What Is It?
Generally defined, social media is an interactive form of media that allows users to interact and publish text and photos to each other. There are many different outlets for social media that can help bolster your e-commerce efforts and often times they are built right into a quality e-commerce website builder. Interaction can take place customer to customer or customer to store or vendor.
As a business, directly interacting with your customers, on a real time, immediate basis, allows you to immediately respond to complaints and use kudos received in off-line marketing.
Social media is an essential part of any marketing plan and can be very inexpensive to utilize.
At Facebook, hundreds of millions of users worldwide post text and photos on myriad topics. Businesses are able to become users and create special business or fan pages. In addition to posting the general information about the business, like address, phone, and hours, live postings can inform users of changes, specials, and allow interaction between the business and customer. A business will have to let interested parties know that the Facebook page exists, and an easy way to drive traffic to that site is by using Twitter.
Twitter is a web-based service where users post messages limited to 140 characters (called “Tweets”), photos, and links to other social media or websites the business uses. Users amass “followers” who learn of the businesses participation from in-house or website mention of the Twitter user name, or by searching Twitter by topic. Your business can post topical messages and photos to your followers on a regular basis, including links to your regular website or social media site. You could even use Twitter to launch limited time offers, with a link to “buy now” as part of the Tweet.
Instagram and Pinterest are two different but similar social media services. Both sites allow for uploading of photos and videos from computer, tablet or mobile phone. Users group photos into categories, and communities form around topics. If your customers or what you sell are better described visually rather than with words, these two services are good outlets to promote your business.
What’s the Next Big Thing?
Social media is always evolving, just like any other technology. Podcasting (audio programs) and vlogs (video blogs) are gaining traction. Posting or streaming audio and video programs about your products or service has been proven to be much more engaging than straight text. In addition, building your own “channel” on a service like YouTube can actually generate additional revenue to your top and bottom line, as YouTube shares ad revenue with highly viewed channels.
Some experts think that one of the next big things is “anonymity” in social media. Whereas the above described services are generally peer-to-peer (people you know or meet online), future services may eschew identities with the thought that more ‘candid’ information will be distributed and redistributed.
Your Business Can Benefit from Social Media
No matter what type of business you own or run, you could benefit from using social media, if it’s a diligent, regular effort. Many companies hire contractors to oversee their efforts, if there isn’t a person on staff qualified to take it on. There are even software programs and apps that can automate the entire process.