Social media is a brilliant way to get your business on the internet. It allows you to have an online public profile, allowing you to show your customers and followers what your business is about and the services or products that you provide. In this report, I am going to make recommendations about the ways in which a business can use social media.
One of the biggest uses of social media is to promote your products and services. Some companies just have public pages where they post information about their products or services. If an advert or post is on a company's page, only allow existing followers will see this information on their feeds, so most social media networks have a feature which allows companies to boost a post to more users. Sometimes, adverts are only boosted to the people that are interested in seeing the advert. There are definite advantages to this as it means that people who probably aren't interested in the advert, won't have to see it. This leads to a more personalised environment for social media users and therefore they are more likely to look into the advert.
There are two different types of marketing and adverts that can be seen on social media. Advertising could be direct or indirect. Direct marketing is when a company posts an advert about their product. This could a. paid advert or just on their page. This form of advertising is useful as it makes it really clear to followers what your product is and that you are trying to sell it. An alternative form of marketing is called indirect. An example of when this is used could be a company producing an information post about the product and then sharing this on social media - it isn't directly advertising it but it is sharing information about the product that could lead to people purchasing the product.
Another advantage of using social media to advertise is the speed that good content can spread. Due to the nature of social media advertisements can be seen by thousands of people within a short time of it being posted. If your company publishes a post that your followers are interested in, they will interact with the post and this means that their friends/followers will see the post on their feeds. If these people then interact with the post, it will be spread again to even more people. This domino effect means that information spreads incredibly quickly. This is normally an advantage of using social media, although risks can be presented by information being spread quickly on social media, which I will explain later on in this report.
By using social media to advertise products and services, social media platforms provide tools to businesses so that they can analyse data about their followers. For example, Facebook uses Facebook Insights and Twitter uses Twitter Analytics. This is important for companies who are advertising on social media as they can see what sort of people are interacting with their posts. These tools can be used to make sure that their content is reaching the people that they want it to be reaching. Information such as the age, location and gender of their followers, as well as who interacts the most. This vital information can be used to adapt their posts so that their target audience is reached.
A possible disadvantage of social network analysis tools is that the information is not always correct. Social media users don't always put the correct information in about themselves. This means that the information collected by the social media network is only as accurate as the information input by the users. Therefore, the data that is collected cannot always be relied upon.
Another possible disadvantage is that even after the information has been collected by the platform, the business still needs to analyse the data. Once they have analysed the data, they need to work out how they can use what they have found to change their posting style. The disadvantage is that this process will take a long time and therefore it will cost the company money.
As with most things, there are disadvantages of using social media platforms to advertise your products. Social media users are often in a rush and will be quickly scrolling through their social media feeds. If you advert isn't of interest to a user, they won't spend any time looking at the advert - they will quickly 'scroll' past it. Advertising your products on TV would meant that users are forced to watch the full advert and this isn't possible on social media. This could be a reason to not use social media to advertise your products because unless you have very interesting adverts that people are going to choose to watch, then your company isn't going to be able to get many people to watch your advert.
just using a website or a TV advert. Customers can comment on adverts on social media, whether this is questions about the product (which the company can quickly reply to), or even reviews of what the product is like. This obviously is only a benefit if the customers are happy with the company's product or service, otherwise negative feedback can be left and this can lead to people not using the company.
DISADVANTAGES OF EACH OF THESE
Similarly to this, businesses are also using social media as a way of providing customer service to their customers. If a customer needs to resolve a personal query (ie. one of their orders), private messaging on many social media platforms can be used to communicate with the company. This can provide a company with a cheap and easy option to communicate with customers and answer personal questions about a customer's product or a service they are being provided by your business.
A disadvantage of using social media for customer service, is that people expect a reply almost instantly. This means that staff need to be on the company's social media page, ready to answer customers for the longest period of time. Although this may be achievable for large businesses who employ people to do this, small businesses won't necessarily be able to do this and could mean that using social media for customer service can become difficult.
Another important use of social media is being able to communicate with customers to improve customer satisfaction. Being able to interact with your followers so that your audience can understand your business, is important as it can make your company seem much more personal, demonstrating to your customers that you do care about them. This could be simply communicating with all of your followers by posting content such as a poll, to make it clear to your followers that your business is listening to their customers.
Social media provides an alternative method of communication between customers and the business. In the busy world that we live in, finding the time to ring companies to get customer service or to have a query answered can be difficult. Through the use of social media, followers are able to send messages to the company and get quick feedback through private messaging. This means that the customer can get their problem solved quickly and they don't need to spend hours on the phone waiting to speak to a member of customer support.
