In the past few weeks, more and more articles have been published about social media’s negative impact on society. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has made people question how much information they should be sharing online. More reports are coming out about the damaging effect that social media is having on people’s mental health. Selfie addiction is currently being discussed as a genuine medical condition as a result of people spending too much time online. People are starting to value how many ‘likes’ they receive online more than they value genuine human interaction. In general, people are spending a significant amount of their personal time on social media and putting too much value on how their online personas are perceived.
Despite all the recent negative press, social media can be a valuable tool. Used appropriately, it can be beneficial for society and leveraged for good use. E-Commerce businesses in particular can benefit greatly from utilising social media and, when used effectively, it can have a dramatic impact on sales, brand awareness and overall market position.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss five benefits eCommerce businesses can expect from effective social media use.
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1. Build and Maintain Strong Customer Relationships
Social media has closed the gap between consumers and businesses, allowing them to be closer than ever before. Before social media, there was the notion of six degrees of separation, the idea that no one person was more than six connections away from another. With social media, this gap has narrowed to one.
For businesses, social media presents a unique opportunity to build and maintain long-lasting consumer relationships. Businesses interact with customers like never before, meaning consumers feel a real connection to brands. For eCommerce businesses, social media allows consumers to inform them if there are any issues with their order. Conversely, if customers are satisfied with their purchase, they can tell others.
2. Increased Brand Awareness
With functionality like retweets, mentions and sharing across various platforms, it is easier than ever for people to discover new brands online. Most social platforms will recommend different pages and profiles based on individual tastes, meaning people discover new brands almost daily.
Businesses realise the power that social media has on their brands and are capitalising on this. Recently, online clothes retailer ASOS printed 17,000 bags with a very noticeable spelling error, whereby they had misspelled the word ‘online’. Consumers were quick to point this out online. Traditionally, this might have been a massive stock control issue and meant recalling the stock at a cost to the business, but the company responded brilliantly by jokingly calling these bags a ‘limited edition’. Their customers loved the tongue in cheek honesty of this and, as a result, the story ran on major news sites such as the BBC and The Independent, providing some valuable, free publicity for the company.
3. Market Research
Years ago, if a company wanted to conduct market research their options were limited. These options included surveys, focus groups, one-to-one interviews and testing, all of which were time consuming processes and costly for businesses to conduct. There was also the risk they were not a true reflection of how an individual thought or felt.
Enter social media, the omnipresent platform where people let the world know exactly how they feel about anything at any moment. For eCommerce businesses, this real-time information is highly valuable and costs nothing. It also means a constant flow of information. Whereas previous market research methods imposed a time limit on researchers to gather information, social media allows a seemingly never-ending flood of information to be driven at them.
4. Cost Effective
As I’ve demonstrated throughout this blog, social media, while costing businesses little, delivers high return on investment. From a research point of view, older methods have typically been costly in terms of time and money.
From an advertising perspective, typical ad campaigns used to involve television and radio, but both these methods would typically have been very costly. And in today’s digital age, the returns companies are seeing from these methods have decreased dramatically. Compare this to a social media campaign, whose costs are little and returns incredibly lucrative. It’s easy to see why so many companies are investing more money in their digital strategies and seeing a more favourable return on investment.
5. Mobile Trend in Shopping
In November 2017, the BBC ran an article about the lack of physical sales during Black Friday. It seemed that this time around shoppers opted not to participate in the usual retail rampage just to get a bargain ahead of Christmas, what the BBC also noted was the increase in mobile shopping. This is a trend that continues to grow. As more and more of us live on our phones it makes sense that people are increasingly shopping on mobiles too.
Businesses capitalise on this with social media advertising deals. Deals where consumers are only a few clicks away from completing a purchase, where brands offer special deals and click-through social media links, and where shoppers part with more of their hard-earned money.
Social media is a double-edged sword. Recently, it has come under some heavy media fire and people are questioning the ways they use it, however, these concerns relate more to personal use.
From the business point of view, social media is an incredibly valuable tool; these days all businesses should be looking to implement effective social media campaigns that can drive traffic towards their brand and convert it in to leads.
This blog has highlighted just a few of the many benefits that social media can bring to a business, but the reality is that the social media can benefit a business in many ways. Despite scandals and health concerns, social media is likely to be a part of peoples’ lives indefinitely, and businesses need to understand the true cost of not capitalising on this huge opportunity.