Now that social media has reached an age of maturity (there is no debate that it has become a staple of everyday modern life, long become clear that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon), our social habits have had to adapt accordingly – as with the adoption of any technological innovation. Often argued as being no means less influential in terms of innovation than the creation of the gas-powered car, the airplane, or modern medical technologies, social media is powerful because it has become the means of spreading a message – whatever that message may be. Now mature as far as innovation, social media is quick to be knocked by detractors as “distracting” at the very best; at worst, it has been viewed as an endless cycle of “self-absorption” that reflects poorly on our social values. In reality, all innovations come with negative elements to the original positive ones: email, as a basic example, unquestionably changed the way we communicate for the better, but along with it came a whole new level of digital “trash” (spam) and changed modern marketing at the highest levels of the legal system (see: email marketing legislation and the CAN-SPAM act).
The reality? We accept the negative elements associated with social media precisely because they will always be outweighed by the positive elements. Which are?
Your branding efforts will never be the same.
In his influential book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary Vaynerchuk, the media maven and a major investor in social media companies (and a social media evangelist himself), mentions how more than 75% of the U.S. is on Facebook, and uses it daily. In Gary’s country, 1 out of every 5 page views on the internet happens on Facebook. Repeat that fact out loud (and assume it is similar for Canadians): 1 out of every page views on the internet happens on Facebook. Looking to reach your audience directly? Prior to social media, it was impossible to reach such a huge audience in one swing. Going for volume? Social media has got you covered.
How about quality? What Gary loves most about social media is that it is high-quality storytelling above anything else. It doesn’t “interrupt” or “make demands” (immediately); brands on social media have gotten so competitive in terms of storytelling that corporate branding has transcended to another level entirely where brands focus (or should focus) exclusively on telling stories rather than making direct and aggressive demands of their customers. The best social media storytelling almost feels passive: simple, clean, honest, and non-aggressive. In reality, branding works most effectively when it is simplest and demands nothing of its audience except an acknowledgement and (ideally) a brief emotional reaction. Social media is the perfect medium for simple, honest, clean branding.
Social media empowers entrepreneurs and (very) small business.
One of the ultimate advantages to social media is that it allows independent/small business owners (self-run and owned businesses) to flourish to new heights. If you are the main (and sometimes only) member of your business, it’s not surprising that your marketing budget will likely be tight (to say the least). Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow for owner-operator entrepreneurs to spread their brand/business for free to reach a wider audience that most companies have to pay huge amounts of money to reach via other marketing channels. Social media becomes an even playing field for small businesses – and anyone can get onto the field and play the game alongside the biggest corporations in the world – if you do social media right.
One of my favorite social media channels when it comes to small business is Instagram – specifically when one’s business is a tangible good/product of some kind. Have an e-commerce site through which you sell your products? Even better. Instagram is the perfect platform for showcasing your products in creative, visually-appealing forms. It’s not surprising that restaurants/chefs, small bakeries, jewelry designers, fashion designers (among so many others) do extremely well on Instagram and commonly have thousands of followers. If you are a small business with a product, Instagram is perfect to drive brand awareness, to build your client base, and to expand your network into something huge – even if you’re the only employee in your business.
Social media is meant to be shared – and that’s a good thing.
One of the highlights of social media platforms is that they openly encourage “sharing” in an acceptable way. Imagine if you were grabbing a drink with a friend at a bar and your friend spent an hour telling you about different restaurants or cafes he/she thinks you might be interested in. More than likely you’ll be looking for the nearest exit as quick as possible. Yet on social media, your friends can simultaneously share, discuss, and recommend as many restaurants as they want – and we are automatically more accepting of it. Every major social media platform has a number of different methods of sharing content – and some encourage it more than others. A quick scroll through Facebook proves the point: what once started off as a text-focused, personal-style “share” has quickly become a mini marketplace for different businesses, products, and services being shared regularly by your closest friends. Social media encourages people to talk – to spread the message about your product/service openly.
The most valuable part? Sharing on social media intrinsically comes with one of the biggest challenges that all marketers face every day: the trust factor. If your network shares, recommends, or discusses a business of any kind, chances are you’ll be more inclined to pay attention because you trust that person. Influencer marketing has seen a huge boost in recent years – and trust-based marketing is part of its success: subscribers/fans/followers of a certain “influencer” will automatically trust a recommendation coming from that influencer more than one from a random person. So think of your network as a tiny group of “mini-influencers”: the more you are able to get your brand shared and endorsed by your network, the more others will trust its relevance and quality.
Back to another smart insight from Gary Vaynerchuk:
“On Facebook, the definition of great content is not the content that makes the most sales, but the content that people most want to share with others.”
Trust is tough to come by in real life; but on social media, trust through sharing can be established quicker and easier than you might think – and that’s awesome news for your brand.