There is more than one advantage to using social media for communicating with customers. If a business is using social media to communicate with their customers, then they don't need to set up large call centres to communicate with customers. This is a benefit for the company as they can most likely save money by using social media to communicate with their customers.
Having said this, there are problems with using social media to communicate with customers. For example, although there are large percentage of people who are on one form of social media, not everybody does use social media and so it is important for the company to remember that other forms of communication must still be available. This could require extra work to allow customers to communicate with your business.
Resolving customer queries is another way that businesses can use social media. If customers have generic queries (ie. about a product), public posts can be made to answer queries, which means that other customers with the same questions, can visit the social media page and get the information they need, quickly and easily. This is an advantage of using social media for resolving issues as the company's responses can be made public to reduce the need to answer multiple customer's queries.
A disadvantage of using social media to answer customer queries is that your business will need to make sure that they are 100% confident with their response. For example, if the company posts an answer to a customer query that doesn't meet the customer's satisfaction, then the customer can share the response with their followers and can lead to a bad reputation. This is a risk of using social media that I will explain later on in this report.
Another use of social media that can benefit a company is its ability to integrate with desktop and mobile devices. As companies upload content to a social media platform, it is formatted in a standard format that is created by the platform. This means that the business doesn't need to do anything else to get it to look right on a user's device. After a company uploads information, it is automatically put in a format that can be seen in the best format for the device it is being displayed on. This is very helpful for companies as they don't need to spend time formatting their posts.
However, there are disadvantages to this. Because the formatting is done for them, companies have less ability to customize what they upload. This means that all of the posts that are uploaded to social media will look the same. This can make it difficult for companies to make their content stand out. If a company is looking to have full control of how they customise their content, a website could be a better option.
There is a range of popular social media networks that have a huge number of users. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are all successful social media networks, which I am going to discuss in this report. In order to provide a fair comparison for each of these social media networks, I am going to use data from multiple sites including sources LIST SOURCE NUMBERS and data that was collected primarily in March 2017.
Facebook is very successful as well as the most popular social media network in almost every country around the world. In the second quarter of 2018, Facebook had 2.23 billion active users (meaning users that have logged into Facebook in the last month).  1.47 billion of these users are considered daily users (logging in everyday).  Compared to other social media networks, Facebook's age demographic has a smaller percentage of younger users. There is a larger percentage of female users compared to male users, with 83% of females using Facebook, compared to only 75% of males. . The most popular way for people to access Facebook is through a smart phone, with 75% of Facebook users in 2018, accessing Facebook through a mobile device. 
Other demographics that have been published by Facebook include the location of most of their users. For example, 81% of people that live in urban areas, 71% of people that live in suburban areas and 81% of people that live in rural areas, use Facebook. These percentages are all very similar to each other which suggests that location doesn't seem to have an impact on whether users have signed up to Facebook or not.
In comparison to other social media platforms, Facebook also stands out as having a fairly balanced age demographic. 88% of 18-29 year olds use Facebook, 84% of 30-49 year olds, 72% of 50-64 year olds and a surprisingly high value of 62% of 65 years or above use Facebook. This shows that although Facebook is still most popular with younger generations, such as generation Z and the millennials, this social media platform is also popular with older generations like the baby boomers and generation X.
The graph to the right (figure 1) shows the number of Facebook users per quarter. This number has been growing steadily since 2008 which suggests that it is going to continue to grow for several years to come. This is something to be considered when your business is picking a social media platform as Facebook's number of active users will most likely continue to grow, which means you will have a greater chance of your audience continuing to grow.
Facebook 'knows' a lot about all of their users. Whenever a user likes, comments, follows or shares a page or post, data is collected allowing Facebook to know exactly what sort of person, every user is. This can be used to allow 'personalised adverts'. In order for businesses to get the most out of their advertising campaigns, Facebook is able to only show the advert to users that they think will want to see this. All of this information is calculated from Facebook's advanced algorithms. This is a good reason for businesses to use Facebook to advertise their products or services.
Twitter is another popular social media network. (5). With Twitter being the 10th in website ranking in the UK, its website is still a very popular way of using the network, which is something unique about Twitter, as most other social media networks are more common on mobile devices. With 326 million monthly users in mid 2018, (8) Twitter isn't as common as Facebook, but it is still the most popular option for social customer service. The number of users is much less, with a percentage of 25% of females using the network and 24% of males.
