More than 50% of European businesses not making the most of social media | DMA

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More than 50% of European businesses not making the most of social media

Businesses are not making the most of social media platforms, according to new research from global technology company Pitney Bowes. Only 44% of organisations surveyed in France, Germany and the UK say they are using social media to communicate with customers. This is despite the evidence that 78% of those businesses which embrace them as part of a physical and digital marketing strategy are seeing business growth as a direct result1.

The proliferation of connected devices makes it easier than ever before for us to communicate using social media. Facebook currently has the largest share of users, with 77% of consumers in France, Germany and the UK currently active on the platform2, followed by Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. SnapChat, Pinterest, WhatsApp and Tumblr also remain hugely popular. Forecasts reveal that in 2018 there will be approximately 2.67 billion social media users worldwide, an increase from 1.91 billion in 20143. These invaluable digital channels should be integrated into an organisation’s business strategy, but all-too-often their value is overlooked, misunderstood or underestimated.

Consumer brands are stealing a march on their business-to-business peers when it comes to effectiveness of their use of social media platforms. Starbucks, Coca-Cola, MTV and Samsung Mobile were the most effective brands on Facebook according to marketing firm Mavrck4. B2B organisations, perhaps from fear or a lack of understanding, still have much to gain from smart use of social media platforms, suggests their research.

Businesses know they should be doing more: the Pitney Bowes study reveals that more than a quarter of businesses believe their marketing mix needs to change over the next five years. And within the next two years, 64% of businesses expect to use social media much more than they do today to communicate with their customers. But two years is a long time. Effective, considered communication across social media must be worked into the physical and digital marketing mix now, or businesses risk behind left behind.

Top ten social media reminders for brands to create impact

You might think of yourself as a social media pro, but here are my Top Ten social media reminders and best practices for us all to consider for our businesses:

1. Be responsive
The immediacy of social media is a major contributor to its appeal. It also has a negative effect on the customer experience and brand reputation if organisations don’t respond in real-time when expected. Businesses must structure their operations and empower customer care teams to respond across digital platforms quickly and efficiently. It’s an opportunity to improve the customer experience.

2. Listen, don’t shout
Social media channels are not the place for businesses to broadcast their wares. Whilst a useful conduit to educate and inform audiences – think TfL and London tube strikes, or local authorities and weather updates - they are platforms for extracting opinion and gauging consumer sentiment; for generating multi-way dialogue; for creating communities and driving engagement. Sometimes in our hurry to post, we forget this.

3. Be authentic
Digital media users are receptive to messages. They may be viewing several platforms simultaneously but once you have their attention, they’re all yours. This makes it even more important for brands to be authentic: to develop a clear brand voice and tone, pitched at the right level with the right content according to the platform they’re using.

4. Be precise with targeting
It’s easy to create a tightly-targeted campaign across digital media. Take LinkedIn, for example. Official LinkedIn statistics reveal that two new members join LinkedIn every second. 40% of users check it daily, and it is used in 200 countries and territories. If you’re at a trade show and you want to generate interest within an audience based in a particular location, you can do so, quickly and easily on LinkedIn. Similarly, Twitter advertising can be equally as well honed – you can target based on follower, interest, behaviour, keyword, language, gender and geography.

5. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all
Different audiences use different platforms. Research user profiles and demographics – and don’t try to be everywhere at once. It’s far better to select two or three platforms and use them effectively, than try to maintain a presence across 10 different social media channels and not be able to provide a response when needed.

6. Be sensitive
Cheerios were criticised in 2016 for being insensitive around the time of musician Prince’s death. They published a well-intended ‘Rest in Peace’ graphic, with the ‘l’ in ‘Prince’ punctuated with a Cheerio. Cheerios were based in Prince’s hometown of Minnesota so it was meant as a warm, authentic gesture. Unfortunately the sentiment didn’t come across in the image and the brand was widely criticised for using the artist’s death as a publicity opportunity. With some platforms restricting users to a small number of characters for each post, it’s not difficult to come across as crass or insensitive.

7. Customer engagement or revenue generation?
Only 0.2% of total online revenue for brands across both the consumer and B2B space is generated by social media5. Intentional, or a missed opportunity? Some organisations may be more focused on community management or brand awareness than revenue generation. Morrisons' marketing director Andy Atkinson, for example, has said that the supermarket chain has intentionally decided not to use social media sites to drive sales. Other businesses may have more than one objective for their social media strategy. Here at Pitney Bowes, we coach our sales teams to develop a credible personal presence on platforms such as LinkedIn, and equip them with the knowledge and skills to engage meaningfully and intelligently with customers and prospects. It’s had a major impact on sales pipeline and revenue results. But it isn’t the only goal for our social media strategy: we like to share, engage, interact and build communities.

8. Measure results
Web and design marketing agency Digimax found that when it comes to social media activity, a huge 86% of brands simply aren’t measuring results. Running an email or print marketing campaign without measuring results seems unthinkable, so why aren’t organisations measuring their social media marketing? Perhaps it’s viewed as too complicated, involves cross-functional collaboration (the marketing team putting in a request to IT, for example) or takes too long. But just as with any other channel, businesses must identify objectives, set goals, measure and analyse results.

9. Engage with your employee digital influencers
Here at PB, we have around 10,000 employees active on LinkedIn. Together, our networks total 1.3 million connections. We engage with our digital influencers and make it easy for them to share our brand messages through a user-friendly, dynamic and engaging platform of content. It helps them keep their profiles fresh and relevant, and it helps us share our brand stories. Engaging your digital influencers should be a cornerstone of your social media strategy.

10. Integrate it as part of your physical and digital strategy
Engaging through social media channels shouldn’t be seen as a standalone activity. It works brilliantly when integrated into a broad omnichannel physical and digital strategy which encompasses an entire spectrum of communications, from email to print, with consistent messaging and a great customer experience at its very heart.

A brand is part legacy, part future. Building interactive, meaningful, contextual experiences across the right social media platforms is a bridge from legacy to a brand’s future.

1,2 Pitney Bowes research, `The Future of Communications’
3 Figures from Statista
4 Research from Mavrck cited in Social Times
5 IMRG and CapGemini Report cited in Ecommerce Worldwide

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