This is Part 2/2 of a blog series aimed at kick-starting a new way of thinking about social media for business.

In our last blog, we explored how Social Media can be used to generate word-of-mouth advocacy for your business, but we understand many of you may still be questioning; where’s the true value in Social Media Marketing?

Social Engagement is a great means to build a direct relationship with your customers, providing them with a sense of importance, involvement and a subsequent affinity to investment in your brand. Organic brand advocates are one of the most important and influential marketing tools necessary to business development in the 21st century; the networked market will often know more than companies do about their own products, and whether positive or negative, they will share their opinion! Social media engagement can become a vital tool to not only to aid in benefitting growth of a brand, but also in developing experiential assets which determine your services true customer value. Ultimately, engagement serves as a benefit to both businesses and consumers; heightening sales loyalty, exposing valuable leads, and providing better customer insight!

Many small businesses are missing out on these organic marketing opportunities through lack of digital innovation. Worryingly, around 60% of small businesses still have no online or social media presence; with most not yet considering a company website a necessity in 2015*.  This leaves cause for concern as the popularity of social networking has created a participatory culture for consumers; if there is no online opportunity to investigate your business, it may affect the perceived legitimacy of your brand. The consumer context model describes the paradigm shift of consumer preference to ‘experiential’ assets (through a search for interaction). Web 2.0 has delivered power to the consumer like never before, allowing them to seek and share experiences with each-other that businesses are unable to influence. Social Marketing in this respect becomes a vital component to monitoring your public image, giving you the ability to react to customers whilst they’re forming opinions about you.

Social Advocacy is also necessary to ensure consumers are aware of your business services in an increasingly crowded market-place. An advance in broadcast and hand-held technology has created a detrimental fragmentation of outbound marketing audiences, deviating up to 86% of consumers from viewpoint of other common marketing techniques*. These out-dated forms of brand to consumer communication have been labelled as forms of ‘interruption marketing’ – attempts which are deliberately avoided by a majority. This has been demonstrated by the continuous stream of digital applications which intend to allow consumers to take control of their viewing habits and eradicate the existence of outbound marketing all together; with 68% of consumers suggested to be put off by the presence of online advertising whilst browsing the web*.

It’s been proposed that 92% of consumers now ignore marketing all-together, with preference to place sole trust in recommendations, with a further 70% admitting to having most trust in reviews found online*. This has been demonstrated by major corporations such as Amazon and Tesco launching innovative earn-to-advocate programmes, suggesting that word-of-mouth is currently one of the most powerful marketing tools in existence. In the past decade, the existence of customer review sites such as TrustPilot and TripAdvisor have exploded; drawing in up to 81% of consumers attention before they make purchase decisions*. Consumers now demand transparency and humanisation to gain their trust, something which can only be achieved through brand accessibility and two-way conversations. By utilising the concept of engagement, successful techniques of inbound marketing can be adopted; allowing the consumers voice to be heard, and your company’s vital development through feedback. A customer’s trust can be turned into brand loyalty, and most powerfully, brand advocacy. It’s is from the moment of successful engagement that the ‘word of mouth’ cycle begins to authentically promote your business to new customers who could themselves later become advocates.

“Engagement in these open free-wheeling marketplace exchanges isn’t optional. It’s a prerequisite to having a future*”

Written by: Hannah May – Social Marketing Executive

Credit to external references: The Guardian, Adobe, Neilson, Grinberg, Levine Et Al, Social Times, Wikström, Jenkings Et Al.