These days, there is no such thing as a business that is not active, in some way, on social media. Simply put, no business can afford to do so, as they will lose a critical access point to their customers. However, despite its popularity (there are an estimated 3.2 billion people, worldwide, currently on social media), social media remains a mystery to many businesses and individuals. People seem to understand that it is necessary but don’t necessarily get just how to use it. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know when it comes to social media, and how you can use it to grow your business.

    Advent of Social Media

    When it comes to techniques and strategies with social media, it’s important to keep in mind this critical fact: The art and science behind it is still evolving, and while social media’s growth has occurred at an explosive pace, the medium is still relatively new, particularly when compared to other active communication channels. MySpace, the original social media juggernaut, was founded in 2003, Facebook in 2004, and Twitter in 2006. The medium then shifted more and more to visuals and pictures at a later date, with Pinterest being created in 2010 and Instagram first starting in 2012.

    Despite its newness, social media’s massive growth has made it one of the primary ways in which humans now communicate with each other. There are many reasons behind this, but chief among them is social media’s ability to allow individuals to control what others see of them, the rise and relative affordability of smartphones, which allow us to stay connected, and the visual-center nature of social media.

    More Customer Attention

    Fostering a positive emotional connection in a customer is a good tactic in helping to retain them as a customer and to grow your business as a result. This means that, when it comes to social media, you need to constantly be pushing customer-centered content that is relevant to your business in some way. Depending on the platform and the nature of your business, there is likely no shortage of content that may be of interest to your customers. This means pictures of your goods and wares (particularly good for food or retail establishments), highlighting sales, or giving tips and advice.

    A customer-centered approach means giving customers information which will be valuable to them. This does not mean trying to sell to them constantly. Instead, it means giving them useful, fun content which can position your business as an expert in the field and as someone with whom your customer will want to do business.

    Paid Advertising

    The paid advertising end of social media has become a massive economic driver, and the medium is generating double-digit increases every year. Other forms of advertising have fallen away dramatically (such as advertising in newspapers), and social media advertising has basically become the most effective form of advertising you can do today. Part of the reason for this is because you can truly customize who you target based on an almost overwhelming degree of factors. Some are standard demographics, but others are customized based on website views, previous purchases or page likes. In other words, the targeting and messaging can be extremely granular — and thus, extremely effective.

    Have a Plan

    You cannot be everywhere at once, even if you have a dedicated person whose sole job is to engage in social media marketing. This means that you have to develop a social media plan that finds where your customers are and target your message accordingly. You also have to determine where to use your valuable time and limited advertising dollars.

    For example, if you are a business that works in consulting with other businesses, Instagram may not be appropriate, but LinkedIn absolutely will be. However, if you run a cafe, there’s almost no way you’d spend time on LinkedIn — but Instagram may be perfect. In a nutshell, take a close look at your business and determine where your dollars will be most effective. You’ll also need to decide how often you’ll post, what times of the day work best, and which days of the week are most beneficial.

    Each business’ plan is different. You have to examine your customers, resources and specific objectives before making a decision about the best way to use social media. Social media is still relatively new, and new platforms are evolving almost every day. This means that you, as a business, have to constantly keep an ear to the ground in order to determine if there are new opportunities that you should be pursuing. This doesn’t mean you need to be on every social media platform, but you need to be everywhere which serves a purpose to you.

    Social media can be an integral communication tool. It can be an incredibly helpful one that you can use to effectively get the word out about your business and reach more customers. Make sure that you do your proper research and spend adequate time and money on these resources. Doing these things will help to make sure that your social media strategy is the most beneficial for your company.

    Timing is everything in social media! Click here to find out how often you should be posting!