Social media has become as important as public relations, as it's even been integrated into the overall PR strategy for many companies. It's necessary to understand the usefulness of social media and how it can positively impact your business.
"There are many reasons a small business needs a social media presence. The most practical reasons have to do with your credibility and discoverability," said Leah Paul, director of marketing at Mediabistro. "It’s important because it's expected, like having a website, a phone number and an email address. Not having a social media presence can signal to customers that you’re not a serious business."
Paul notes that, if a customer can’t find a business on social media, it raises questions about credibility, how trustworthy or how legit a business is.
Business owners should consider social media profiles rank high for brand names in search engines like Google. "So it’s very important to have them set up and frequently updated so that customers can find you online. Social sites themselves are also search engines where consumers are doing lots of searching, so you want to be found there as well."
In addition to SEO and credibility, social media is an imperative listening tool.
"Having a strong social presence is important for your business because it can help you gain valuable customer insights," said Jeff Schaeffler, director of audience product marketing at Hootsuite. "By using social as a listening tool and monitoring your customers' posts, you can gain insight about who they are, what they’re like and their perception of your brand. This insight can help you make smarter business decisions." [See Related Story: 6 Social Media Tools for Small Businesses ]
According to a recent Harris poll, sponsored by Hootsuite, approximately four out every five Americans (83 percent) have a social account, and nearly a third of Americans who have a social media account would rather engage with a brand or organization on social media than visit a physical location.
A strong social brand is one that is actively creating content, connecting with its customers and having two-way conversations, said Schaeffler.
"A strong social brand not only broadcasts information to its customers but listens to their audience, building relationships and, in turn, loyalty," he said.
Identifying your audience is the main component of a strong social brand. This will help your social brand thrive and in turn, create business success.
"A few easy ways to target an audience are to leverage what’s already popular culturally, provide your audience with information and advice they care about, and always be authentic," said Schaeffler.
Stacie Grissom, head of content at Bark & Co, the company behind BarkBox, says without social media, Bark & Co would not be the company it is today.
"We are a brand built on a foundation of social, and I can say, without a doubt, that it is the biggest reason for our rapid growth over the past five years," she said.
Grissom shared five tips for success with Business News Daily:
1. Figure out who your target audience is and do some research to see if they're actually on social.
"For us, our target audience is people who love their dogs like family," Grissom said. "A quick sweep of any social platform will quickly reveal a vast landscape of dog photos and shenanigans, which means that our brand's subject matter easily fits into the natural social scene that exists in the world."
She notes: If your target audience is men ages 50- to 70, you might have more difficulty getting viral traction on social media platforms because that audience activity is small compared to something like women ages 18 to 34.
2. Offer content, not a sales pitch.
"The brands who do social media the best are the ones who recognize that users are on social media to be entertained, not to buy things," she said.
She notes: It's up to the brands to figure out what types of entertainment or education work with the audiences they're pursuing and how to naturally use their products within those guidelines.
3. Find your unique voice – your "bark."
"One of the biggest differentiators between Bark & Co and other pet brands is our voice and approach to talking about dogs on social and in the world," Grissom said. "At Bark, we think that dogs are hilarious, bumbling, adorable little fart tornadoes, and this is obvious in everything from the hang tags on our products to everything we put on our social platforms."
She notes: Humor is one of the main pillars of Bark's unique brand voice, and it makes a huge effort to run with it. It gets an engaged audience by looking at everybody else and finding a different niche.
4. Stay relevant by doing your research.
"One of the things that has helped us grow quickly was our ability to test and adopt new platforms as they came out and showed signs of life. Back in 2012, we were one of the first brands who started to use Instagram," she said. "In 2016 we committed to being super playful with Facebook Live."
She notes: The company is exploring new ways to toy with bots and texting. Make sure you're aware of the new trends and be creative in how they can fit with your business objectives.
5. Don't be boring!
"No one will want to listen to what you've got to say! Always try to avoid clichés, don't do what everyone is doing, and have some fun," Grissom said.