If your business isn’t using social media, it could be losing ground on those competitors that are as a presence on one or more social network is a must for all forward thinking marketing departments.

The trouble is, the number of social networks out there can leave you confused as to the most effective ways to target potential and existing customers as each can be used for everything from content marketing, to customers relations, to brand-awareness – the trick is to weigh up the pros and cons of each to work out which works best for your business.

Social media by numbers

Social networking didn’t begin with Facebook – but it’s fair to say that its arrival on our screens back in 2006 was the catalyst for the social media revolution that has seen the number of active users rise to an estimated 2.3 billion, according to figures from Brandwatch – that’s about a third of the world’s population.

These figures also reveal how the number of social media users grew by a staggering 176 million in the last year alone, with around 12 new accounts opening every second.

And while there are a fair number of social networks to choose from, each of which offers its own USP, there are two platforms that stand out from the rest – Facebook and Twitter.

Of the 2.5 billion social network users across the globe, Facebook currently has an estimated 1.7 billion users, while Twitter has around 320 million, but while other platforms have more active users than Twitter – YouTube has over 1 billion users,, Whatsapp has 900 million, and Instagram 400 million – it still sits alongside Facebook as one of the big two social networks, not least because it’s a really effective content marketing tool.

So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of social media marketing, paying particular attention to both Facebook and Twitter…

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Which social networks are right for your business?

The pros and cons of Social media marketing

If you’re in any doubt as to the merits of using social media as part of your content marketing strategy, here are some of the latest statistics on social media for business:

It’s also worth considering that it’s an effective way to connect directly with millions of potential customers from around the globe.

Even if you have to eventually go down the route of paid social media campaigns in order to reach a greater number or more targeted customers, you can try out any of them for free initially and work out which ones work best for you.

Social media marketing – the pros

  • Most, if not all, social networks are free to join and use, making it a cost-effective way to get your brand message across, and directly target and engage with customers.
  • While ‘traditional’ marketing techniques, such as magazine, TV and radio advertising, cater for a fixed audience of regular readers and listeners, but the global nature of social media means you can potentially reach a worldwide audience with every single post, and cater to a wide range of demographics,regardless of age, sex, or social status. And if you do want to narrow things down to reach a particular demographic, there is usually the option to do so, but this will be as part of a paid campaign.
  • Most social media streams work in real-time, and so social media marketing is ideal if you need to quickly get a message across to your customers and influence them at any stage of the purchasing funnel, particularly handy if your business has flash sales.
  • The conversational nature of social media means it is a great way to generate interaction with customers and, when done correctly, encourage brand loyalty, and quickly resolve any customer complaints or queries.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING – THE cons

  • If you think social media marketing means simply writing a couple of Tweets a week, or answering the odd question on Facebook, think again – social media marketing is time consuming, with marketers spending between six and eleven hours a week on social media, as a minimum.
  • Having a presence on social media means your brand can generate negative comments, ranging from complaints about products or services to outright malicious comments, all of which can damage your reputation. So it’s vital you handle any criticisms swiftly and have a company wide policy for dealing with malicious comments in a timely and professional manner.
  •  While social media marketing offers an effective way to reach a global audience, it can be difficult to accurately measure the return on investment (ROI), even with the wide range of analytics packages out there. And although social networks offer free platforms for you to post on, more often than not you’ll need to plan paid campaigns to get the best results – it’s worth noting though, that this can still work out to be a lot cheaper than other forms of marketing.

Facebook vs. Twitter

Facebook

  • The ability to find people/businesses is very easy to use and highly efficient. Upon logging on to Facebook it automatically suggests friends you may know or businesses in your area. This gives the user the option to become friends so their updates appear in your news feed.
  • Facebook’s user interface is said to be one of the easiest to navigate. Resulting in the increase of people using Facebook as a communication platform. More people are using Facebook as a line of communication rather than a pastime.
  • Facebook paid adverts brings a whole new medium of advertisement. As people enter information about themselves on Facebook e.g. Gender, age, location, etc. Facebook advertising can directly market certain demographics.
  • Facebook allows you to have a wealth of information about you or your company and you can even create business pages that people can “like”.
  • Facebook chat allows you to have personal conversations with other friends/business contacts.

Twitter

  • Similar to Facebook, when you “follow” people their updates or “tweets” appear in your feed. This keeps you up-to-date with the people you are following.
  • Unlike Facebook you can follow anyone in the world with a Twitter account. They do not have to accept you, however they can block you from seeing their updates. This can literally give you a worldwide reach.
  • Twitter only allows quick 140 character updates. This increases the response rate to your posts as people are more likely to read and comment on short comments than long stories.
  • Twitter only allows you to have a limited profile for personal or company information.
  • It is easily used to spam followers

It’s not all about Facebook and Twitter though, so if you need a heads up on what to expect from some of the other popular social networks currently out there, check out this infographic from, visual content designers, Visage

pros-cons-social-networks-infographic
The pros and cons of social networking

How does your business use social media? Let us know in the comments section below…