63% of the UK population use social media every day (Kantar, Connected Life). However, it’s no longer solely used for entertainment purposes. Social media is becoming a primary channel of communication and social interaction. It provides a means to discover new information, look for inspiration, and connect us to potential service providers.
Here are just a few of the many ways that social media is used as a service:
1. It’s a source of news and information
According to research, ‘reading news stories’ is the third most popular reason for using social media in the UK. Facebook is the most popular source of news, followed by Twitter and Whatsapp. However, The Trust in News Study found that 75% of those who get their news via social media will fact check the information elsewhere to verify it.
Therefore, although social media is a key source of news and information, it’s not a trusted one. Due to the rise of ‘fake news’ and how easy it’s become to spread misinformation, people tend to use social media to initially learn about breaking news then will go to more trusted sites like the BBC for the full story.
There’s also a rise in journalists and even politicians using social media to communicate directly with audiences. In fact, 69% of journalists say they use Twitter most in their jobs, despite the general public preferring to get their news from Facebook. This could continue with Elon Musk taking over Twitter as there are claims he is already looking to reinstate people like Donald Trump who use the site as a political platform.
2. Customer service
The way customers engage with companies has changed. Social media has made it easier for consumers to talk to brands directly. Previously, this was used to escalate grievances, however, now social media is used for all types of communications, from general queries to providing feedback (good and bad).
The quality of servicing on social media can also have a significant impact on brand perception. Social content can go viral quickly, potentially turning a small or isolated customer service issue into a threat to brand reputation. This is one of the many reasons why social media as a customer service channel has become an inevitable part of a brand’s social media strategy.
Brands also need to ensure they respond to customer queries in a timely manner. Failure to do so could result in losing a customer or gaining a bad customer service reputation. Facebook only considers your business ‘very responsive’ when it replies within 5 minutes or less. However, even the best Community Manager cannot monitor messages 24hrs a day, so there are many automated options available that provide customised away messages to cover the fort.
As a result, there’s a lot of value in consumers using social media for customer service queries – it’s fast, easy and effective. However, it’s also beneficial for businesses. Social media is a lot more cost effective than a call centre and advances in automated messages means that the ‘human’ has more time to spend on understanding the themes and addressing customer service issues.
3. To help businesses grow
Social media can also help businesses to grow. Building an online presence and demonstrating your products is a great way of building brand awareness – which is particularly important for start-ups and small businesses. For example, there are a number of small businesses like Brand Pierre and Klassy Network which grew thanks to going viral on TikTok.
The use of video on social media is also a great way of marketing your products and services. Research has shown that brand recall from videos is 85% more effective than text which is great for new businesses looking to raise their profile. Also, social videos are shared 1200% more than text and images combined which can help you increase your reach and find new audiences or potential consumers.
4. Primary tool for search
Nearly 40% of Gen Z prefer to use TikTok and Instagram for search over Google, according to Google’s internal data, which suggests that social platforms are slowly overtaking search engines. Therefore, if you want to reach the right audience then you may need to change your marketing approach in order to find them where they spend the most time consuming content – on social media.
This shift in search behaviour is primarily due to the fact that users, and in particular Gen Z, like searching visually. For example, if you are searching for a recipe to follow it may be easier to watch a step-by-step video on TikTok then read text online. This has led to social media platforms changing their offering to capitalise on this behaviour. For example, Pinterest has changed its approach from social and veered almost 100% to becoming a visual search engine.
However, Google is not giving up that easily and is already looking for ways to diversify its offering in order to reach a younger demographic. Some of their latest search innovations like 3D shopping capabilities and multisearch are aimed at making visual search more accessible via Google. Therefore, in the battle of search between Google and the likes of TikTok it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
5. A place to buy and sell
Social commerce is on the rise. It’s easier than ever for brands to sell and for customers to shop due to the likes of Facebook ads and ‘TikTok made me buy it’ recommendations. This allows customers to easily discover products and make a purchase decision without leaving the platform. Therefore, you can drive more sales or conversions because you’re making the consumer journey as simple as possible.
Social media also provides a forum to demonstrate your products and reach new audiences. For example, those who can’t come in store and learn about your brand via a product demonstration can simply go on TikTok and watch how it works in action. The way algorithms work can also help your brand reach an audience who are interested in your offering based on similar content they have consumed.
The brands who understand these social services will win
Brands need to learn that social media is no longer just about entertainment. Of course, funny videos will always have a place in the world, but there are other innovative ways that marketers can reach their target audience. The key is understanding who your audience are and how they behave in order to find where they are. For example, if you are looking to target Gen Z then ensure you have a social media customer service offering and optimise your brand to rank for visual search in order to resonate with this demographic.
For more information contact our expert team today.