Social media platforms are websites and apps that allow for communication, interaction, and content sharing among users. They are used by individuals to connect with their personal networks and by businesses to promote their products and track customer feedback.
Features such as comment sections on business-to-consumer websites allow for social engagement. Tools are available to help businesses measure and analyze their online presence on social media, including their brand reputation and customer insights. These platforms are widely popular and can be easily accessed through mobile apps. Some well-known examples include Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Business Uses of Social Media
Businesses utilize social media for a variety of purposes, including marketing and promotion, connecting with customers, and generating new business. Social media also allows for customer feedback and the sharing of experiences with a company. By responding to both positive and negative feedback, businesses can address customer issues and maintain customer trust.
In addition, social media can be used for crowdsourcing, which involves gathering knowledge, goods, or services from a group of people, such as employees, customers, or the general public, for the purpose of improving current products or developing new ones.
Business-to-business (B2B) applications of social media include:
- Social media analytics: the gathering and analysis of data from social media platforms to inform business decision-making, often including customer sentiment analysis
- Social media marketing (SMM): strategies to increase brand exposure and customer reach through compelling content shared on social media platforms, including social media optimization (SMO) techniques such as the use of social media links and share buttons
- Social customer relationship marketing: using social media to establish and maintain communication, marketing, and networking with customers, including following brand- or product-related conversations to gather real-time market data and feedback
- Recruiting: using social media to find and attract potential job candidates, including both active job seekers and passive candidates who may not have been considering a job change until they see a recruitment post
- Enterprise social networking: tools that allow businesses to connect employees with shared interests or activities, including internal intranets and collaboration platforms such as Yammer, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, as well as external social media platforms for staying connected with customers and conducting market research.
There are several benefits to using social media, including:
- Increased visibility: social media platforms allow users to easily communicate and share ideas and content
- Marketing opportunities: businesses can use social media to promote their products and services to a wide audience, as well as test new markets and maintain a following
- Audience building: social media can help entrepreneurs and artists build a following for their work, and in some cases, can eliminate the need for a distributor by allowing users to upload and sell their content directly online
- Instant communication and connection: social media allows for real-time communication and connection with people around the world.
Some challenges of using social media include:
- Information overload: with the vast amount of content available on social media platforms, it can be overwhelming to sift through and find relevant or reliable information
- Cyberbullying and online harassment: social media can be a breeding ground for negativity and online harassment, leading to negative experiences and mental health consequences for users
- Spread of misinformation: with the ease of sharing and disseminating information on social media, it is possible for false or misleading information to spread quickly and cause harm
- Invasion of privacy: social media can blur the lines between personal and professional lives, and users may be concerned about the privacy of their personal information and activities being shared online
- Time sink: it is easy to become engrossed in social media and lose track of time, which can negatively impact productivity and offline relationships.
Best Practices for Using Social Media in a Business Setting
Having a social media strategy and clear goals is important for companies to build trust, educate their target audience, and create brand awareness. It also allows real people to find and learn about the business. Some best practices for companies to follow include:
- Establishing social media policies that set expectations for appropriate employee behavior on social media and protect the company from legal issues or public embarrassment
- Focusing on platforms suitable for B2B marketing, such as Twitter and LinkedIn
- Implementing a customer-centric strategy in social media campaigns, such as using Twitter to answer customer questions
- Including rich media, such as pictures and videos, in content to make it more engaging
- Using social media analytics tools to measure user engagement and stay up-to-date on trends
- Using a conversational tone in posts that is professional but not rigid
- Shortening long-form content to make it more suitable for social media, such as using lists or audio and video snippets
- Encouraging employees and customers to talk positively about the organization and sharing that content
- Regularly checking in on analytics and management tools and social media accounts
Types of Social Media Platforms
There are four main categories of social media platforms:
- Social networks: platforms that allow users to connect with one another and share information, thoughts, and ideas, with a focus on user profiles and common interests or concerns. Examples include Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Media-sharing networks: platforms that focus on content sharing, such as videos on YouTube or photos on Instagram. Streaming platforms like Twitch are also considered a subset of this category.
- Community-based networks: platforms that focus on in-depth discussion around specific topics, often in the form of comment threads, such as Reddit.
- Review board networks: platforms that focus on reviews of products or services, such as Yelp, where users can write and endorse reviews of restaurants and other businesses.
Examples of Social Media Platforms
Some examples of popular web-based social media platforms include:
- Facebook: a social networking website where users create profiles, share photos and videos, and communicate with friends, family, and colleagues
- LinkedIn: a social networking site for the business community, where members can create professional networks
- Pinterest: a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images, with a focus on visual content and brief descriptions
- Reddit: a social news website and forum where members curate and promote stories, organized into subreddit communities with specific topics
- Twitter: a microblogging service for registered members to share short posts called tweets, which can be broadcast and followed across multiple platforms and devices
- Wikipedia: a free, open content encyclopedia created through collaboration, where anyone can create an article for publication and registered users can edit articles.
Social media is a widespread and influential tool used by individuals and businesses of all sizes and industries. It is essential for engaging with customers, gathering feedback, and increasing company visibility. A successful social media strategy can improve an organization’s reputation and strengthen trust and awareness among its network of connections. While some platforms may be more geared towards B2B promotion, all platforms can be utilized to reach desired audiences.