The pros and cons of social media for business

December 09, 2020

One day you are a local business with your regular daily customers. The next day, suddenly you are a viral sensation and people come pouring in from different parts of the world. What happened? One of those customers liked what you had to offer and shared it on social media. It does not matter if it is an influencer or not, if it gets traction, you’re suddenly an internet sensation. 

Of course, not all social media presence will get viral. Frankly, the chances are thin. But that doesn’t make social media any less valuable for businesses. Organic social media marketing is gold when it comes to brand awareness and building a community with your customers.

On the other hand, social media can also bring negative publicity, and even close your shop (as quickly as a bad location). Especially in today’s society when there’s zero tolerance for political incorrectness. Even if it’s something your employee posted, a personal opinion of theirs, it can trace back to your business and ruin your reputation.

For that reason, we’ve made a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of social media for business owners such as yourself, and how to respond to those.

Pros of social media for business

The list of pros of social media for businesses is long and dynamic. But we’ve managed to encapsulate the most important aspects.

Advertising

As Alexi Laine, from Black Belonging Matters, says, “one advantage of using social media for business is the ease in which businesses can set up and run ads.

The set up process on most social media sites is almost intuitive. They allow businesses to quickly and easily adjust or correct ads without needing marketing expertise, and without relying on a traditional advertiser. Which can’t really be said for Google Ads.

No matter what time of day it is, the business owner can add, delete or correct ads to their heart’s desire. The turn around for ad approval is typically much faster than other mediums as well.”

Cost-effectiveness

“One advantage of using social media to market your business is that it’s incredibly cost-effective. Even with running paid campaigns, the return on investment is high and you have the added value of getting market insights, additional brand awareness, and a direct connection to your customers even if you are only relying on organic social media tactics”, says Ricardo Mello from ManhattanMiami.

Community

According to Pedro Campos, Founder of Advertongue, “social media allows businesses to not only build relationships with prospective customers and existing ones, but also to create a community around the brand. A community is essentially goodwill, it´s a long-term strategy between the business and the audience that builds tangible and intangible results beyond just brand loyalty.”

To build a community, be noticed and actively followed on social media requires a lot more than posting promotional content. In the words of Samuel Scott, “the basic rule is that people follow other human beings and emotional topics on social media. In general, people use social media to catch up on the news, connect with friends and family, and follow politicians, causes, celebrities, sports teams, influencers, and entertainers. They do not follow mustard and dishwashing soap brands.

So, if your company does fall into one of those categories, then social media can work wonders. People will engage with and share posts that provoke emotional responses. While organic reach is practically zero on Facebook, a good advertisement with some paid support can still get massive reach. But typically that is possible in only these niche industries.

And if your target audience is Generation Z, then social media is a no-brainer – especially newer networks such as TikTok. Even better, the ad offerings of these platforms are still in their infancy and have not reached the point where organic reach will likely be cut there as well.”

Networking

“One advantage of social media is growing your professional network, especially during the pandemic when we can’t network in person. I reach out to at least 10 new people a day on LinkedIn and have made some excellent connections, and even gotten new clients, by doing so”, says Emily Weisgrau from Weiswood Strategies.

Yes, in-person networking events were replaced with virtual ones, but that doesn’t mean you should wait for events to grow your network. Facebook groups, for example, are breeding ground for new connections. Join a few groups that resonate with your business and you’ll not only grow your network but your business knowledge as well.

Influencers

The new retail trends suggest gone is the day of superstar influencers, and people turned to nano-influencers for product opinions and recommendations.

“Social media hosts influencer content which is an example of authentic media. Consumers trust influencers, and when influencers (or brand ambassadors) demonstrate genuine excitement about their favorite brands, that excitement overflows onto engaged followers”, says Ken Fortney from GRIN.

One deal with the right influencer can position your brand at the top of the market a lot quicker and easier than multiple marketing efforts combined together. You just have to find the perfect person who stands for the same values as your brand and whose followership matches your target audience.

Brand loyalty

“I think an often overlooked advantage is improving brand loyalty”, says Kelsey from CocoSign, “it is one thing to get customers, it’s another to engage your already existing customer base. Using social media posts, infographics, articles, videos and other forms of content, you can keep your customers engaged. Make them feel like a part of the family by providing them with incentives and see them stay loyal to you even if your direct competitors come with more tempting offers.”

Small businesses often make the mistake to think of social media only as a magnet for new customers. In fact, the social networks are perfect to nourish your existing customer base.

Strategic positioning

As Maria Tudor from Rolzo puts it, “social media channels are fantastic means to optimise your strategic positioning in relation to competitors. For example, having an active LinkedIn page has enabled us to compare ourselves with other industry players on key performance metrics and adjust our communications strategy accordingly. As a result, we have optimised our social media content, bringing our engagement rate above that of established companies in the sector.”

Market data

In recent years, all social media platforms introduced analytics where you can find data like who your followers are, how engaged are they with your content, what type of gets most traction etc. Draw conclusions from this data and do not take it for granted. In the past, businesses would pay gold to get this kind of information.

Moreover, social media users are keen on leaving feedback and reviews. Even when it’s not direct. For example, a follower left you a comment that he’s satisfied with your product but it took him forever to get his hands on it. What they basically say is that you have to improve your distribution network and find new/more vendors.

SEO

What every business that’s present online fights for is better SEO rankings. The benefits of SEO are well known but the practices to increasing your rankings are a constant topic of discussion among experts. However, social media presence undoubtedly is a big plus.

