Making the most of social media

15th Sep 2016

It has been over a decade since Facebook and Twitter first came into the public sphere, marking the new wave of social media platforms and putting the likes of MySpace and Bebo to the back of people’s minds. Whilst this new wave of social media was immediately embraced by consumers in sharing updates with their friends and followers, it has only been in the past few years that businesses have really begun to see the benefits of being on these platforms.

Most platforms now have a range of features specifically designed to promote their commercial benefits and attract businesses to their site. The various platforms are constantly updating their offering to businesses and introducing new features to help businesses improve the way they attract and engage with consumers.

Most recently Pinterest, the online pinboard with over 100 million monthly active users, began selling video advertising on the site. This will allow brands to buy promoted video pins with buyable pins underneath so customers can watch the video and then click to immediately buy the product. This decision from Pinterest highlights how social media platforms are continuing to invest in new ways to attract businesses users.

The importance of imagery

The number of social media platforms with dedicated offerings for brands means businesses have the challenge of finding the platform/s best suited to their specific needs. Coupled with this, the way businesses connect with social media users is shifting as users increasingly look towards rich content in the form of images and video content. Instagram’s recent achievement of reaching 500 million users confirms this trend and, with Snapchat now attracting over 100 million users, the demand for quick, easy to consume content shows no sign of waning.

Instagram has recently taken another step to becoming the dominant image led platform by introducing Instagram Stories -  a very similar function to that of Snapchat - which allows users to post 10 second mini videos. Again, businesses here have another new opportunity to share more content, without over-posting – something which is key in attracting and not alienating consumers. For a business already using Instagram, this new feature allows them to leverage content that would normally be shared on Snapchat, reducing the number of platforms they need to monitor.

Instagram is a powerful community that’s all about engaging people through visual content.  Businesses want to be able to understand their audience, create more engagement and reach new audiences. The recent update of Instagram’s newsfeed algorithm, which attempts to calculate posts users will like most, was a natural predecessor to features such as Analytics, call-to-action buttons and, most recently, Stories. All these new features mean businesses on Instagram can now learn more about their audiences, which will help them to create timely, relevant and interesting content.

Whilst Instagram actively targets businesses, Snapchat has so far refused to introduce targeted ads that are common on almost all of the other platforms. The younger demographic that use the video based app are a target for many businesses, so it will be interesting to see how long Snapchat resists the urge to add further commercial features.

Maintaining an agile outlook to social media marketing

Aside from the recent announcements from Instagram and Pinterest, of all the social media platforms, Facebook still provides the most complete marketing suite for brands. Earlier this year, at its annual f8 conference, it revealed details of its chatbot function which will revolutionise customer service and allow brands to create a personal, direct dialogue with consumers through the Facebook Messenger tool – an industry first, which is already being adopted by innovative brands.

Whilst all social media platforms continue to add new business-focused features to each rival their competitors – and new platforms continue to pop up - businesses using social media need to be engaging with their customers across a number of platforms, as the popularity of social media shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

As such, brands must frequently review their social media marketing strategies in order to keep up with the ever changing world of social media and ensure they maintain the best level of engagement with consumers.

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