Can social media grow your business?

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A business man recently told me: “Advertising is useless…..I spent so much money on ads and it did not help".

"My business only started to improve as soon as a satisfied customer started talking about our product.”

Do you share the same sentiments?
Word-of-mouth is arguably seen as the best form of advertising. Therefore, in this day and age when human interaction seems to be more on the digital plane rather than the physical one, social media is what helps people talk to each other, not face to face but using the digital platforms.Image

So, getting online and on to social media is bound to improve your business, right?

Well, as with everything, the answer is not so simple.

Advertising, social media, free samples or trials, public demos, price discounts, detail literature etc. are all amongst the many tools available for marketing. How these tools and with what intensity they are used to achieve the purpose is what is all-important.

Sadly, there is no ‘magic wand’ that you can wave to boost sales of your products or services; it is usually a combination of tools which will do the trick. In other words, you need a strategy.

Let us discuss the businessman’s comments above. Did his advertising campaign transmit the benefits or differentiation of the product clearly to prospective customers? Was the ad suitable for the targeted audience? Was the advertising media used suitable for that audience? Were the ads placed at the right time or prematurely?

In the above scenario, the first customer might have been given a price discount for trying the product out after a demonstration of the product’s benefits over others or could have been offered a trial run – both popular marketing tools deployed to bag that first sale. This probably prompted talk of the product. But, to continue the momentum of word-of-mouth, ads should have followed. These would have nudged those who had heard about the product but had done nothing as yet to buy it.

Like ads, social media alone will not improve your business. It is not a substitution for advertising; instead it is a marketing tool used to ‘engage’ people. On social media, direct advertising is usually shunned and followers are lost very quickly when they sense advertising messages being pushed on to them.

Therefore, social media needs to be used cleverly and subtly. The content you post has to be interesting to the new generation of consumers to enable them to engage & ‘like’ your business or brand. The content should lead to ‘sharing’ (this is akin to the traditional word-of-mouth but is easier, faster and can make your content go ‘viral’- something which all marketers pray for).This creates an indirect promotion of what your business or brand is all about. Development is slow but eventually will lead to appreciation of your brand or business. The maxim “people do business with people they like” rings true here and that is how your followers or fans will convert to becoming your customers.

Social media is an inexpensive medium as most of the platforms are free. However, proper content creation and management of the media must be done professionally to achieve the desired results.

In some businesses, social media management, being of an IT nature, is left to the IT dept. Big mistake! Yes, the IT guys can expertly manage the technicalities of postings etc., but the actual content design, the timing of the posts, the appropriate social media platform to be used (there are many more than Facebook & Twitter) should all emanate from the overall marketing strategy which should be developed at the highest levels of the organization.

Costly mistakes have been made by some large organisations when inappropriate tweets have been posted which has damaged the reputation of these corporations- simply because there were no guidelines or strategy and the media was left to junior executives without proper supervision.

Since social media management may not constitute a full-time activity for a business, to reduce the costs and yet retain quality, the best option for companies is often to outsource these activities to businesses that specialise in social media marketing.

To answer the question “can social media increase your business?” in a nutshell – YES, provided you use it properly with a strategic fit with your overall marketing or business plan-not for the sake of it or because everyone seems to be on it!

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