How to make social media work for your business

Social media like Twitter and Facebook may be easy to use, but it takes time and effort to make them commercially worthwhile for a business.

Stephen Davies, managing director of Welsh whisky distillery Penderyn, is evangelical about the power of social media: ‘It’s been a great way to raise the profile of the brand and to reach out to people who are interested in it directly. Social media also complements our events very nicely as it’s a good way to promote things that are going on at the distillery.’

Davies has seen sales shoot up by 30 per cent since the company started using Facebook for events, writing blogs and posting updates on Twitter. ‘We’ve spent a minimal amount on advertising; it’s been more about getting others to talk and enthuse about the product,’ he says. ‘We don’t have any plans to invest in print ads as there are now better and more effective ways of reaching people.’

Jo Westlake, company director of the online cosmetics business Distribeauty, agrees and says Facebook works as an effective platform as it captures the company’s target audience of 18- to 35-year-olds.

‘Doing promotions in an open community is effective because it quickly becomes viral,’ she says. ‘If someone joins a group or becomes a fan it’s available for their friends to see; that level of peer-to-peer communication is priceless. In November we offered a free shipping out day to subscribers and linked it in to Facebook. Before we did that we got around 6,500 views per day – afterwards we were getting 17,000.’

Be honest

Westlake says the key to making the medium work is transparency. ‘You have to deal with customer queries in an honest way, rather than deleting negative comments. I think if your company is going to have a Facebook page there is no other way to do it, otherwise you could have a huge backlash.’

Matt Lea, product manager at software company Eleco, says that by using social networking sites the company has reached out to a new demographic. ‘We have found a different target audience by using Twitter, for example, as users tend to be younger. This has led to a 10 to 20 per cent increase in sales, which we can attribute directly to social media.’

But for Lea, traditional marketing tools are still crucial to maintaining its core customer base. ‘We have a lot of customers who tend to be older, high-income bracket earners, and they are coming to us from a ‘pen and paper’ background so for us it’s very important to still be in that space. We don’t want to get carried away and leave our core audience behind.’

SMEs tune in to social media

More than half of small businesses use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote themselves, research finds.

According to a study of 269 companies conducted by PR services firm Daryl Wilcox Publishing, 54 per cent of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) surveyed use social media for marketing purposes.

Almost three quarters of respondents use LinkedIn, with 64 per cent using Facebook and 63 per cent on Twitter.

A quarter of companies who use social media update the sites every few days and 17 per cent update weekly.

However, most companies’ use of social media is infrequent, with more than half posting updates less often.

Of the firms that don’t use social media, 35 per cent blame a lack of time, 31 per cent say their customers don’t use it and a quarter report that they don’t understand it.

Daryl Wilcox, founder of Daryl Wilcox Publishing, says: ‘The number of companies participating in social media on a daily basis shows the growing importance of this marketing channel.’

See also: SMEs flock to social media

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