We are all aware of social media but what opportunities can it bring to your business? In 2011 social media became more popular than search engines and overtook search engines in terms of internet traffic. Social networks accounted for 11.88% of UK Internet visits and search engines accounted for 11.33%.

Social media appears in many forms. There are social networking sites (eg Facebook and Twitter), publishing i.e. blogs, photo sharing such as Flickr, audio and video, microblogging and gaming are just a few ways to socially share, collaborate, interact and communicate. But whatever social media is being used by consumers and businesses and whatever new social media tools and platforms are being developed and launched onto the market, social media is here to stay and rapidly growing both in terms of web traffic and popularity.

Here are some facts about Facebook:

  • As of January 2012  Facebook has more than 800 million active users
  • If Facebook was a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world, behind China and India
  • On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded per day
  • More than 350 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices

Social media provides ideal opportunities for businesses to make contact with customers and get to know customers. Businesses also increasingly need to be where their customers and prospective customers are on the internet. With over 800 million Facebook users, Facebook and other social media channels are going to be where your audience is for a lot of products and services. Here are reasons why social media is essential for your business.

1)    It’s free

What marketing tool or channel do you have that is free? Either none or not many we are guessing. Social media is free. To use this fantastic free platform is a no-brainer. Social media platforms and tools are there for the taking and they give you instant access to customers and prospects, as well as the opportunity for you to get to know your customers.

2)   Drive traffic to your website 

Social media is a fantastic way to drive more traffic to your site and direct new customers to your business and products. Social media also contributes to increasing rankings for your website which improves your business’ visibility in the search engines.

3)   Generate leads

Customers are more likely to buy a product and service, or buy from a particular company, when it has been recommended by friends and family. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendation and only 33% trust adverts. Social media channels have been created for sharing, so if a customer is happy with your product and your business, they may well recommend your products and company to their friends. If you don’t appear on social media channels, this simply won’t happen for you. Peer-to-peer lead generation costs you nothing and gets you new customers.

4)   Use Facebook as a web presence

Some businesses are using their Facebook page as a strong web presence in its own right. As well as driving traffic, you can also get people to take action on your Facebook page. Some users prefer to stay on Facebook than go off to websites, so you should be able to give your customers and prospects what they want if they prefer to use Facebook.

5)   Get feedback from customers

You can use it to gather information and feedback from your customers. For some businesses social media is an incredibly useful research tool and a cheap and effective channel for feedback. Feedback can also include suggestions from your customers which in turn will help you to refine and improve your business and the service you give to customers. Some businesses are wary about receiving feedback from customers directly and so out in the open. Feedback isn’t necessarily going to be negative. In fact when positive feedback is given it is a great feeling. But if you do receive negative feedback, at least you have a chance to put things right directly. You can feedback directly and offer to put things right or contact your customers about their feedback directly using social media. And because it is so open your communication and willingness to put matters right and address customer issues can only be seen positively by customers.

6)  Use social media for brand awareness

Social media is a fantastic way to create visibility and awareness of your brand and company. It can also help you to target new customers as well as present a human and helpful face to your customers. You can use its wide coverage and reach to gain attention in your market.

7)   Get to know your customers

How well do you know your customers? Or how well do you think you know your customers? Social media can give you a platform to engage, consult, and have a dialogue with your customers and prospects to get to know them better. When you get to know your customers better and understand how they tick, you can offer them the products and services they want.

8)   Educate your customers

Another way to look at it is how well do your customers know you? Do they know everything you do and what you offer?  Social media shouldn’t just be about selling as this is a huge turn-off to audiences when they interact on social media sites.  You can use social media platforms to educate your customers about your brand, your business and what your business stands for. Many businesses have used social media proactively to educate customers about their brand.

9)   Give immediate customer service

Some businesses operate social media as a customer service tool, which saves costs, resources and time. For instance on a Facebook page if a customer asks a question about opening times or has a generic query about the type of services you offer you can respond to them quickly. And it is all about being where your customers choose to contact you. Generic customer information and latest updates can also be distributed via social media channels quickly and easily.