Social media is a cultural phenomenon. We spend so much of our time on Facebook, Twitter and a host of similar sites that it is easy to forget that social networks have only been in existence for the last ten years or so. Their relative infancy means that we have yet to tap into their full potential, particularly in the workplace.
In fact, social networks are about far more than just putting glossy filters on your holiday pictures or sharing images of your cat. They can be powerful business tools, particularly when it comes to external marketing, internal communication and gaining valuable customer insight.
One of the most used and effective ways that businesses are employing social media is of course, as a tool for external marketing. Social networks have incredible reach and allows brands to target bespoke groups, whether by social background, age, interest or any other metric. Instead of simply hoping that the relevant person finds your brand online, businesses can post into particular groups, or with the relevant hashtags, to give their message greater penetration.
In addition, social media has changed the type of marketing that brands deliver. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, content creation is key. Rather than simply posting adverts online, businesses are now creating content in the form of blogs, videos or similar media that their customers want to consume and share with their friends. In this sense, social media lets customers take part in the marketing themselves as is the case, for example, with a viral video.
Social media is, therefore, a hugely important part of external marketing for the modern business, but it hasn't necessarily made it any easier. Instead, brands have had to adapt, ensuring that they put the right content out there and through the relevant channels.
Many businesses are also discovering that social networks are playing an increasingly important role internally, particularly in terms of collaboration. Corporate social networks have been created that are only open to members of staff within a particular organisation. These allow employees to share their ideas across different teams with ease. For example, private social media channels enable employees to share industry-relevant articles, exchange ideas and discuss their work.
Using social media in this way has been shown to boost employee engagement when compared with other forms of collaboration, such as simply sharing files over email. Internal social networks that encourage members of staff to share their point of view can help to empower employees. They begin to feel as though their opinion is valued and that they can stamp their mark on the future of the business.
Similarly, social media can help board members gain a greater understanding of employee satisfaction and what can be done to make improvements in the workplace. Whether it's through individual training or large-scale company changes, social media can be a great way to get to the heart of what can be improved within your business.
Perhaps the biggest reason to embrace social media within your business is because it can provide huge quantities of detailed customer insights. Every day millions of likes, tweets and comments are posted online, all of which can be mined for valuable data about current and potential customers. By listening to the relevant social channels, businesses can find out far more information than they ever could using surveys or cold emailing.
Advanced analytics tools (note each platform has their own analytics, you can plug into), have been developed to give businesses the power to mine this data for useful insights. What's more, as the amount of available data increases and software tools develop, businesses will be able to discern more and more information about their customers. Using social media data alongside predictive analytics, for example, could one day help businesses understand customer behaviour before it takes place.
It may sound obvious, but businesses need to listen to their customers if they are to deliver products and services that meet their wants and needs. In the modern world, social media increasingly provides the method of communication used by these customers, which is why successful businesses across all industries are now starting to make use of social networks for more than just exposure.
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