Social Media 101

Social media is all around us but its impact on small businesses is still difficult to calculate. Some posts seem to go viral within a day while others struggle despite months of advertising and planning. This blog introduces the basics of social media, the myriad platforms, and first steps to forming your business’s social media strategy.

What is social media and why is it important?

Social media is defined as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content” by Merriam-Webster.

In the recent years, social media has become a business opportunity. It cuts across industries, geographies, demographics, and organizations. With the right marketing and targeting, a business can access and engage millions of users. As of January 2018, 19% of the population in Ghana are active social media users and the average user spends about 3 hours a day using social media.

There are companies who’ve built brilliant social media campaigns that have driven customer engagement, such as Zen Garden and The Republic Bar & Grill in Accra. But there are just as many, if not more, businesses that have been hindered or left behind because of disastrous or undefined social media strategies.

Platform possibilities

There are many possible social media platforms that you can engage in, and we’ve listed out the biggest or most talked about ones below.

  • Facebook - the largest and most commonly used social media platform. Individuals, businesses, and groups can create their own profiles and accounts to interact with others through wall posts, private messages, reactions, and more.

  • Instagram - a photo and video sharing platform that is owned by Facebook, Inc. Its simple and laser-focus on photos features (such as “Shoppable” features) has made it a popular platform for advertisers, influencers, and businesses.

  • WhatsApp Messenger - a simple messaging and voice over IP service that is owned by Facebook, Inc. Users can create groups, message, call, and send documents and user locations.

  • Facebook Messenger - standalone messenger app by Facebook, Inc. Users can send messages, videos, and files. Most recently, users can also interact with businesses’ customer service teams as well as artificial intelligence (such as scheduling meetings).

  • YouTube - video-sharing website owned by Alphabet. Users can load, view, share, and comment on videos. Most popular content genres include movie trailers, music videos, TV clips and video blogging (like tutorials).

  • Snapchat - messaging app that sends ephemeral videos, pictures, and messages (media that can be available to view just once or within 24-hours). It was originally seen as a more exclusive or private social media platform.

  • Twitter - news and social networking service where users post and respond to “tweets” that are within 280 characters. It has a smaller active user base but is very influential - especially with politicians, celebrities, and journalists.

  • LinkedIn - a professional and employment-oriented platform that is owned by Microsoft. It’s mainly used for business-related networking, job seeking, and recruiting.

  • Pinterest - an image-based application that helps users find, organize, and catalogue ideas on the internet mostly in the form of images and videos.

Choosing the right platform

According to Graphic Online, the most popular social media platforms in Ghana as of early 2018 are Whatsapp (used by 30% of the population) and Facebook (used by 28% of the population).

Social media platforms vary vastly and it’s critical to choose the platform that best aligns with your business strategy and targets your audience members. To determine which platform to use, you should consider the following factors:

  • Which platforms do my audience members (customers, suppliers, business partners) use and for what purpose?

  • What kind of content can I create or interact with on this platform?

  • How do I engage with my audience members on this platform?

  • What brands and organizations fit into this platform, and does my business fit in?

Social media strategy, framework, and goals

Managing your company’s social media presence is an ongoing practice of creating and measuring your performance on different platforms. It’s important to make sure your social media approach is aligned with your overall business strategy and that it’s consistently adding business value to your organization. This social media framework was developed by Ben Shields, a Senior Lecturer MIT Sloan.

The first step is to identify which business goals you want your social media strategy to contribute to. There are four different ways that social media attain value for business goals:

  • Revenue-based: generating sales and income is the most direct way of social media strategy. You can see this frequently in Instagram’s “Shoppable” features and other advertisements.

  • Brand-based: growing the company’s brand externally by strengthening relationships with stakeholders (can be existing or potential customers and vendors)

  • Operational-based: benefiting the company internally and financially by saving time and money

  • Cultural-based: building organizational development, such increasing employee engagement and satisfaction in business

Next, you should evaluate who the target audience is based on the goal and which platform is most relevant to those audience members. If your business includes multiple brands or products, you need to identify which brands will be used on which platforms. Designing the appropriate content is critical because it would deliver the right message to the audience and represents your brand and the platform used. After distributing the content, it’s vital to measure the success of your social media campaign - whether it’s based on number of likes, comments, or other metrics based on your business goal.