In today’s world, if your business is not on social media, it Is a pretty safe bet to say that it does not really exist, or at least, give it a few months, and it won’t exist any more.

So what is social media?

WhatsIt definition: Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.

The “social” part: refers to interacting with other people by sharing information with them and receiving information from them.

The “media” part: refers to an instrument of communication, like the internet (while TV, radio, and newspapers are examples of more traditional forms of media).

Simply put – Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by both sharing and consuming information.

There are a number of examples of social media channels such as

Social networks: Examples: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
Media sharing networks: Examples: Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube
Discussion forums: Examples: reddit, Quora, Digg
Bookmarking and content curation networks: Examples: Pinterest, Flipboard
Consumer review networks: Examples: Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor
Blogging and publishing networks: Examples: WordPress, Tumblr, Medium
Here I will be looking at mainly the first two examples – Social networks and Media sharing networks.

Why people use these networks?

Social networks, sometimes called “relationship networks,” help people and organisations connect online to share information and ideas.

Media sharing networks are mainly used to find and share photos, video, live video, and other media online. Facebook live videos and LinkedIn native vidoes are now included in this.

There are many reasons why as a business owner you should consider using social media, these include: market research, brand awareness, lead generation, relationship building, customer service, education, news and updates, audience engagement, competitor analysis and most of your other social marketing goals.

Let us look at the main key benefits of using social media this year.

Increase brand recognition and loyalty
When you post any content to your social media network, anyone who likes or follows your profile will see it, so whether you’re sharing valuable information or telling a story, you are getting in front of your viewers.

If connections find your content share-worthy and share it to their networks, their followers will see, and then those will share with their followers, and so on, and so on (think of the exponential exposure you would get with the right content!).

Make it easier for your potential customers and collaborators to find and connect with you.

Encourages conversations, engagement and collaboration
It is a two-way channel for communication with your prospects and customers.

Whether you’re there or not, your prospects and customers are looking to social media first to connect with you, so it is advisable to have that online presence. This enables you to communicate with your target audience effectively and efficiently.

The open communication and convenience of social media is extremely beneficial to building deeper relationships with your clients, so it helps with client retention too.

Helps to increase exposure and traffic, also conversions on your website.
Every time you include a link to your website in a social media post, you’re creating new points of entry for your audience to click through to your website.

Let us say you posted a blog on your website and shared it to your profile or business page. Your post gets shared among your network and their followers, and so more people are clicking to read it, and the more people click, the more visits you have to your website.

The more people visit your website, the higher your site ranks on Google, and the higher your site ranks when people search for your industry, the more organic traffic you get to your site.

Find out what your competitors are doing
You can gain key information about your competitors. This kind of information will allow you to make strategic business decisions to stay ahead of them. Would that be online stalking? Not really, but you may call it that.

You always want to know your competitors in the industry are doing and be ahead of the game. Watching what your competitors are sharing and how their audiences are responding will give you an idea of what works and what does not.

You never know, you may even find information which may lead to a collaboration and opportunities to work together with your competition.

Assists in building influence and building relationships
Social media definitely not about blasting your company’s sales pitch online, it is a two-way channel where you have the opportunity to enrich relationships with your customers, suppliers, collaborators and your entire network.

Just like in real life, building a strong relationship takes time. Start by focusing on ways you can provide value to the influencer first, and build from there.

As you start to engage and have conversations with others, the connection grows and they will likely reciprocate the gesture. Do not get too focused on content creation and forget the relationship-building aspect of social media. Listen to what your audiences are saying about you and your brand.

Start using social media in your business now to understand how beneficial it is and apply the above tips to build your personal and business brand.