Back to basics: Why should I use social media?

By Amy McIlwain

Financial Social Media Marketing


Navigating the social media labyrinth can be a daunting task, but with the right education and tools, social media can offer turnkey solutions that will open doors for you and your business.

Social media, in its rawest form, is simply the use of Web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. It sounds so easy in definition, but social media is a complicated web of social networking platforms, content information and diverse users.

Navigating the social media labyrinth can be a daunting task, but with the right education and tools, social media can offer turnkey solutions that will open doors for you and your business. Check out these impressive statistics:

Twitter
  • Twitter officially claims to have 175 million registered users.

  • Twitter now states that 95 million tweets are written each day. This is a staggering 250 percent increase.

  • At the new rate of growth, it is calculated that there are nearly 4 million tweets per hour.
LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn has grown 100 percent in the past year, now having over 100 million professionals who use the platform worldwide.

  • There were nearly 2 billion people searches on LinkedIn during 2010.

  • More than 1 million companies have LinkedIn company pages.
Facebook
  • Facebook officially hit the half-billion member mark last year. There are now some 640 million Facebook users worldwide.

  • 50 percent of active users log into Facebook each day. This means at least 250 million users every 24 hours. This is more than a 40 percent increase in 12 months.

  • Facebook users accessing the site through mobile devices now tops 200 million – an enormous 200 percent increase in around a 12-month period.

  • More than 30 billion pieces of content is shared each month on Facebook, which is an average of 7 billion pieces a week.
  • The average Facebook user creates 90 pieces of content each month.
YouTube/Flickr
  • More than 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

  • Flickr members upload more than 3,000 images every minute.

  • There are more than 2 billion video views on YouTube every 24 hours.
The staggering growth of social media in the past year should be evidence enough of the reasons that every individual, especially in the business spectrum, should be taking part in the conversations taking place online. Whether it be mom and pop shops in small towns or large corporations in big cities, everyone seems to be hopping on the social media bandwagon.

And the best part? You don’t need to spend hours at a time using social media to be successful.

Let’s start by discussing social media’s ability to create valuable relationships. The great thing about social media is its ability to harvest relationships between users. A relationship, either between two individuals or between an individual and a company, should be treated the same way. Social media acts as the perfect social and cultural context in which relationships can be built and nurtured.

Each party within a relationship influences the other; they share their thoughts and feelings, and can engage in activities together. Because of this interdependence, most things that change or impact one member of the relationship will have some level of impact on the other member. This is why understanding the strategic dynamic between organizations and users online has become so important.

The relationships you build online are the basis for you and your business’s marketing efforts. Because social media cultivates relationships where the seller and the buyer have an equal playing field, a new form of marketing has emerged and grown exponentially, shedding light on a new way to connect to consumers.

Social networking campaigns can be used as a low-cost, high-impact way of positioning a business or individual as a thought-leader and industry expert. This will in turn open doors for business development, such as leads, referrals, inquiries and most importantly, sales.

Successful social media users know that content is king when it comes to engaging their audience. Posting content that not only demonstrates expertise, but also creates relationships with followers and fans will generate referrals and long-term business benefits.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – this sounds like a lot of time and effort. Trust me, social media doesn’t happen overnight; it does take time and it does take effort. Thankfully, the majority of the time lies in the setup process.
Setting up your social media networks includes optimizing your profiles, uploading company and personal information, and importing your existing contacts. Once you have your social media systems in place and understand the best practices, your social media strategy should include creating content, adding new followers and interacting with fellow users.

These actions can take as little or as much time as you’d like to put forth – the more aggressive and efficient campaign should yield a higher return much faster. However, you can still set social media strategies in place with a less aggressive strategy and see results.

For those still skeptical of social media, let’s go back in time and remember the old question, “Why should I email you when I could just affix a stamp and mail it out?”

Maybe only a few remember this question, but many individuals were afraid to use email and saw it as troublesome and insecure. Now think about where we are today – email is the most widely spread type of business correspondence in the contemporary office. Social media in the future, I can assure you, will be thought of in the same light.

It is important that you and especially your business take hold of the social media reigns and start communicating online. Social media’s primary purpose is constant interactions and active participation with users in order to create and develop trustworthy relationships. The best part? Not only will social media not take up a large portion of your time, but it will help you and your business grow online and off.