Social Media: Trends and Best Practices
Learning to Love and Leverage the Complex Trends of the Digital Age
(The following was originally printed in the ButteNews.net Quarterly Business Journal)
Social media is redefining the marketing landscape. In itself, that is a profound and significant statement, but it is true. Traditional marketing relied on the avenues of print and broadcast, where the power of the message lay in your hands. With the ever-expanding growth of influence in social media, the traditional dynamic has shifted as the power of your message now lies in the hands of your audience. In tradition marketing you would develop your messaging and ad, pay the price associated with running the advertisement, and then hope for a return and some metrics associated with run. This is no longer the case, as social and digital media allows you to constantly monitor and witness the impact of your messaging, both positive and negative. Social media is where your audience becomes brand ambassadors, touts your product, and shares their thoughts with everyone they are connected to. For some, this can be a hard pill to swallow. However, by following some best practices and staying on trend, your business can find great success in the social media landscape.
With the overwhelming growth in the digital age, it can seem like social media is a beast that takes a lot of time to understand let alone make any progress on. Unfortunately, this can be true. In an era where social media requires a higher time commitment and small business owners have limited resources, it is just the name of the game that we as business owners must make time if we seek success. Nonetheless, there are ways to ensure you aren’t wasting your time. For example, what social media sites are even worth the time? Currently, the big six in the social media landscape are Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and Snapchat. Some up and coming or lesser known/impactful sites to keep your eyes on though include Meetup, LinkedIn, Pinterest, WeChat, and Tumblr.
When it comes to social media, there are many forms of best practices that you can follow, and many fall back on the basic lessons of your marketing 101 classes. First, the medium must match the message. With so many avenues for social media, it can be difficult to understand what should be posted where or if it should be posted at all. For example, Facebook has no character limit and is very visually oriented. Therefore, longer posts and photo/video content is more impactful on this site. Whereas, compare this with Instagram, which is a medium for photo and video solely, longer text posts tend to be much less effective. Then there is Twitter, which even limits you to 140 characters creating the need for a short, succinct, and attention-grabbing message. With this in mind, take some time and audit your social media sites. Are you using your social media effectively or posting without really managing the message? Try using Hootsuite’s Social Media Audit Template to make sure you’re working most effectively. It is a great tool I recommend and use in many social media courses to assist business owners in starting down the path to social media success (https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-audit-template/).
As the digital age progresses and the social media atmosphere begins to further showcase its impact on our target consumers, the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is more relevant now than ever before. Content is king and content creators are making a mint because of it. No matter what business you’re in, engaging, innovative, and creative content with drive social media success. Gone are the days where people just want to see photos of the boots you sell or special offer you are running. On social media, your audience wants to see something they haven’t seen before. According to an ACM Transactions on the Web study in 2008 entitled “Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use,” the average attention span in 2015 was 8.25 seconds. However, I would argue in the social media landscape, this attention span is much closer to 2-3 seconds. With this in mind, the need for engaging and fascinating content is a must if you wish to engage your audience. A great example of this is a recent post by the Facebook page Butte.Elevated. In their post, Butte.Elevated. showcased a video of a new water treatment plant while highlighting important facts regarding water quality in communities. The post reached over 25,000 people and was seen over 15,000 times (https://business.facebook.com/Butte.Elevated/videos/1827933560791076/).
Another huge trend beginning to emerge is the use of social media influencers. Social media influencers are individuals or groups of people with the ability or platform to influence a definitive audience. The most profound example of this is in the YouTube community, where individuals with mass followings can be sponsored to use or experience a product and share it with thousands, or even millions, of their subscribers. As with ordinary life where we rely on recommendations from friends when it comes to great restaurants or places to visit, the same hold true with social media where recent studies by United States based Perceptions + Formats Research concluded that 56% of social media users rely on recommendations from friends. Therefore, theses influencers hold a large amount of power when it comes to reaching and engaging certain audiences.
Lastly, growth of technology is leading to the generation of artificial intelligence and its integration into our daily lives. This is true in the social media landscape as well, as the integration of Chatbots is becoming more and more evident. Chatbots are artificial customer relationship systems that help automate communications with your audience. The easiest to understand and implement is Facebook’s auto messaging system, where you can set up automatic greetings and instant replies to increase your engagement score and overall page score in Facebook. These invaluable tools are just another way small business owners can increase their social media presence and effectiveness to help with conversions and the generation of social influence/brand ambassadors.
All in all, social media is a dynamic, complex, and ever-changing landscape that requires time and energy to understand. However, by spending some time here and there over the course of a week to understand the tools and audience of a specific site, business owners will find more return in the long run. Additionally, taking the time to research new trends, tools, and ideas should be viewed similar to an investment, with returns making their mark in the future when you can implement what you’ve learned. Though it can be a pain, social media is something we must learn to love, otherwise failure is somewhat imminent. It is an art form that takes practice, but with time has exponential rewards.
Butte Local Development Corporation