At the moment, although the economy seems to be recovering to a point, the use of social media by businesses has not decreased at all. If anything, it has increased a great deal. The more business people get to know social media and to learn how many advantages using social media channels have for their businesses, the more viral its use becomes.
It is no coincidence that social media became so popular during one of the worst economic states that this country has known in ages. It is helpful to determine why that is and to learn from the research.
The success of social media is based on one thing and that is conversation. When you use social media sites for your business, it allows you to magnify the conversation (or buzz) that surrounds your brand. You must understand; however, that if you are using social media platforms properly, you must be as dedicated to the conversations through social media as your customers are. You need to devote the time to respond carefully and go very easy on the hard sell of your products and/or services.
When social media was first moving to the forefront of business people's minds, many considered it mostly to be a cost-effective method of spreading the word about your brand because of the leanness of their budgets. The full potential of social media as a marketing tool was certainly not realized at that point. The decision by business people at that time to use social media as a marketing tool was because social media does not cost a lot of money and nobody had a lot of money to spend.
At this point, the decision of business people to use social media as an effective marketing tool goes way beyond the economic decision. You might ask why social media has taken off in popularity.
During the time when businesses had less discretionary money, they needed to be extremely careful with where, when and from whom they would buy products and services.
The emotional result of the recession was that people lost a feeling of trust in businesses. Because of the extreme conditions of the economy, many businesses made bad (and unethical) decisions that impacted the customers in an extremely negative way, which, in turn, impacted where people were willing to spend their money. How should those business people then go about winning back the trust of their customers?
This is where social media comes in. Not only was social media an inexpensive method of advertising but it also provided opportunities for businesses to offer their brands in a way that was transparent to their customers. Social media, by nature, allowed (and still allows) two-way communication between the brands and the customers. Social media allows customers to react to what brands offer without having to listen to any of the hype that has always been a part of traditional marketing. Customers can voice concerns and communicate their customer service issues.
If there was no response from the brands based on customer feedback, the customers went elsewhere. They were not going to become loyal to brands that they didn't trust or find credible.
As valuable and worthwhile as social media is, it really is not free. It takes an investment of time to make social media work for you and your business. Of course, time equals money. It is vitally important that you use social media channels not just to advertise your brand but you also need to use social media to interact with your customers and potential customers. You need to hear whatever they want to tell you and try to offer solutions to their problems.
One very important lesson to learn from social media marketing is that even though the businesses' budgets are modest, it is to be taken very seriously and your social media strategy should include objectives, roles, processes and metrics, just like any other marketing strategy.
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