The reality of today’s market is that your customers are online and using social media. While there are many simple reasons that businesses do not want to adopt the ‘hassle’ of social media platforms, it is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to avoid it. Your customers are changing and the vast majority of them are now online and we all need to be Digital Marketing experts. In Ireland 64% of internet users have a Facebook account, that works out as a little over 2.2 million people. 89% of Irish households now have access to the internet and mainly use it for shopping, email and social media.
One of the things that we have to remind ourselves of in Kilcock is, that we are based in a small commuter town. This means that much of our population is working 9-5 and travelling to Dublin and other towns before and after those times. Their mobile devices, busy family lives and work demands mean that they are often too busy to find the information they need. Gone are the days of looking a business up in the golden pages and if we need information, such as, ‘Where do I get school books?’, ‘What time are my butchers open until?’ or ‘Is there a solicitor in Kilcock?’. We as businesses need to be visible to answer these questions at all times of the day.
So what as businesses can we do with Social Media that makes it so valuable?
Social media platforms offer the customer an opportunity to find out more about our businesses when they are on the go, for example, Facebook offers you the option of displaying your opening times, website, price range, location and contact details. Since many users of Facebook use the platform to search and find information about businesses, it’s worth having this information available.
You also have to ‘be in it to win it’, your competitors may also be on social media and they most likely have different times, promotions, information and interaction. You can benefit by being there and carrying out different activities. Your competitor may also not be on social media, so you can immediately extend your reach by simply being there.
The nature of Social Media and the ability to constantly update and showcase information means that you can keep building awareness of your business all the time. Instagram allows us to display beautiful and aspiring images and it can work very well for brands that are very visual such as food, health, fashion and beauty.
Awareness can be built through sharing information that may be of interest and importance to the customer, such as articles and how to videos. This information has little to do with sales and consists mainly of reminders that your company is there.
This is one of the most obvious uses of social media. With business accounts, we can promote our services and products. It gives us a platform where we can display new stock with beautiful images, without the need for complicated code or to contact web development agencies. We can also inform customers of specific offers or remind them of upcoming dates that may be important – flowers on valentine’s day or tools for fathers day.
Social media is not just about shouting out to your customers about your next promotion or your newest product, it is also about the conversation. traditional media and advertising only offered us a one-way channel of communication. However social media platforms give us the opportunity to have a two-way conversation with our customers and this can happen at any time of the day. Your customers will comment on your products, ask questions about your businesses such as what you have in stock when you are open and do you have specific facilities that they may require. You will also have some customer service questions and sometimes just a nice chat about your products. For more personal or sensitive queries, customers have the option to private message you too.
One of the unique features is, you can reach your valued and engaged audiences with important announcements. As I write this we are in the throes of storm Emma or #BeastFromTheEast where businesses, public transport and other services are creating a constant stream of updates about opening times, running times, postponement of events etc. As this indicates you can announce any interruptions in normal service, maybe your getting unplanned electrical work or all your sold out of bread?
This is a powerful part of social media that can often be overlooked by many businesses. Through our platforms, we can gain more information about our customers. We can gain demographics – age, location, gender – and many of the platforms will inform us of topics of interests for our audiences. You may find information that you were not aware of such as your local pub’s VIRTUAL audience has a great interest in music so you may take action with this and hold live music nights and another section interested in literature so you can develop a quieter area of your pub for reading or accommodate a book club.
Social media has become a vital part of a business’s online presence and supports the offline activities in a vast number of ways. Customers turn to social media to answer questions that they may have about your business and this can be at any time of the day. It is important that you have an active and informative social media account that can support your business and gives you a modern, digital shopfront. After all, it was Pope Francis who said “Text messages and social media are a gift from God” you can’t really get a better endorsement than that!
Avril Clinton Forde
As well as running her own small business in digital marketing Avril produces and delivers the FETAC Level 5 QQI Qualification for Online Digital Marketing to adults in Clane Scoil Muire. The course includes display advertising, email marketing, Google AdWords, social media marketing, SEO, Content management and blog writing, online reputation management and creating a media plan.