In this increasingly online era, social media sites have become the digital equivalent of a town square. Users from every corner of the world come together in one place. This makes it possible for businesses to reach an unparalleled number of people at once. It’s easy to see the value of social media’s reach for growing your business, purely from an advertising and brand-awareness perspective.
But social media sites have existed for long enough to accumulate a lot of data. Enough that now it’s possible to take a more nuanced look at how they function in today’s business landscape. The up-front benefits of increased exposure are obvious, but it’s also possible to examine the subtler ways in which a social media presence impacts the development of your business. And while the results are not necessarily surprising, they may be farther-reaching than you expect.
It’s not a surprise that a social media presence is a strong asset to a business’ growth. But taking a look at the ways a social presence contributes to your business can help you take full advantage of that asset.
In addition to advertising and exposure, social media can help a business conduct market research, generate and convert leads, and hold onto their strongest customers. Here’s how.
Stay on top of market research through social networks.
As of 2018, almost 97% of Fortune 500 businesses use social media. Many are on multiple platforms, providing different kinds of content and interaction across each. And every business is conducting their own strategy to reach their target audience.
For businesses willing to invest the time and effort, this is a goldmine of information that can help you understand your market, your competitors, and your target customers. Paying attention to what other businesses in your niche are doing on social media can provide one example of ways to reach your target audience. You might encounter approaches you hadn’t thought of.
And the advantage of social media is that in many instances, the results are right there in real time. You can investigate how consumers have responded to another business’s posts and gauge which approaches resonate, and which fall flat.
Consumers are also leaving real-time feedback, in the form of reviews, comments, and replies. Their posts include explicit mentions of which product features are popular, which don’t work or are superfluous, and what else they feel like they need. This information can help you fine-tune your product development and create something that addresses customers’ pain points and desires directly.
Social media is an invaluable resource for market research. It acts as an engine that can do much of the work of iterating on your product’s development for you, and can crowdsource the kind of feedback that previously would have cost a lot of money and time to coordinate.
This information helps businesses shrink the cost of market research, and reduce time to market on new features and products. It’s become essential to have a finger on the pulse of social media—otherwise it’s difficult to even keep up.
Grow brand awareness with a social presence.
This is the no-brainer aspect of business growth on social media. Getting your brand in front of more eyes naturally leads to greater interest and, eventually, to increased sales. But there are other strategies that you can leverage which build on this increased visibility and multiply its benefits.
Raising brand awareness, when combined with a strong content strategy, also increases the perception of your brand’s authoritativeness. Authority is a measure of your brand’s credibility and consistency. It boosts your company website’s position in search-engine rankings—which further increases its visibility, and forms the foundation of a positive feedback loop.
But increased authority isn’t just a back-end measure of search engine success. It’s an attempt to quantify the sense of trust and respect that consumers have for your brand. Seeing your business’ name in more places, particularly when it’s associated with genuine, high-quality content, earns you that trust with consumers across social networks.
This ties into another of social media’s big multiplier advantages: as a content delivery method that supports and enhances your larger content-marketing strategy. Social posts expand your content strategy by allowing you to increase your reach, and to target different audiences with different kinds of posts, on the same network and on different networks.
A thoughtful content strategy will meet consumers where they are in the different stages of their relationship with your brand. They may just be learning about what you do, or they may be ready to spend money on what they’ve identified as the right option for them. Social media can help you gain visibility into your customer base, so you can target customers at various points along that journey with exactly the information that they need to hear.
Conduct sales and service in real time.
Social media is, at the end of the day, a tool for communication. The most direct kind of communication that your business has is during the sales and support processes with your customers. When your clients think of communicating with you, it’s no surprise that some of the first things that come to mind will be the process of purchasing your product, or asking for your help with it.
Beyond simply being a place for ads, social media platforms allow businesses to build a rapport with their potential customers. The informality and two-way communication makes it easier to pinpoint ready buyers and create a pipeline of qualified leads. This process is known as social selling, and it’s an efficient way to develop interest and strengthen your conversion rate.
The other aspect of frequent communication is on the other end of the sales process—that is to say, customer service. No business ever wants things to go wrong for their consumers. Still, it’s inevitable that questions or problems will arise from time to time.
When that happens, you want to be able to meet your customers where they are, respond to the situation quickly, and resolve it completely. To that end, social media can be a big help. The transparency, searchability, and immediacy of social posting allows an attentive business to spot problems almost as soon as they crop up.
Start a conversation about bigger things.
The kind of responsiveness that social media allows for lets businesses build direct, two-way relationships with their customers. A thoughtful, genuine approach to social media interaction with your most loyal clients creates the kind of trust that’s essential to building brand authority.
But social media doesn’t just allow a business to respond to individual customer-service needs. It also allows businesses to respond in a timely manner to events that might crop up on a broader scale. Those may be related to the brand itself, or to a larger cultural moment, as many businesses experienced during the summer of 2020.
A recent Harris poll indicates that nearly 80% of today’s consumers prioritize supporting brands that align with their values. Social media allows your business to be part of the larger cultural conversations happening day to day. The authentic and timely responses that you publish let consumers feel good about backing your brand.
Community keeps your best customers engaged.
Direct relationships with consumers build brand loyalty in one way. But social media doesn’t just allow you to talk to your customers—it allows them to talk to each other.
Your brand can become a central meeting point for people who all have reasons to seek out your product. In at least this one realm, they have similar needs, concerns, and values. When they discuss those with each other, it provides your business with valuable information about your consumer base and their reaction to your product.
It also allows your customers the chance to grow a community with each other. If they are invested in these relationships, they will keep coming back to the online spaces you own.
Their relationships with one another also help to reinforce the shared values that drew them to your product in the first place. That, in turn, strengthens their relationship to your brand. All of these interconnected social structures keep your loyal customers enthusiastic and engaged with your content.
A strong social media presence is key to growing your business.
Consumers in today’s highly-communicative economy expect a different kind of relationship with their favorite brands than they once did. Social media has introduced the capacity for swift responses to current events, and has broken down barriers between big corporate entities and their customers.
In turn, consumers have come to expect timeliness, transparency, and authenticity from companies. This gives them the information that they need to determine whether a company’s values align with their own.
A strong social media presence, informed by the values and priorities of your target audience, is a powerful tool in your marketing kit. And it does more than just increase the visibility of your brand. It can help you collect valuable information about your customer base, fine-tune your product, and create the positive interactions that inspire customer loyalty—all of which combine to form a solid foundation for your business’ future development.
But in order to take full advantage of the opportunities that social media provides, it’s critical to have a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs and priorities. Digging through all that available information may seem like a heavy lift. But fortunately, there are tools available—like GapScout—to help you sort through it all.
With the right support, you can identify and capitalize on the available opportunities in your market. Spent strategically, the time developing your social media strategy is a valuable investment in the growth of your brand.
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