, we dive into the brass tacks of how to do social media for business).
Choosing your social media: “Which party?”
Choosing the right party could mean the difference between a great night and a lousy one. Think of social media sites as different parties, each with their own vibe. There are tonnes of different sites to choose from but users join an average of just 2.1 sites each. But exactly what those 2.1 sites are varies from person to person. So, rather than stick with just one, you’ll need to do what real party-animals do: crash several parties.
Here’s an overview of the biggies:
This is the party that you have to be at. 54% of Kiwi and 68% of British internet users are on Facebook. It’s the undisputed king of social media, and so this really should be your first port of call.
Users connect with businesses by “liking” those businesses’ Facebook pages. What makes a business “like-able”? Digital marketing experts ExactTarget found that Facebook users are motivated to like a business for the following reasons: self-expression and identification with the brand, to connect with like-minded consumers, to interact with the company and learn about new products, and to keep up with latest news and promotions. But your Facebook fanbase can be a confusing bunch: 51% of those who “like” a business expect to receive marketing messages, while 40% don’t. This poses a significant challenge to your Facebook marketing strategy. ExactTarget’s advice is sage: “Strike a balance that satisfies both groups, while not coming on too strong either way.”
Facebook lets you do a lot: posts, photos, videos and more. You can write lengthy posts, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Research shows that you get 60% more engagement if your posts are less than 250 characters long. Facebook users won’t tolerate of a barrage of marketing messages as much as Twitter users, so be careful with the frequency of your posts. Kissmetrics’ research shows that the ideal frequency is 0.5 Facebook posts per day.
Some parties are great places to sit down and have a long conversation...and then some parties are like Twitter. Twitter limits its posts to just 140 characters, so messages are rapid-fire and quippy. It’s the second-biggest social media player in the U.K. with 28% of British users and third-biggest in New Zealand with 19% of Kiwi users.
That’s a big drop-off—Twitter has nowhere near as many users as Facebook. But Twitter has some significant advantages over Facebook. Twitter users have a higher tolerance of business communications than Facebook users, with a comparitively low 41% of users disengaging with businesses (versus 55% on Facebook). This could be chalked up to the fact that tweets (i.e., Twitter posts) are quick and to-the-point. Their brevity might also make tweeting less time-consuming for you as a business (bonus!). Another advantage of Twitter is that frequent tweeting is less of a turn-off for followers than frequent Facebook posting, with 39% of Twitter users disengaging with a brand for this reason versus 44% on Facebook. But this same research shows that followers expect new and interesting content—not just the same ol’ boring stuff. So be frequent and be interesting.
U.K.-based businesses may have more use for Twitter than those based in New Zealand. Not only is Twitter only ranked third in user numbers in N.Z. (as opposed to second in the U.K. and the U.S.), but 97% of Kiwi Twitter users are also on Facebook. But don’t give up on Twitter just yet; according to ExactTarget, Twitter users are among the most influential on the internet. Greater influence coupled with greater frequency-tolerance could make Twitter a key part of your social media strategy.
And the rest…
You don’t have to limit yourself to these two—there are plenty of other parties to crash. The second most popular social media site for Kiwis is actually LinkedIn (at 29%, third for Brits at 26%), which caters for professionals and holds a strong niche position in the B2B (business-to-business) market. Considering its connection to internet megapower Google, Google+ still has a relatively low adoption rate (25% globally), but its integration with Google and positive spin-offs for other handy Google services like Google Places for Business makes it hard to ignore. It’s getting harder for new social media sites to find a foothold in the market (60% of users have no plans to join any new ones), but two that are gaining ground are Pinterest and Instagram. 41% of Pinterest users, a site that allows users to share images of their favourite products, share branded content. Instagram is a photo-sharing site, which makes for a fun way to give your followers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your business.
Now you know the party scene, it’s time to get out there. Check out our second post in this two-part series to learn how to get started on a social media site, how to build an audience, and what kind of content you need to create.