Recently, Facebook reported that its quarterly profit jumped 90% from the same time last year. This is somewhat due to spiralling advertising revenue, but it also highlighted an increase in its monthly active users, now totalling 1.35 billon people worldwide.

Coincidentally, the 1st October this year marked the third anniversary of the film, “The Social Network”, signifying a milestone in the growth and societal impact of not just Facebook, as social media was considered prevalent enough that millions of dollars were invested in producing a film about it. As much as the film highlighted the importance of social media for the general public as a platform where they could voice their opinions and converse with friends across the globe, we are left with the question of how we can transfer this to the commercial and business context. Can social media be as important to businesses?

People gravitate to social media sites for information and interaction, whether it be for entertainment or insight. Social media sites offer businesses the opportunity to utilise its volume economy, presenting them with a rapidly increasing vast user base of potential customers and communications targets for free. The success of the two dominant social media giants, Facebook and Twitter should be encouragement enough. Facebook alone has risen from 100 million active users in 2008, to its current 1.35 billion, whilst Twitter is on 271 million active users. Whether it is LinkedIn, Twitter, Ello, or dominant Facebook, each social media platform presents an opportunity for businesses to form unique relationships with and reach out to a wider consumer base, share key content about the business and provide marketing and networking potential.

Social media allows a business to promote and market its own brand, with 46% of customers using social media as a primary source in their purchase decisions. Social media is a key element in assisting consumers in their decision making process. Branded social media pages increase recognition and awareness online and companies can advertise their business to potential and also current customers and clients daily, through posting relevant content. Such content can consist of news and information about your company’s services but can also contain useful links increasing exposure to your site. As of early 2014, statistics state that 71% of all internet users are now active on social media sites. More and more companies are developing content marketing strategies, sharing blogs, infographics, and whitepapers at every opportunity. But if companies aren’t afraid to also share content from other brands that may be of interest to their target audience, they are putting their customers’ interest first, and may gain a fresh perspective themselves.

Customers and clients can also interact directly with businesses via social media. Appearing responsive and attentive to consumers provides an invaluable opportunity for businesses to build customer loyalty and strengthen brand image. An important feature of such interpersonal interaction with consumers is the humanization of the brand in an increasingly digital world, whereby consumers can relate to and attach a personality, maybe even names and faces to the business which aides them in building up a rapport with consumers, allowing them to connect emotionally with the company. Social media sites provide a breeding ground for people who are influential and trusted enough to give their opinions and endorsements for businesses and their products. For example, Microsoft’s LinkedIn page features behind the scenes information, Q&A posts, and blogs, providing invaluable information for small and large businesses alike. Social media can facilitate endorsement from within these groups, acting like a sort of trusted inner circle of friends.

There are many ways to track the reputation of your business and how you are performing on social media sites. A few examples include;

· CTRs (click through rate) - measuring the number of users that click on your specific link/site.

· The number of comments, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘retweets’, ‘favourites’ or mentions you receive on content on your social media page.

· Statistical programs such as Google Analytics to tell you how many people are visiting your site, how they are using your site and where they were directed to your site from features that allow you to see exactly who is viewing your page such as that featured on LinkedIn.

· Opinion polls to gauge reaction to content and also clarity on how many people are engaged enough with your content to participate in the poll.

It is clear to see from statistics, that using social media sites to promote a business proves successful in expanding the overall growth and helps to solidify the businesses concept and meaning. In conclusion, social media presents a large opportunity across multiple channels to build on and promote service, content, advocacy building and insight.


By Katie Alyward and Chloe Hutchinson-Brown, Northstar Research Partners

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