What exactly are the benefits for business owners?
According to Statista, a massive 90% of small and medium-sized businesses use social media, with the number of active users continuing to climb:
But many business owners only have a notional concept of why they are there. Often it’s just a basic presence in order to tick the box.
For many, it’s all too bewildering and kept at arm’s length, save for the occasional half-hearted update. With only small followings, social postings are often followed by a discouraging complete lack of response. Is it any wonder they fail to invest in a more robust social media presence?
The only problem is, a failure to invest enough time and attention into their social media activities is one reason why the benefits remain elusive. It’s largely self-defeating.
It’s essential that you have a clear idea of why you’re using social media. Most business owners haven’t clearly defined why they are using it or what it will accomplish for them.
National Association of Sales Professionals (Nancy Marmolejo)
Unfortunately, the real benefits of social media for business are rarely explained very well, or only in vague ideas of engagement and reach that many struggle to relate to.
So this post aims to set that straight. What follows are 12 clear but very important benefits your business gains from investing in a real, active and engaging presence on social media.
Attract Your Market
The number of internet users around the world is reported to be over 4 billion, with the number of social network users over 3 billion. That means around 75% of internet users are on social.
For most businesses in most countries, that also means 75% of your market – or at least, a high proportion – is on social.
Unless you’re working hard to capture their attention with an active and engaging presence yourself, that’s a huge hole in your marketing plan.
There are a range of ways in which social can work to attract your market to you, such as:
- Sharing regular content of interest to your market, attracting followers and driving traffic back to your site.
- Having that same content reshared (see #2 below).
- Curating relevant content from others.
- Following and otherwise engaging with those likely to be in your market.
- People seeing or otherwise finding your profile, and following you. For example, Twitter has a search function specifically for finding relevant accounts:
Or similarly, Facebook will suggest relevant Pages to Like based on a search:
Amplify Your Reach
Sounds good, but what does “amplify your reach” actually mean?
Let’s imagine you create some content on your site and social media doesn’t exist. Like, at all.
Yeah, life without Facebook. It’s okay, stop shaking. This is just pretend.
In fact, it’s a bit like when I first started online. Not even MySpace.
Without social, the (organic) traffic you attract will mostly be from search, and possibly links from other sites, right? (Well, eventually).
This is your reach. In other words, the number of people you reach with your content.
Now let’s turn up the volume.
You share it on social to your own sizeable network you’re investing in creating and building.
People in your network reshare it with their own networks, or choose to share it independently.
After a while, it might just begin to look a bit more like this:
Okay, we mere mortals may never reach the dizzy social heights of a Jeff Bullas or a TechCrunch, but you get the idea.
By building up the network of people you are sharing content to, your reach increases by an order of magnitude. You potentially reach thousands more people than you otherwise would.
Plus of course you start attracting followers with increasing ease as you become ever more visible. It’s a snowball effect, a game of increasing gains.
By investing in your social presence now, you’re putting money in your Future Bank.
On Other Content Platforms…
It also works to increase the visibility of your content on other platforms.
Take YouTube as one example. Rankings of videos are based in part how much engagement they attract.
YouTube video rankings are affected by the number of views, likes (thumbs up) on YouTube, social shares and inbound links. When a video is published on your channel, you should begin distribution to help gain views, likes, shares and links.
Driving such engagement through via your social audiences therefore helps the content reach more people within the platform itself through improved visibility.
The same goes for other content platforms such as SlideShare, Quora, Medium and so on.
There’s now a very clear correlation between your social presence and your visibility on search engines.
It’s virtually impossible to employ a successful organic search optimization effort without robust social content or social presence. These social signals have eclipsed signals like links.
Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing
Google for example are heavily focused on providing the most authoritative, influential content they can for a particular search. A key way to build this authority and influence is on social.
There are various ways in which your social following can strongly influence your ranking.
Firstly, bloggers frequently look for authoritative and engaging sources of content on a topic they can link to or otherwise reference using tools like Twitter and BuzzSumo.
By having content that’s regularly shared on social, you’re simply more visible and therefore more likely to be linked to. The more robust your social presence is, the greater the visibility you achieve.
Secondly, your social presence impacts your credibility. People will stay on your site longer when you have higher search numbers, and other forms of engagement such as comments that are driven in part through social and the relationships you establish.
Thirdly, building your authority and influence through social platforms makes it easier to attract opportunities to post content elsewhere, including influential websites for your niche. These are powerful links to gain for SEO purposes.
Increase Lead and Sales Conversions
As already stated, your presence on social networks gives you credibility and authority.
This social proof factor can have a big impact on your conversion rates, whether for acquiring leads or converting leads into customers.
Let’s say you were looking for a printing company. You find two such companies in your area.
One has a thriving social media presence, with various indications to that effect on their website. The other simply doesn’t.
All else being equal, you’d be far more likely to prefer to do business with the former. There’s more social proof, they seem more trustworthy and established, have a lot more credibility, and it just seems a safer bet.
Which one of these businesses would you prefer to be?
The fact is that by building relationships, and by providing a fuller picture of your organization through social media, you can build trust and remove many of the concerns potential customers often have.
One powerful way to use social media to increase conversions would be for example to share positive customer feedback, or otherwise relay positive customer experiences.
Finally, your social media presence helps frame your business in a prospect’s mind before they even land on your site.
Contrast someone clicking through from a social update that has had multiple shares and other forms of engagement, with a social update that has attracted none.
