3 ways social media can help your business

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A static strategy equals a static business. To grow fast, expand your customer base and build your brand, you need to keep an ear close to the ground and look beyond the internal walls in your business. There’s no better way to do this than with social media.

A recent study conducted by Telsyte revealed that one in three Australians regularly uses social media as their first source of news and that online is now considered more important than print for businesses looking to influence customers. The focus group is dead. It’s 2016 and your attention should be on what the online world has to say — about you, your competitors, your industry and everything in between. Here are some tips for using social media insights to shape your business strategy.

# 1. Listen, tweet (repeat)

If your customers are using social media (and they are), so should you. This doesn’t mean setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account and posting once every few days, it means listening to what people have to say and doing something about it: praises, pain points, competitor mentions. Social platforms give you the opportunity to connect with current and future customers directly. They’re also an increasingly popular way for people to voice concerns and complaints. Don’t be scared of this. Take advantage. It’s your biggest tool.

A Deloitte Media Consumer Survey revealed not only 80 per cent of Aussies use social media, but half of respondents believe it’s the most effective way for them to raise and resolve customer service issues. By responding in real-time, you have the opportunity to adapt your approach before it’s too late (and too expensive) to change tack. For a small business, this can save you significant resources, ensuring you don’t have to wait until a campaign or plan is carried out before finding out it went in the completely wrong direction.

# 1. Keep a close eye on your competitors

While how your business is perceived should be the main focus, don’t ignore the conversations around your competitors. Keep a close eye on the communities they’re engaging with — who is talking about them, what are those people saying, as well as the hot topics and industry issues surrounding them. To fully understand your true position in the market, you need to look beyond what’s happening in your own business and the views of your own employees.

Pay attention to your share of voice in the market, but also how well your key messages are getting through online by analysing the language of posts. Keep up to date with competitor messaging and identify opportunities to get in front of their customers. For an unfair advantage, remember other people’s businesses are your business too!

# 2. Work the (virtual) room and network

To make the most of social media insights, you need to cut through the chatter and find the conversations that matter. Influencers don’t just talk, they shape the conversation, which is why they’re important to your business. Once you know who your key influencers are (they may be one person or one hundred), listen and learn from them. What are they saying about your industry, your competitors? Are they talking about you at all yet?

To take the relationship a step further, consider engaging with social influencers as a way to build trust and brand recognition. Influencer engagement can deliver excellent ROI, no matter the size of your company and can be extremely cost-effective if done well. The key is using data to suss out the perfect person for the job.

# 3. Listen to your instinct

As a business owner, your gut feeling is important (it’s gotten you this far), but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor for the big decisions. Your instincts matter, but real-time data is invaluable for developing strategies that are flexible, informed and measurable.

When you’re heading up a business, it can be tough to pivot away from the original plan that you’ve no doubt put blood, sweat and tears into devising. These data insights can help you see the bigger picture so you stay agile, responsive and ahead of the game.