Benefits of social networking

BUSINESS executives in Northern Ireland responsible for on-line marketing budgets are still slow to fully engage in social marketing.

Many business owners remain sceptical about the use of networks such as Twitter and Facebook and only see the time-consuming aspects of online communications for the gossips and those who want to see what family and neighbours are doing.

The introduction over the past 18 months of Google into the social media networking arena has seen a phenomenal rate of growth.

The use of these forms of customer interaction tools are what consumers want in order to keep up to date with what’s happening.

Many of the technology-embracing companies have seen the benefits of these social networking tools and now make them a major aspect of their marketing plan and budget.

So why should businesses look to these and other forms of social networking to promote their brands and products and in turn drive sales and business growth?

In the past, companies that needed feedback on a new product or service and could afford it spent large sums of money carrying out market research campaigns either from their own marketing departments or engaged a third-party organisation to carry out the research on their behalf.

Having analysed the results, a lengthy development process would follow until delivery of a product or service to the marketplace.

This was often tedious and expensive, keeping the customer at arm’s length, which in itself made the feedback suspect or not a true reflection of potential customers.

With the arrival of social media customer feedback has become dynamic and is recorded in a more natural way, captured in the customers’ own words as opposed to focused questions that only the company deems to be important.

However, companies need to be much better listeners than they have been in the past.

Comments posted on Twitter, Facebook, Google or, for the business community, on LinkedIn – with conversation threads lasting for days, weeks and even months – need to be constantly monitored and action being seen to have been taken if and when required.

Communities based around loyal, sometimes disgruntled, product or service users are formed where discussions freely and honestly take place on all aspects of your business.

It’s another way to inexpensively promote any aspect of your business or organisation and often includes footage from YouTube, another leading social media platform.

A video of a product demonstration or customer testimonial is an extremely powerful way of getting your business message across.

This all seems very cost-effective, providing you factor into your work schedule the time it will takes to update your company website, Facebook (mostly for consumers), YouTube channel, Twitter feed and LinkedIn posts.

Failing to give your social media networks the time it requires to fully engage with loyal ‘followers’ could have a negative effect on your brand, product or service.

Select the social media platform that best suits your organisation and become fully engaged with your audience or followers and this relatively low-cost form of interacting with your customers could deliver profitable results in a relatively short period of time.

Trevor Bingham is business relationship manager at MCS Group (