Since the rise of the internet in the early 1990s, the number of active internet users has grown to more than 3 billion people. Of this number, more than 2 billion are active social media users. This means more than 30% of the global population is using social media to interact with individuals, communities, businesses and governments worldwide. This level of penetration requires businesses to adopt an in-depth understanding of a variety of social media networks and of how a massive audience can be harnessed as a marketing tool.
Mainstream social media networks are defined by the value of advertising spent globally, and those which significantly impact how individuals, communities and organisations communicate. In assisting businesses select the right social media network, prominent mainstream networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+) will be the primary focus. It is important to note that most businesses will ensure an active presence on a range of networks rather than one in order to appeal to a vast range of audiences.
Facebook is the world’s largest social media network, reporting 1.59 billion monthly active users in December 2015. The service is also the largest network of advertising spendings worldwide with USD ~$15 billion in advertising revenues in 2015, representing two thirds of all social network ad spendings globally. Facebook services encompass status updates, sharing photographs and videos, group chats, instant messaging, forming groups, and paid advertising for businesses. The company, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012, owns mobile messaging application WhatsApp and image-based social media network Instagram.
What to consider before selecting Facebook
Its enormous popularity renders Facebook as a positive investment for any company as it can be assumed most prospective and current customers are regular users. However, although Facebook has the most monthly active users, it can be difficult to gain traction without paying for advertisements and post ‘boosts’. It can be quite expensive, but the payoff can be extremely rewarding. Facebook also provides a sophisticated audience-targeting proposition for advertisers. Its features include Facebook ad manager; reporting and analytics tools to determine how effective those ads are at reaching the intended audience; and technologies that enable businesses to view how many people visit or like their posts and pages.
By capturing real-time data on audience interests, education, employment history, demographics and other relevant characteristics, Facebook enables organisations to reach and interact with targeted audiences. This maximises returns on investment for advertising campaigns when compared to campaigns run through traditional broadcast media. On Facebook, targeted audiences can respond immediately and directly to offers, comments or events and conduct public, two-way conversations with the advertiser. In addition, people who interact with the organisation on Facebook (including advertising) are seen to be providing an endorsement.
Businesses should also be reminded that Facebook is a social networking site and is therefore not meant for hard-selling. As such, businesses are encouraged to present themselves and the brand as fun, friendly, and sociable. Businesses who boast a successful Facebook profile have obtained a loyal following translating into an increase in sales.
Launched in 2006, Twitter is a micro blogging platform that enables users to post comments or ‘tweets’ of up to 140 characters and incorporate images and video thumbnails. The social media network acquired video looping service Vine in 2012 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013. Twitter reports 300 million-plus active users per month who send more than 500 million tweets per day.
What to consider before selecting Twitter
In using Twitter, businesses have the power to create a huge, relevant audience within a short amount of time. Whereas Facebook and other networks prompt users to browse and surf their sites, Twitter is used more to inform users of what is happening ‘now’. It is a great engagement tool where in a sentence or two, businesses can share relevant updates, news, and pose topical questions to their audience to spark frequent interaction and connectivity. Unfortunately, Twitter does not allow for the targeting of groups of followers either via messages or posts, and therefore posting can sometimes feel like opening yourself up to a world of judgemental or unresponsive users.
Operating since 2003 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2011, LinkedIn runs a professional network with more than 400 million members worldwide, including 7 million in Australia. LinkedIn homepages enable users to post qualifications and employment histories, connect with professional contacts, and access news and updates from people within their network. LinkedIn claims that more than two new members join each second.
What to consider before selecting LinkedIn:
While LinkedIn built its platform on the huge growth of personal membership (i.e. professional profiles), since 2010, it has introduced LinkedIn company pages that allow brands to showcase their products and services, job openings, and publish original content relevant to their customers and stakeholders. LinkedIn allows brands to advertise specific posts and ‘boost’ the post to reach wider and more targeted audiences. These promoted posts are called ‘sponsored updates’.
