The rise of social media has had a profound impact on businesses, as companies across all industries have had to factor their online presence into their business strategy. However, not all platforms were created equally, and some serve certain companies better than others.
The most significant impact of social media has been on marketing strategy, as it has been instrumental in bridging the gap between business and consumer, creating channels of communication, and helping businesses build lasting relationships with audiences. Social media, for many companies, is now fundamental in shaping their brand image, with feedback from consumers being near instant. It has also impacted recruitment practices, as well as educational and personal development opportunities within companies, as people and resources have never been so accessible.
3.96 billion people were using social media in July 2020, as 1 million new people join social media every day. This surge in online connectivity has provided companies with new opportunities to reach consumers through the creation and promotion of content. The most popular social media platforms currently include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
However, there is a significant degree of audience overlap between the platforms, meaning a company’s content creation should be adapted depending on the social media. Posting content regularly on multiple platforms is likely to keep consumers engaged, however the aim should not be to reach new audiences through these different platforms, but to reach existing audiences in new contexts. Therefore, it is necessary for companies to develop a more nuanced social media strategy, where their content output is tailored to the strengths of each app- for example, Instagram’s niche is its visual nature, whereas LinkedIn specialises in professional content.
Depending on whether the business is B2B or B2C, different social media platforms can be considered more valuable for increasing engagement and awareness. For B2C companies, Facebook is considered the most valuable platform, having the largest user rate, closely followed by YouTube and Twitter. 58% of B2C companies reported that social media has had a more positive influence on the revenue and sales than B2B companies, reflecting how social media has a bigger influence on B2C customers’ purchasing decisions.
The rise of influencer marketing has been a significant change, especially for B2C businesses, as companies increasingly turn to influencers for endorsement and to reach a wider audience. According to estimates, brands are set to spend up to $15 billion by 2022 on influencer marketing- an increase from $8 billion in 2019. This would not have been possible without social media, with Instagram being considered the most suited to this form of marketing- 79% of brands turn to Instagram to build relationships with influencers. Sponsoring an influencer’s online content is often more cost effective than launching a traditional advertising campaign, and can raise brand awareness among targeted audiences.
The most valuable social media platform for B2B companies, however, is LinkedIn. LinkedIn, having been created specifically to generate leads and increase conversions, provides a forum for business professionals and companies alike to build relationships. With over 722 million users worldwide, LinkedIn accounts for 80% of B2B leads, and more than 50% of the total social traffic coming to B2B sites. 91% of executives choose to use the platform to promote professionally relevant content, and therefore it requires a different marketing strategy than that of other social media platforms- posts should be professional, predominantly informational (rather than a constant stream of sales pitches), and relevant.
It can be beneficial for companies to take advantage of LinkedIn’s features to build relationships with target audiences; Matched Audiences specifically retarget existing consumers that have already taken action with a brand, accelerating the transition between awareness and engagement. Founding and regularly contributing to LinkedIn groups can also help build engaged communities and establish individuals and their companies as thought leaders in their field.
Both B2B and B2C businesses can benefit from boosting engagement with their audiences through their social media platforms. A brand can shape its image through its social media profiles, highlighting its values and humanizing the company through creating a human connection with consumers. It also provides a forum for companies to engage directly with consumers, as platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow companies to answer questions and respond directly to feedback.
Research carried out by the Harvard Business Review found that customers that engaged with a brand on Twitter and received a response to their tweet were more likely to spend more with the brand in a later purchase. This probability increased if the company responded within 5 minutes. Significantly, this still applied if the original tweet was a complaint, reflecting the degree to which consumers value the human connection social media has facilitated. This relationship is also beneficial in helping companies curate a successful brand image as, more than ever, they have a clearer idea of what appeals to consumers and what fails to garner interest.
The phenomenon of viral marketing in social media, with brands able to reach millions through the liking and resharing of posts means that brands are able to reach beyond their target audience. Cost effective, organically spread, and likely to result in significant growth, viral marketing can boost brand awareness on a scale unique to social media. Notable campaigns include Always’ “Like a Girl” ad, which went viral due to the discussion it prompted around gender norms. Viral success is difficult to predict, however, so should not be relied on as a substantial part of a company’s marketing strategy, as the vast majority of campaigns do not go viral.
Some companies, however, don’t need an active social media presence to be successful, suggesting it may not be as integral to a company’s strategy as has been recently suggested. Apple, for example, has 5.8 million Twitter followers, yet has never tweeted; similarly, Apple’s Facebook page has over 13.5 million followers, yet only posts to update their cover photo. Their marketing strategy does not rely on generating a constant stream of content (although their customer support account @AppleSupport does answer customer queries) but emphasises their launches and their earned reputation as industry leaders through the iconic nature of their products. Apple is more active on Instagram, however, where they make use of the visual nature of the platform to highlight photos taken on iPhones. Nevertheless, it is proof that companies can thrive without constantly engaging with their audiences on social media.
In particular, LinkedIn has entirely transformed how companies recruit candidates for job openings. A recent survey found that an estimated 70% of jobs are never advertised, and that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking. Platforms such as LinkedIn have changed how we network, as profiles displaying individuals’ skills and work history is readily available. 77% of employers now use social networks for recruitment (94% of which being Linkedin) up from 56% in 2011.
This has helped streamline searches for candidates, acting as a database founded on personal connections that can help target headhunts for job opportunities. LinkedIn also allows companies to showcase their employer branding and highlight their company values to potential employees, and can lend a personal insight into the employee experience. This is especially relevant when recruiting passive candidates; having an active social media presence with engaged employees is persuasive to those who otherwise may not consider changing jobs.
Social media has also changed how individuals navigate their careers- with industry leaders more approachable than ever to candidates of all levels, social media has opened up communication to those working within the same industry, allowing them to form relationships and expand their networks. It has also increased personal branding, as platforms such as LinkedIn allow individuals to highlight their skills and qualities, making them more attractive to companies and recruiters.
Features such as LinkedIn Learning also give paying individuals the opportunity to enhance skills that are specific to their industry or career path, providing specific content to help further their careers. The wealth of information available has transformed how people pursue jobs, as social media unlocks insight into fields that were previously more exclusive.
Social media has increased connectivity on all levels, as consumers, companies, and potential employees have more access to one another than ever. Although a company’s success may not rely on the strength of their social media presence, it is becoming an increasingly important factor, and one that is not likely to disappear anytime soon.
By Matthew Evans, MRG Director