The need and importance for Social Media as a form of marketing and advertising has never been as high across almost all forms of business. The growing value of social media for SME’s has now reached a point whereby small businesses must utilise at least one of many different social media channels just to ensure a basic level of competitiveness in a given industry. Aligned with the progression of globalisation that has been central to the development of business since the turn of the century, Social Media allows people, businesses, organisations and the like to connect and communicate across the globe. This can be done via a number of world leading platforms, but mainly Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (especially for recruiters.) To understand the impact social media can have for a business, it is first important to understand the scale and scope of a number of these channels.
Social Media itself is aided by the development, availability and speed of the internet worldwide. Technological advances have had a huge impact on the availability of internet connection. In 2012, 86% of UK households enjoyed a broadband connection, up from 80% in 2011. Among the big five West European economies, the UK leads in broadband penetration: in 2012, the comparable rates were 82% in Germany, 77% in France, 67% in Spain and 55% in Italy (Mintel, 2013). Increases in technological dependency and reliability worldwide, combined with general increases in IT efficiency has seen an overall increase in internet usage globally. It can be said that the growing availability of the internet subsequently increases the size of the potential pool of customers and suppliers that businesses can target and, social media is almost certainly the best and most cost-effective way of achieving this.
The benefits of using social media are vast and, come at little to no cost depending on whether a business opts for; paid-for advertising campaigns which in themselves are cost effective too as they allow businesses to more specifically target certain audiences in certain areas or, the free to use standard strategy which focuses upon consistent and relevant postings in an attempt to attract the necessary target market. Statista asked a group of marketers about the benefits of social media, 69% of whom stated that social media marketing helped develop loyal fans for business. Consult the graph below to gain a further insight into how social media marketing can positively impact a business.
One of the defining phenomena of the present times reshaping the world as we know it, is the worldwide accessibility to the internet. The lovechild of the World Wide Web is social media, which comes in many forms, including blogs, forums, business networks, photo-sharing platforms, social gaming, microblogs, chat apps, and last but not least, social networks. The power of social networking is such that, the number of worldwide users is expected to reach some 2.95 billion by 2020, around a third of Earth’s entire population (Statista, 2018.) Facebook alone has 2.2bn active monthly users, all of which are found within all types of age and gender demographics (Statista, 2018.)
Looking at the second significant platform, Instagram, brings to the forefront successful growth and increases in usage. Instagram has doubled its user base, to 800 million monthly actives in two years, whilst 70.7% of US businesses are using Instagram in 2017 (Sprout social, 2017.)!A focus upon the demographics of Instagram highlight that 59% of Instagram users are 18 to 29 years old whilst 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 use Instagram. A more significant statistic highlights that 32% of all internet users are on Instagram, which is hugely significant for all businesses.
Regardless of the hundreds of statistics which support the use of social media, the ever-growing scale in usage and age, and scope world-wide aided by availability are two massively substantial selling points for any business big or small. Any user can create an account on either of the discussed platforms for no cost, and can then proceed to post content whenever they like with no incurred fee. Social Media is a marketer’s dream. Unprecedented pools of potential customers with immediate channels to market through that can reach all corners of the world. Granted, many SME’s should not be concerned with world reaching marketing campaigns, but even a more local focus via social media can have an array of positive impacts for exposure, sales and a loyal customer base.