For every four minutes spent online, one is spent on social networks, according to a GlobalWebIndex study. Time spent online is increasing, and with the increasing dominance of social networks, businesses have no choice but to integrate them into their web strategies.
Social networks, like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, are now unavoidable tools for visibility, for your brand image, or to drive traffic to your website. LinkedIn and its 300 million users represent 64% of visitors to corporate business sites. Social networks can help establish a virtuous circle: meaningful relationships rooted in visitor-business interactions improve your organic reach and, which improves, by extension, your Google search results.
Why follow and interact with brands on social media?
Beyond demonstrating your loyalty or admiration for a brand, following brands often gives you access to exclusive content, like promotions for your next purchase. This leads to consumer engagement. For the business, the goal is to attract new leads and to foster customer loyalty, in order to promote your brand and to increase sales. The goal is to convert existing clients into brand ambassadors, and to increase your visibility.
A poor communication strategy can fall apart with disastrous effects on brand identity and perception. Social media’s extensive reach only amplifies the phenomenon: United Airlines is a perfect example. Musician David Caroll posted the song United Breaks Guitars on YouTube after the airline broke his guitar during a flight. The video made the rounds far and wide, and severely tarnished United’s image, even leading to a significant drop in stock price.
Social media is a double edged sword, it can foster loyalty to products and services—or it can be the Achilles heal of a business unable to manage its image.
Social media killed the video star
Social media is also a great tool to keep an eye on the competition and to stand out. It allows you to simultaneously advertise and to get information about your client base. This has redefined the information gathering process before purchasing, social networks—and especially LinkedIn—have become effective tools to generate and convert visitors into promising leads.
Conversely, advertising with traditional media is less effective at generating sales or converting leads. More and more consumers use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to research their purchases. The impact of TV and newspaper advertising has decreased significantly, to social media’s benefit.
Inbound marketing has changed the nature of communicating with consumers, by making the conversation go both directions. Social media can foster user engagement and lead to a much greater lead conversion rate. The largest platforms are even moving towards integrated sales platforms.
Instagram’s new “Shop Now” button confirms that social networks are becoming online shopping platforms. This trend relies on the “visual web,” which is the pervasive use of images online to communicate information. There has been a huge increase in commercial images on Instagram. The fashion and luxury industries are the second most discussed subjects on Instagram, with 2.7 billion images, according to a 2015 study by Linkfluence.
Pinterest added Buyable pins, which allow users to buy items added to the network without leaving the platform. Finally, both Facebook and Twitter are testing similar initiatives. Facebook is adding payments to Messenger, and Twitter is adding product pages with a Buy on Twitter button.
The progressive integration of e-commerce within social media is the symbol of a new face for the web ecosystem. For niche or mass markets, social networks are the new heavy hitters in online shopping. The goal being to sell on, or via, social networks.
Are social networks redefining the entire notion of e-commerce?