About social media

Social media is online communication that allows you to interact with your customers and share information in real time. You can use social media to:

  • reach your customers better
  • create online networks
  • sell and promote your products and services.

However, there is risk in using social media for your business. Tread carefully and learn both the pros and cons before you start.

Benefits of social media for business

Social media can help you engage with your customers and find out what people are saying about your business. You can also use social media for advertising, promotional giveaways and mobile applications.

Social media can help your business to:

  • attract customers, get customer feedback and build customer loyalty
  • increase your market reach, including international markets
  • do market research and reduce marketing costs
  • increase revenue by building customer networks and advertising
  • develop your brand
  • exchange ideas to improve the way you do business
  • recruit skilled staff, for example through job networking sites like LinkedIn
  • increase traffic to your website and improve its search engine ranking
  • keep an eye on your competitors.

Disadvantages of social media

Social media may not suit every business. If you launch your social media presence without planning, you could end up wasting valuable time and money.

Disadvantages of social media include:

  • needing additional resources to manage your online presence
  • social media is immediate and needs active daily monitoring
  • you may get unwanted or inappropriate behaviour on your social media site
  • the risk of getting negative feedback, information leaks or hacking
  • the risk of having false or misleading claims made on your social media (by your business or a customer). These claims can be subject to consumer law. For example, if a customer or fan posts misleading or deceptive information, particularly about competitor products or services, you might receive a fine.

To avoid the risks, have a social media strategy with policies and procedures in place before you start.

Types of social media

Not all social media platforms will be right for your business. Save time and effort by choosing social media platforms that your target audience will use. Below is a brief guide to help you understand some of the options available.

Social networking sites allow you to create your own profile or page, network with others and share information (including promotions, images and video). Creating a business profile can help you to attract followers, get new customers and develop your brand. Examples of social networking sites include Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

You can use job networking sites to build a professional business profile and connect with networks of skilled people for recruitment and development. An example is LinkedIn.

Blogs are online journals of thoughts, observations, promotions, links, images and videos. Blogs are typically public. They allow readers to comment on posts and interact with you. You can host them in-house or through a blogging platform that provides the software and website hosting. Some examples of free blogging tools include Blogger and WordPress

Micro-blogs can send short messages to a network of followers. They can be useful if your business has a lot of information to share. Examples include X and Tumblr.

Video sharing sites let you upload and share your videos. Users can then comment on and share your videos with others. Examples include YouTube and Vimeo.

Podcasts are audio files with blog-style or lecture-style content. Vodcasts are podcasts in video format. You can either have them available for download, streaming or live stream.

Social-news communities are websites where members share interesting news or links to others in the community. It’s not recommended to use social-news communities to sell your products and services. Examples include Digg or Reddit.

Private social network services allow you to share information in your private network. They are useful for businesses that want to develop a secure organisation-only network to share knowledge. An example is Yammer.

Location-based services helps you connect and interact with other people and businesses in your area. Foursquare is an example that also enables you to recommend or rate businesses in that area.

Create your social media strategy

Doing the ground work before you start is critical to a successful social media presence. Develop your social media strategy to:

  • create compelling content
  • engage with your customers at the right time
  • generate sales.

A social media strategy describes how your business will use social media to achieve its communications aims. It also outlines the social platforms and tools you’ll use to achieve this.

Follow your strategy and don't overwhelm your customers with unnecessary posts. Remain focused on reaching your specific goals and tailor your messages around these.

Home Harmony - Digital case study

 

Home Harmony provides interior decorating and design services for domestic, commercial and retirement sectors. Government assistance helped Home Harmony improve their confidence and digital capabilities. Home Harmony developed a social media strategy and identified which digital platforms and tools would be best for their business. After implementing the suggested changes, they saw a 15-20% increase in business, gaining a new perspective about digital.

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