Most of us will afford the former with far more authority. As a consequence, you are more likely to do things like fill in an opt-in form and join their list.
That’s the power of authority. Your social media presence determines the level of authority and credibility your business projects to others.
Stay in Front of Your Market
By posting regularly, you’ll be showing up regularly in your followers’ feeds. That keeps you front of mind, reminding them you exist and offering opportunities for engagement.
Continual communication in this way builds trust and credibility.
It’s similar to running an email list. Through regular emails, you build that relationship.
Understand Your Market
In using social media, you gain valuable insights into your market.
That could consist of:
- Conversations on social media.
- The type of content people in your market are posting or engaging with.
- Data relating to the type of people who are following you.
For example, Facebook provide a valuable Insights tool, giving you data on things like engagement levels, reach and the demographics of your fans.
Similarly, Twitter provide their own Analytics package, providing insights into your audience, engagement levels, and other metrics:
Pinterest provide analytics too, and various such tools exist on LinkedIn.
All this information helps you to understand your market intimately and can help you make smarter decisions in your business, including for example marketing approaches, and new products and services.
About 50 percent of companies are using social data to gauge sentiment in order to have more targeted and relevant communication, to improve customer service, to address specific complaints, and to inform product and services development.
Paid Advertising Opportunities
Social networks, particularly Facebook, offer powerful advertising opportunities to put your business directly in front of the type of people you want to reach.
The amount of data social networks collect allow businesses to finely tune their targeting. Data can include age, gender, location, interests, income level, position, marital status, and more.
Your own presence on the social network in question can also enhance the results you get from your ads.
For example, on Facebook:
- The more fans you have for your Page, the more accurate a Lookalike Audience will be, which is likely to drive a higher response.
- People checking out your Page on seeing your ad will be more inclined to both Like your Page and click on the ad if you have an active and engaging presence.
While usage of email isn’t exactly declining, young people in particular prefer to communicate through social channels. So do many others.
Simply put, if you’re active in the channels people in your market use, you facilitate their ability to get in touch and communicate with you. If you’re not there for them to reach out to, they will find someone who is.
If your business is absent from social media channels today, it’s a little like trying to run a business a couple decades back without a phone. Your market will see it as poor customer service and simply go elsewhere.
82 percent of consumers in the U.S. said they stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer experience.
Entrepreneur (Daniel Newman)
Lead Acquisition (and Sales Growth)
Through attracting followers and sharing content on social media, you’re also attracting high quality leads for your business.
In turn, presuming you have an effective sales process in place, this will also of course increase sales.
You can generate leads in a number of ways:
- Sharing content regularly from your blog where you’re using lead generation tools to convert that traffic into opt-ins for your list.
- Using your profile information to show a call to action that leads to an opt-in page of some kind.
- Sharing squeeze pages directly, for example:
Leads from social media are highly targeted and potentially easier to convert than leads from other sources such as paid traffic.
Social networks of course also drive traffic directly to your site (and content you’ve published elsewhere) when you share your links.
You gotta love spending 30 seconds posting to Facebook and then watch 500 to 1,000 or more visitors hit your site. That’s awesome and it’s free.
Jon Dykstra, fatstacksblog.com
The more you build your social audience, the greater the effect is likely to be.
For many businesses, traffic from social is coming a close second to search, if not over-taking it.
Personally, I’m committed to driving more website traffic from social. In fact, I think we can get social traffic to surpass total search (paid and organic) referrals. While search is more top of funnel, we’re seeing traffic from Twitter, Facebook, etc. to be more qualified. Time will tell.
Rob Yoegel, VP Marketing, @Gaggle_K12
Attract Business Opportunities
With an active social media presence, you start attracting (and creating) new and valuable business opportunities.
For example, it means you:
- Can engage with key influencers for your market.
- Build relationships for a range of business opportunities.
- Communicate directly with leads.
- May attract opportunities such as an interviewee in podcasts.
- Can create more powerful PR.
In addition, a healthy social media following gives you a lot of credibility when creating other opportunities, such as:
- Approaching key blogs in your niche as a potential guest blogger, or other sites where you wish to post or contribute to content.
- Gaining public speaking opportunities.
- Getting content published in offline publications.
Of course, running a business is also about attracting the right people to work within it.
According to a recent survey, 74% of recruiters use social networks to attract talent.
Businesses should understand that not only will the best candidates be attracted to companies that have an engaging presence on social media, they will also save money in the process.
For example, Chris Ferdinandi refers to how Sodexo (a Quality of Life Services company) saved over $300,000 in recruitment costs when they started using social media, including attracting a 25% increase in the number of candidates applying for positions.
He further states:
By helping people understand what it’s like to work at your organization, you can build a pipeline of talented people who are excited to come work for your organization… before you’ve even posted a job opening.
As an example, this is how rent payment company, RentMoola, is approaching recruitment via Twitter:
With these 12 big and clear benefits of social media for business, you should be in little doubt as to the importance of fully committing to developing your own social media presence.
However, in the same way as when you build an email list, the benefits take a while to build up. When your followers are few and far between, it is of course hard to feel much benefit. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any, or that they’re only there for a few.
The trick is to keep focused on the end game. As your social audiences grow, the benefits begin to multiply, and it becomes a game of increasing gains.
Don’t forget! Get the Special Report on the 12 big benefits of social media for business.