Half of 16- to 64-year-olds who use social networking sites use them to assist with purchasing decisions, new research has found. If your business hasn’t got a social media presence, isn’t it about time it did? Social networks provide a cost-effective way for small businesses to attract the kind of audience and nurture the same level of loyalty that used to be the realm of only large multi-national brands. The three best known social networks (and most used in the UK) are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. With more than 30 million people in the UK on Facebook, 4 million on LinkedIn and an estimated 5.5 million on Twitter, these are not marketing channels that can be ignored. Many of the biggest brands names have realised the potential of social networks to build communities of loyal supporters, and small businesses can learn a lot from their tactics. How can social networks work for you? Influence buying decisions As recent research from IBM suggests, consumers are influenced by their social networks and will go online to find out more about a product before they buy it – even if they’re not buying it online. Of those that would be likely to follow a retailer on a social network, 35% stated they use social media platforms to read reviews or rank products and services. By having a presence on social networks, you can provide more information about a product or service, offer free tasters, demos and special offers. Awareness and recommendations Consumers are influenced by their peers, and nowhere is this more effective than on social networks. By allowing people to ‘Like’ your brand on Facebook, tweet about your products and services or personally recommend you on LinkedIn, they will spread word of your business to all their friends and connections (the average Facebook user has 130 ‘friends’ on the social network). By being present and active on social networks, you will naturally raise awareness of your business – both nationally and internationally – that cannot easily be replicated using any other marketing method. Nurture loyalty The survey also demonstrated that discounts and promotional offers delivered online and via mobile phone were what drove shoppers to visit retail websites. Many brands have grown wise to this by delivering special offers, discounts and competitions to customers in order to grow their followers on Facebook and Twitter. People will want to stay in touch with you and your brand if they feel that they are getting something ‘exclusive’ back in return. An American survey from 2009 found that 37% of people liked a brand on Facebook and 44% followed a brand on Twitter for just that reason. Get to know your customers By getting to know your customers and supporters on a personal level, you can find out more about what they truly want and deliver a service that is more personal to them. Think of it as a quick, cost-effective form of market research. Getting started To get the most out of social networking, it is important to establish what you want to get out of it (i.e. increased website traffic, more leads) so that you can measure your success in the long-term. You should also choose the social networking site that is most appropriate for your business – research where your target market socialise online (it may or may not be one of the top three social networks) and make sure you have a presence there. Social networking is not a shortcut to success, but it is a way to raise awareness of your business, gain recommendations and identify prospects, manage your reputation and communicate with customers online. You can find out more about the benefits here and how to make social media work for you.
Half of 16- to 64-year-olds who use social networking sites use them to assist with purchasing decisions, new research has found. If your business hasn’t got a social media presence, isn’t it about time it did?