Deepak Shukla, the co-founder of Serpwizz, notes that a clear advantage of social media marketing is that it helps to establish E-A-T (expertise, authority and trustworthiness). This combination has been announced by Google as a frontrunner for its 2021 analytics push. Regular social media updates, network connections and customer interaction all help establish brand credibility. It’s also great for your SEO rankings!

Growth

The more people follow and engage with your content, the bigger the chances to convert them, thus increase your sales. With the right social media content plan, you can not only grow your followership but also your sales. In today’s world, social media is the first place consumers check for information about a brand. 

So make sure you have the right social media mix. In other words, not all networks will be suitable for your type of business. For B2B, usually,  TikTok or Instagram will be a bad choice. But for B2C it’s the place you should be. Facebook plays on both sides. Pinterest is perfect for D2C businesses with creative undertone.

Cons of social media for business

With the good, always comes the bad, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Except to be aware of it and keep it under control as much as possible. Check these disadvantages of using social media for business and always have them in mind.

Restrictions

Sure we like to believe in a democracy everyone can say and advertise anything, but that’s not the case. With the rise of fake news and similar issues, many social networks introduced restrictions.

Alexi Laine goes on to say that depending on the industry, you may find yourself an unintended collateral damage:

“For example, Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, and Twitter, have all instituted restrictions on advertising as a result of the Presidential election. The move was reportedly designed to reduce election interference.

Included in the restriction on advertising are ads related to social justice. My company, which runs ads relating to employment equity for Black people, has been shut out of advertising during this period.

I wouldn’t go as far to say the restriction was designed to suppress Black voices, but it certainly has had that effect.”

Privacy

I believe we all remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when personal details of over 86 million Facebook users were used for political campaigning, without their consent. TikTok, although relatively new in the social media game, got its share of privacy accusations too, ending up being banned in several countries.

This brings us to a conclusion that social media are unsafe thus imposing your customers’ data at risk. In fact, it’s not even your data.

Reputation damage

One of the biggest cons of using social media for business is that sometimes it is difficult to draw a fine line between personal sentiments and professional acumen” says Kelsey Chan. 

In the same manner,  she continues to explain, “should your social media handler be too preoccupied with trending posts and hashtags, they may go overboard and make posts that will endanger your brand’s reputation. Take, for example, when McDonalds tweeted about Trump being a ‘disgusting excuse of a President’. They stepped over the line and may have gone too personal. The backlash was too difficult to handle for them.”

Tracking ROI

Sure there are many tools that claim to track ROI on social media marketing but the figures will never be 100% right. It’s hard to understand how much of your profit comes from social media because likes and comments only serve your ego, and not your business.

Sure you can try keeping track of the purchases coming from social media, but only those you’re aware of, and there could be many more which you’re oblivious of.

Trolls

Trolls are everywhere. They crawl up to your page and leave their nasty comments and reviews hoping to bring you down. They are miserable, annoying and everyone hates them. Yet, they can influence presidential elections. Unfair, right?

Well, life isn’t fair and neither is business. 

So if they can have such a huge impact on who’s going to run the biggest economy in the world, imagine what they can do to your tiny business. Sooner or later, every business is faced with trolls on social media, so you better prepare for them. Don’t let them paint an inaccurate picture of your brand. Learn at the best of your ability how to deal with negative reviews and rude people in the comment section. They can smell fear, so don’t give them that satisfaction.

Time-consuming

Sure social media is a budget-friendly marketing solution for businesses, but that also makes it time-consuming. Because if you don’t want to outsource or hire a social-media-savvy youngster, you’ll be doing it all by yourself. And that takes time.

Ricardo Mello is right when he says that “the time spent on creating and curating content is a disadvantage of marketing your business on social media. It takes time to find content to

share, design graphics, or create videos – not to mention the effort put into hashtag research and engaging with other accounts.”

That becomes even a bigger challenge if you’re not the tech fellow who knows Canva like the back of their hand or can quickly set up auto-publishing apps.

As Marcos Brisson from Kaizntree vividly describes it “it’s a black hole. Once you start using social media, it’s so easy to lose yourself into prioritising it over other business activities. There’s this false perception that businesses need to be active, need to post daily, need to do this and that. It’s too easy to overestimate its importance.”

Short-lived trends

“Social media trends are extremely difficult to keep up with. Within the same week, your marketing team drops everything else to plan, produce, and share content or risk losing a chance to glow brilliantly for your followers every time a new trend comes out. The world is always changing, and so is social media. What works for you today may be totally pointless tomorrow” says Jason Wong, founder of DoeLashes.

Or, as Pedro Campos says, “social media is a real job, it takes a lot of work and patience, it´s like a hungry monster that´s never satisfied. It requires you to be consistent and creative with content creation and learn from the things that didn´t work, most won´t by the way. You have to prepared to show up over and over again, be willing to fail, and try new approaches because what worked 6 months ago might not work today, on social media.”

Crazy algorithms

The algorithms are constantly changing and it’s hard to keep up with them. Take Instagram for example, two years ago everyone got their fair share of likes or comments regardless if they were an influencer or a John Doe. Nowadays, it feels like that to get engagement, even from your sister and brother, Mercury shouldn’t be in retrograde, roses should be in bloom on Antarctica and clocks should tick backwards.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are numerous pros and cons of using social media for business. However, it all falls upon whether you can learn from your mistakes, and invest enough time in creating a strategy on how you will deal with social media engagement. After all, it is a powerful tool and you must take advantage of it.

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