Social media is a serious advertising option
If you have a business and a desire to grow it - and any awareness of mainstream culture - you'll probably have wondered at some point whether social media is a worthwhile investment.
Though there's no simple answer, there is clear evidence to suggest strong and widespread faith in advertising via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. More than 80 per cent of advertisers now include social media marketing in their strategies; with over 65 per cent of online campaigns featuring paid placements.
The basics are free
Aside from the human resources required to set up, monitor and maintain social profiles, there are no automatic costs for a basic presence - so you really don't have much to lose by giving it a try.
It also can be easily paired with your other marketing or advertising routes. Whether you simply have an A-board outside your premises, a Yellow Pages listing or a full website, you can mention your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn presence and invite people to find you.
If you want to enhance your chances of success, the key is creative thinking. Viral campaigns - popular content shared repeatedly on a national or global scale - result in high visibility and increased awareness of a brand. They don't have to be expensive; just appealing and easy to share.
The recent Harlem Shake dance video trend has inspired many businesses to create their own versions, including the Manchester branch of fashion brand Missguided, which generated over 2,500 YouTube views in just a few days. In fact, comedy has often proved to be the sharpest tool for sharing success, as shown by most entries in The Guardian's monthly Viral Video Chart.
Meanwhile, images can also be powerful - particularly if paired with a sentiment that people can immediately relate to. This was demonstrated by a Facebook post by holiday company Cruisedeals.com [pictured above] which generated nearly 27,000 'Likes' and nearly 1500 shares [correct at the time of publication].
Pay more for a focused approach
Like any other advertising route, the more you pay, the more visibility you're likely to achieve - hence the afore-mentioned growth in use of paid social ads.
Social media also allows you to be more specific. Facebook's user profiles contain a wealth of demographic information that can be used to target the right people for your business. For example, if you provide cake decorating or floral services, your ads can be shared with people whose relationship status is set to 'engaged'.
If you want to appeal to other businesses or recruit without traditional agency costs, LinkedIn advertising is well worth a look. The professional networking service has over 200 million users - over 11 million of which are in the UK.
Choosing the right platform for your business
If you decide to enter the social marketing sphere, it is important to consider what will be most relevant and effective for your products and services.
Food and drink - Any company involved in this category can use Facebook and Pinterest to capitalise on visual appeal. Whether a restaurant dish or comfort food to devour at home, people eat (and drink) with their eyes first.
Everyday services - A seemingly-straightforward estate agent could augment its posting of property sale details on Twitter by highlighting examples of strange or shocking residences from around the world.
Professional services - To honour its serious image, a law firm might choose to publish an informative video on YouTube giving advice about dealing with a common problem.
Always remember that if people feel an affinity with your business, they are more likely to give you their custom.