The pros and cons of social media marketing

Social media is an undeniably powerful marketing tool. Whether you are running a small business or launching a major startup, social media gives you a way to build your brand’s reputation, engage with your customers, and nurture crucial sales leads.

Your audience is already spending a lot of time on social platforms. The majority of Americans under the age of 65 use some form of social media, according to a study from the Pew Research Center: 64 percent of people age 50 to 64, 78 percent of those age 30 to 49, and 88 percent of those age 18 to 29. On Facebook, the most widely used social media platform (68 percent of US adults), nearly three-quarters of users visit the site daily.

In today’s business landscape, it’s no longer optional to include social media in your marketing plan. But should social media be your main marketing tool? Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter offer valuable opportunities for your business, but are they capable of meeting all your marketing needs? Here are some of the pros and cons of relying on social media as your primary marketing vehicle.

Pros of Social Media Marketing

Social platforms provide unique advantages that other marketing tools do not:

·   Get to Know Your Customers

Social media allows you to gain insights into your customers’ behaviors and preferences. Instead of guessing what they like and dislike or paying for focus groups to identify their interests and priorities, you can find out in real time.

Browse their photos and videos and read their tweets and status updates to learn more about what makes them tick. What type of content do they engage with and share? Knowing what products they rave about and what pet peeves drive them up the wall gives you intel to craft interesting social content and inform your overall business strategy.

 ·   Connect Directly with Your Audience

Social media erases barriers between you and your audience. Every interaction you have with a customer — whether positive or negative — is a chance to build a positive brand reputation and deliver personalized customer service.

If a customer posts a glowing review of your company on Twitter or publishes a fun video of your product on Instagram, you can thank them right away and share their content on your own profile. Or if a customer complains about a problem on Facebook, you can immediately comment to apologize and offer your support in solving the issue. With quick, empathetic responses on social media, you can turn a happy customer into a loyal brand ambassador or a disgruntled shopper into a return buyer.

 ·   Increase Web Traffic

Establishing an active social media presence can help you get noticed by your target audience. And as you build engagement among your followers, your content will show up more often in the feeds of their followers. You can drive traffic to your company’s website from social media by optimizing your profile descriptions, sharing original blog posts, and answering questions by linking to relevant sections of the site.

Social media may also help you improve your website’s SEO. An analysis from Hootsuite found a strong correlation between social media activity and search rankings. It concluded that creating and sharing quality content on social platforms can lead to a boost in search rank and visibility.

Cons of Social Media Marketing

Social platforms, while valuable, may not be a one-stop-shop for all your marketing needs:

·   Beware the Algorithm

Just because a certain social platform is working splendidly with your marketing strategy right now doesn’t mean it always will. Plenty of companies have felt the whiplash of unexpected social media algorithm changes.

For example, in 2018, Facebook announced it would be changing direction to focus more on “meaningful social interactions” with friends and family and featuring “less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media” in the news feed. This change resulted in a sudden drop in engagement for business pages, and while that seems to have rebounded, it showed the vulnerability of brands that rely solely on social media marketing. What would you do if your go-to social platform disappeared or restructured tomorrow? Having a backup plan could save your business from sudden losses.

·   Keep Your Customers’ Needs in Mind

Social media platforms are fantastic for engaging and communicating with your customers, but they are limited in their capabilities. Some companies don’t have a business website and rely on their social profiles as their only web presence. If you’re thinking of following their lead, take a moment to consider how this decision would affect your customers. Would your social media profiles supply all the information your customers need? Could they easily access the tools and support a website would provide?

Your website is your brand’s online headquarters and can’t easily be replaced by a third-party platform. And if you’re a growing business on a budget, you don’t have to break the bank by hiring a web designer. Website builder tools like Squarespace, WordPress, and Wix are affordable options for businesses of all sizes. Even a simple site will benefit your customers and give your company more legitimacy.

·   Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Diversification is a key strategy for smart investors, and the same principle applies to marketing. A well-rounded marketing plan doesn’t focus on just one channel; it distributes resources among several different areas for maximum results. Social media is an important part of this approach, but it isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. On-site SEO, paid advertising, content marketing, and email marketing are all useful components of your overall strategy.

Email marketing, for instance, continues to be a more effective way to acquire customers than social media — nearly 40 times more so than Facebook and Twitter combined, according to research from McKinsey. The study found that emails lead to purchases three times more than social media and the average order value is 17 percent higher. And because you own your email list, this form of marketing may give you more control over campaigns than social media, where you are at the mercy of algorithm changes.

Successful brands connect with their customers through diverse channels at multiple different touchpoints. Social media must be part of your overall marketing plan, but it shouldn’t be your only priority. Just as it’s important to get your brand’s messaging right, it’s essential to identify the best possible marketing channels for your goals. Weigh the pros and cons, and create a comprehensive marketing strategy that will grow with your company.

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