Unlike Facebook's number of active users since 2008, shown in figure 1, Twitter's number of users has been levelling out for the past couple of years. This can be seen in figure 2 and this is something important to consider when you are picking a social media network. Is Twitter going to become less popular as time goes on? The chances of it becoming obsolete in the foreseeable future is very unlikely, but it is still worth noting that other channels are becoming more popular at much faster rates than Twitter. Therefore this shouldn't be a reason to stop you from using Twitter for your business.
Nevertheless, as of March 2017, 36% of 18-29 year olds use Twitter, 23% of 30-49 year olds, 21% of 50-64 year olds and only 10% of 65 years or older use Twitter. This supports the idea the millennials and generation Z use Twitter more than older generations. Similarly to Facebook, Twitter's location statistics are fairly even, which shows how this factor doesn't have a significant impact on whether these users sign up to this social media platform. 26% of people who live in an urban area, 24% of people who live in a suburban area and 24% of people who live in a rural area use Twitter.
An example of a popular mobile social media network is Instagram. It was designed as a network that could be used to share photos and videos. This means that you can only post images on Instagram and so it isn't suited to all businesses. If you have a creative business, whether you are selling unique clothing for example, or you are a photographer, then Instagram would be a brilliant social media network to use. If you use social media as an information platform, such as for customer service, Instagram probably isn't the best platform to use, as you are unable to post blocks of text or information.
(11) With nearly 1 billion active monthly users in June 2018, Instagram appears to be becoming a more popular social media network, with the number of monthly active users increasing greatly since 2011. This can be seen in figure 3 (to the left) and makes it clear that Instagram could be a good network to use as it appears to be still growing in popularity and therefore your audience should continue to grow for the fore-see able future.
Instagram's demographic is fairly different to Facebook and Twitter's demographic. The biggest difference is the larger percentage of females compared to the number of males. Only 26% of males use Instagram, compared to a larger percentage of 38% of women. 59% of 18-29-year olds use Instagram, 33% of people aged between 30 and 4 and only 8% of people aged 65 or over. This shows just how popular this network is for young generations like millennials and generation Z. This suggests that if your company's target audience is younger people, then this platform might be perfect for you. If you are looking to grow an audience of people from the baby boomers' generation or maybe even generation X, then maybe a different platform should be used.
Another surprising demographic is about the location of Instagram's users. 31% of their users live in a rural area, 28% live in a suburban area and a surprising 39% of people who live in an urban area use Instagram. A possible explanation for this is related to the number of younger people that use Instagram. It is common for younger people like the millennials to live in cities and this is reflected in these statistics.
The first 3 networks that I have explored, are mostly for personal use, for users to interact with friends and family, and occasionally with businesses. The fourth network that I am going to discuss is designed for business use. Whether users want to communicate as a business with other business, or advertise/find job opportunities, LinkedIn is a popular social media network for business use. Not only can LinkedIn be used by individuals to network with companies and other individuals, but it can also be used by companies to advertise jobs and services. This means that not every company would benefit from using LinkedIn to advertise their company or to provide services to their customers.
Known as the "Largest social media network for professionals", LinkedIn has different demographics to the rest of the social media networks I have discussed already. The split between males and females is fairly similar with 31% of males and 27% of females using this social media network. The age demographic of the users on LinkedIn appears to be much more even compared to Instagram. 34% of people aged between 18 and 29 use LinkedIn, as well as 33% of people aged between 30 and 49, 24% of people aged between 50 and 64 and 20% of people aged 65 or older.
Location statistics of people that use LinkedIn also appear to be quite interesting, with 34% of people who live in urban areas using LinkedIn, 30% of people in suburban areas and only 18% of people in a rural area use LinkedIn. An explanation for this could be that as most of the users on LinkedIn are using it for business, there must be a larger number of people in business in cities and large towns compared to small villages.
" Risk of security issues from extra exposure
" Time constraints
Social media obviously presents itself as a very useful tool, that can be used by anybody to enable them to communicate and network with other people, whether that be as on a personal or a professional level. However, like with most technology, there are risks to using social media with your business. One of the biggest risks is the potential of bad reputation for your business. For as long as your business is successful and your customers are happy, social media is a great platform to spread the positive word about your company. However, if you have a customer that isn't happy with your company, e.g. because you haven't provided a suitable service, then they can very easily post their negative thoughts on social media. As social media is a tool for spreading information quickly, it won't be long before all of your existing followers (and any potential future customers) have seen the negative review, also known as viral sharing. This quickly leaves a bad reputation on your business and can lead to customers looking for other companies to get their products or services from, but more importantly, there is also a high chance that new customers will go elsewhere as well.
