Nowadays you’ll be hard-pushed to find someone who isn’t connected in some way, shape or form online – from Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn to Pinterest, there’s an account or app to keep us in tune with the world and people around us. But now it’s so commonplace, is social media actually that valuable to your business?

The answer is a resounding yes. A new report compiled by Hootsuite and We Are Social, published by The Next Web, found that there are 3,028 billion active social media users around the world. Let that number sink in for a moment. It’s a huge community to tap in to, and undoubtedly a valuable asset to have support the growth of your business. The challenge is ensuring you will be seen and heard amongst such a vast ocean of competitors and peers.

So how can you use social media to your advantage?

1. Social media helps increase your business visibility and, let’s face it, it’s one of the most profitable digital marketing platforms out there. If you put yourself online consistently and are actively engaging with other businesses or individuals – whether they are local to you or the other side of the globe – you will start to see your online presence grow. One thing for sure is it’s important to be authentic, be yourself and see social media not just as a means of pitching your business, but also a space to engage genuinely and naturally too. (Read here: What switches people off social media?)

2. You achieve better awareness of what your customers actually want through interacting with them on social media and seeing what type of content works. This is one of the greatest advantages of social media. By keeping up to date with your industry (and also other industries too, which can be packed with unexpected inspiration), you are able to see what is working and what isn’t. By engaging with your customers, you can start to see their particular interests, who they follow, what posts they like and who they are interacting with.

3. You have the ability to have more authority over your brand and how it is perceived by customers. Communication is key when it comes to running your business. Customers like to see that they’re being heard and their queries are responded to. A new survey has found that…

84% of consumers expect companies to respond within 24 hours after posting on social media, while 72% of Twitter complainants expect a response within an hour.

So, as you can see, the high expectations are there – and as a business owner, it’s for you to meet them. Therefore, if you are seen responding to customer’s queries online, this will help to depict a positive image for the customer and their loyalty to your brand.

4. Social media is also great for promoting your business in a space where relevant conversations are already happening. Facebook is one of the best for this. So many people use social media to seek out and ask for recommendations – whether it’s a gardener or someone who teaches music. If a customer has a good experience with a business, they are more than likely going to recommend them and so a cycle of hugely advantageous word-of-mouth marketing beings.

5. Through engaging with customers, being consistent and posting great content, you’ll start to see your strong online presence translate into followers and positive engagement, which can then result in an increase of traffic to your website and sales. If you aren’t investing your time into social media, then you’ll find you’re also not tapping into a massive audience that may otherwise never hear of you. There’s literally billions of would-be customers at your fingertips.

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