A LinkedIn company page provides businesses with the opportunity to share their company stories, engage with followers, share career opportunities and drive word of mouth marketing via the LinkedIn blog and news-sharing feature. LinkedIn company pages also allow individuals to explore companies of interest, obtain the latest company updates and industry news, and apply for new job roles.
LinkedIn also allow businesses to create a ‘showcase page’ within company pages. LinkedIn showcase pages are extensions of a company page and are designed to spotlight a particular initiative. Showcase pages can be created for business teams or divisions to enable them to direct messages to specific audience segments. Large companies may be hiring for multiple job roles at the same time and can create different showcase pages for each job role.
Founded in 2010, Instagram is a mobile application that enables users to upload, share and engage with images. The network has more than 400 million monthly active users. Following its acquisition by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has delivered a service that enables marketers to run sponsored paid ads managed through the Facebook advertising platform.
What to consider before selecting Instagram:
The inexpensive nature and immediate potential to connect with anyone and everyone is what makes Instagram such a popular social media platform. It’s a photo based channel, making it fun, innovative, and easy to use. Businesses of any size and type have begun to realise Instagram’s prospective future as they are able to reach an infinite number of users at no cost. In fact, businesses that don’t use it are considered to be at a loss!
Due to it’s visual nature, Instagram allows for businesses to showcase a unique brand personality; brand personalities are not only used as a significant point of differentiation for a brand but also used to connect closer with users – if a business’ followers and fans identify themselves as incorporating similar characteristics of a business, then the likelihood of the engagement and sales is increased.
Instagram also provides hashtags and captions that businesses (and individuals) can employ to provide further context for images they post. Additionally, Instagram users search their interests using hashtags, thus providing businesses with a following who are particularly interested in the industry/nature of their business.
Operating since 2010, Pinterest is a visual bookmarking tool that enables users to create online ‘scrapbooks’ comprising photos, articles and other items of interest. The social media network has more than 100 million monthly active users.
What to consider before selecting Pinterest:
Pinterest is a leader in driving traffic to business websites (referred to as referral traffic). Organisations without a Pinterest page can also see a rise in traffic due to Pinterest. If a website has shareable images that Pinterest users ‘pin’ to their respective boards, that particular image is shared with the Pinterest users’ network and these users are referred back to the original website where the image is hosted.
Organisations can also use Pinterest to strengthen their brands by creating boards of content that provide insights into products, services, culture and values. Additionally, businesses can used Pinterest to engage with their customers and thus build a community of interest, and the selling of products and services.
Launched in 2011, Google+ provides services such as newsfeeds, video chat, recommendations and network management to hundreds of millions of active monthly users. The popularity of Google+ is linked to improved search engine rankings in Google.
What to consider before selecting Google+:
Google+ is optimised for businesses that use Google Adwords, Google’s search engine paid marketing platform. Everything posted to Google+ is immediately indexed by Google, influencing the content’s ranking on the search engine. Businesses with active and relevant Google+ accounts improve their search engine rankings faster than if they used standard search engine optimisation SEO techniques. Google+ account holders can also house all Google products and resources in one location. These products and resources include Hangouts, Communities, YouTube, Google Search, Gmail Drive, Google Places and Maps.
Google account holders can create Google+ profiles, connect with others and add them to their networks (or ‘circles’). They can post updates and photographs, share links, like (via a ‘+1’) and comment on other people’s updates, and host their own online web-based chat via Hangouts. Organisations can create a dedicated Google+ Page that has all of the Facebook qualities and business page features, plus a few extras.
By ensuring an active presence on a variety of social media networks, a business is able to interact and communicate with a larger audience thus spreading awareness, engaging more followers, and leading to an increase in sales. Which social media networks does your business use? Share your favourite networks in the comment section below. For the latest tips and tricks on how to become a social media success, contact Social Media College today.