Another possible risk of using social media with your business is the chance of copyright infringements. Tesla made a mistake in 2017 by posting an image of a mug that had been sent to them by a customer. The owner claimed that he never gave permission for them to use the image and the company received backlash for breaching copyright laws. Although this case wasn't a major issue for Tesla, ownership disputes like these can be very damaging for a company. Small businesses could really suffer from a copyright dispute like this and could be faced with potential fines of thousands of pounds, which could be enough to take a small company out of business. (9)
Another potential risk of using social media is the security implications that come from putting your business online. By putting your business online, you are exposing yourselves to anybody who uses the internet. An example of when this could happen after you have started using social media regularly is that your business could be targeted by cyber criminals and they can use information that you post online to send phishing emails to your company. This can lead to security issues with information being leaked. This is therefore something that should be considering when using social media, so that you are not exposing yourselves to this type of risk.
As well as copyright infringements and bad reputation, there are other risks such as getting bad publicity on other platforms. This often originates from the people who are responsible for managing the social media pages making bad mistakes and it taking a hit on the company. An example of this is when Thameslink (10) publically apologised to a customer for the poor rail service on Twitter by comparing their service to Poundland's chocolate earlier in 2018. Poundland did not appreciate these comments and replied to the tweet posted by Thameslink. This dispute between the two companies made it to the news and there was potential for this to have an effect on the company because of this bad publicity. This could have been avoided if the representative from Thameslink who posted the comment had thought about the implications of what they had said and just how quickly this was going to spread.
I believe that it is important to note that although there is the potential for bad publicity, if you have a sensible team of people who are responsible for the management of your social media channels, then you should be able to avoid the risks of bad publicity and copyright infringements. For these two risks, the positives of using social media outweigh the negatives and so I don't think they are a reason not to use social media with your business.
The format that information is uploaded to social media can vary. Different formats are used by different businesses depending on their needs. A creative and visual company will mainly use images and videos to communicate with their customers, whereas other companies may find that it is better to use text instead. The most common format is to use a combination of videos, images, text and polls, so that followers remain engaged and interested in their social media channel.
Text is the easiest way to get information across to customers. It doesn't require extra resources to create videos, photos or graphics. This enables the company to get information across to their followers quickly and easily, by simply telling their followers what they want to know, rather than expecting them to work it out from an image/video. This content format is probably most common on LinkedIn, due to the professional nature of the network.
Having said this, using text only is often very boring for followers. Using large chunks of text and followers reading the whole thing is unlikely. Most social media users want quick and easy information, or they will 'scroll' past it. Because of this, most businesses avoid using large chunks of text and try and use other formats so that followers remain interested.
Videos are often a good way of keeping followers engaged. They provide an easy way for users to find out information about the business and they are often quick and easy for followers to watch.
The disadvantage of using videos, is that it takes much more time and resources to create the content. This isn't always worth it (especially for smaller businesses), as it won't necessarily develop the audience and it is also possibly that most followers won't watch the videos.
Another format that is commonly used, particularly on Instagram, is images. They could be images including small amounts of text, or images with 'teasers' that link to the company's website. This is a good way to engage users, as followers can quickly look at the information being provided and interact with the post quickly. They don't need to read through lots of text, or watch videos, which could suggest that they will comment/like etc. quicker. In order for social media to work effectively, followers interacting with posts is very important and so using images and getting quick engagement from followers is an effective way of using social media.
On the other hand, images and graphics can still take time to create. Although it wouldn't typically take as long to create images compared to videos, for a small business, images can still be time consuming. It is also difficult to get all of the information that you are trying to convey to your followers in one image, without using lots of text.
Although they are less common, businesses do still use polls to engage with users. They are good for getting customers involved with decision making (or at least making it look like they are). One of the most important uses of social media is making customers feel like they are interacting with the company, to make them like they are important. Therefore, polls are a brilliant way to get customers opinions, quickly and easily.
Traditional methods for doing this include surveys or even groups of people to text it. These are time consuming, both for the company to create and analyse and for the customers to take part in. Being able to use polls on social media eliminates this time and allows companies to get quick and easy feedback. Disadvantages needed? - yes
The problem with using polls on social media, is they are quick to answer. This means that some followers will just click on a random answer just for the sake of it, or won't spend much time thinking the answer that they put in. This means that they are not always very accurate, but they are still useful for companies to show to their followers that they care about their customers.
 MarketingProfs. (2018). The Most Popular Social Networks With Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. [online] Available at: https://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2017/31792/the-most-popular-social-networks-with-millennials-gen-x-and-baby-boomer [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].
Figure 3 https://www.statista.com/chart/9157/instagram-monthly-active-users/
...(download the rest of the essay above)