Social media platforms are a relatively recent phenomenon which became a major web consideration about 10 years ago. These days most businesses have some sort of social media presence whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or something else.
What is social media?
Social media offers people the opportunity to create an online presence and connect with others. In its infancy, social media was about communication and social interaction, but as the platforms have become more sophisticated they have become a major platform for the creation and sharing of content, from entertainment, to educational, to informative content. Many people now use social media as their main platform for reading news and current events.
There are many websites which fall under the banner, but the most significant are:
In addition, many niche social media websites have sprung up to cater to specific audiences, interests and subcultures.
How does social media differ from other communication platforms for businesses?
The most important difference for businesses to keep in mind is that social media platforms are interactive. Unlike radio and television, where the viewers passively absorb the content of the creators, social media allows the public to respond immediately. This makes social media uniquely powerful in market research, as it opens a direct line of communication with the people who use a business’ products and services.
Social media has also empowered individuals to create their own content, which is often derivative of existing content. This means established businesses will often find their content being co-opted and reworked, either for humour or to make a point. This back and forth conversation is the essence of social media.
What are the pros and cons of social media marketing?
In the pros column, businesses can reach their audience directly and gauge their response precisely. This is an incredibly powerful tool for feedback and gives market researchers huge insight into the type of people who are consuming the products and services, and how best to market them. The other strong benefit is that people are viewing social media consistently throughout the day, and large platforms like Facebook have billions of users which can be sorted and segmented according to their age, sex, location and even their interests.
In the cons column, businesses need to accept that they are not in full control of this conversation. If a business creates an embarrassing or poorly made TV ad, their audience will see it and quickly forget it amongst the other ads bombarding them every minute. On social media, they will see it and respond, continuing the conversation in a way which may not be positive for the business. Similarly, social media provides a platform for criticisms and complaints, which means businesses need to put teams in place to address negative social media reactions.
Importantly, a business does not need a social media presence to be discussed on social media, and staying off social media does nothing to protect a business from online criticism. On the balance of things, it is better for a business to be a part of the conversation, rather than excluded from it.