Over the last five years social media has grown in importance as a communication and marketing platform for businesses.
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn, have huge numbers of users and have become essential cost-effective tools to help boost businesses marketing and public relations activities.
Bill McCartney of Bill McCartney Social Media Consultancy and Training explains, “Social media has extensively grown in the last five years but it is essential that it is part of your overall communications and marketing strategy and not something you merely pay lip service too.
“Often overlooked or executed poorly, social media when used strategically can make a real difference to any organisation by allowing them to directly engage with their target customers. It is imperative that when utilising these platforms that you consider three key building blocks; engagement, advertising and being mobile.
“The latest OFCOM report stated that more than half of the Internet users in Northern Ireland (58%) access Facebook, Twitter and similar services online either at home or on the move, however it is apparent that most local businesses don’t understand how to use social media effectively for their business.
“The statistics show a clear need for small businesses to engage in social media. It allows SMEs to reach the right audience, with the right message at the right time. It also allows them to effectively compete with larger companies by focusing on a niche market.
“Of course you can engage your targeted audience through advertising and for not a lot of money you can have an extremely effective result. Social media is more about being a resource than a sales pitch. It’s telling your business story through good imagery and meaningful conversations. Each approach can stand-alone however a combination of both is particularly powerful.
“Smartphone ownership is up from 45% to 55% in the past year and Northern Ireland has the highest rate of tablet ownership across the UK. With additional improvements in 3G and the introduction of 4G technology in Belfast in early 2014 the message is that businesses need to be able to ensure their online content is mobile friendly.
“LinkedIn is also a great resource; it is a business orientated social networking service. It allows you to connect with people and build mutually beneficial relationships. On LinkedIn, professionals spell out their skills and expertise as well as show case studies and recommendations.
“Effectively using social media platforms, an SME can stand shoulder to shoulder with a much larger firm on the platform, sharing company stories and industry happenings, which can establish an SME as experts in their field.
“A single like on Facebook or follower on Twitter is often overlooked, however it is statistically proven that SME followers are more likely to be engaged, advocate the brand and recommend a company to their friends.
“This is reinforced by a recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK stating that approximately 80% of consumers would be more likely to buy from a brand with a strong social media presence.
“The importance of social media to SMEs should not be undermined, and local businesses in Northern Ireland need to engage or risk getting left behind. There has never been a better time for SME’s to ‘Think Social’,” concludes Bill McCartney.
Bill McCartney is the only Official LinkedIn EMEA Talent Solutions Partner in Northern Ireland. He is also a subject matter expert with the Digital Marketing Institute, a social media trainer for SureSkills and a preferred social media instructor for the Institute of Sales and Marketing in Dubai.
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For further information on Bill McCartney, visit www.billmccartney.co.uk or search on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.