3.5 billion people are active on social media – that’s nearly half of the world’s population! And with such a strong audience, it’s easy to feel like going on social media is an inescapable part of any marketing strategy.
After all, you need to meet your audience where they’re at, and it’s safe to say they’re on social media.
But just because it seems so popular doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for everyone. Done incorrectly, social media marketing can be expensive and confusing – without yielding real results.
Here’s everything you need to know about the pros and cons of using social media for marketing.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Before we dive into the details, it’s important to explain what we mean by the term “social media marketing.” At its most basic, it is a blanket term that covers any way you try to connect with your audience via the major social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok.
The goal of using social media? To:
- Grow sales
- Drive traffic to your website
- Build your brand
- Create lasting relationships with your customers.
The challenge is to figure out what kind of social media presence you want to have and what social media platform you want to use. Are you going to be fun, straightforward, educational, salesy? Are you going to go on Instagram or TikTok?
If you run a professional business like a recruiting firm, for example, you may be more at home on LinkedIn. 40 million people search for jobs on LinkedIn each week, and there are 3 million jobs posted on the platform each month. This makes it the professional’s dream social media platform.
If you sell clothes or something visually appealing, Instagram might be the home for you. After all, it’s the most visual, image-based social media platform out there. If you’re funny, take your talents to Twitter, the platform that’s all about getting your message across in 280 characters or less. You get the picture – each option serves its purpose.
But before you delve into all of that, you need to figure out if you even want to be on social to begin with. Here are 10 pros and 10 cons to help you decide.
The Pros: The Top 10 Benefits of Social Media
About 51% of the world’s population – and a whopping 83% of internet users – are on social media. Being on such a huge platform comes with a slew of benefits, including:
1. Direct connection with your customers
On social media, you have a direct and unfiltered connection with your customers. This is super difficult to achieve via any other medium. Think about it: in a brick-and-mortar store, you can only get face-to-face contact with a few people. During that contact, you have very little control over how they interact and where the conversation goes. On social media, you have much more control over the situation. You also have a much broader reach.
Many customers have come to expect this kind of availability. More than one in three users will look for a social media profile before they make a decision about a brand or product. What’s more, 49% of people check others’ opinions on social before making a purchasing decision.
The opportunity for a great connection is there. To get this right, you have to think through exactly what you want that connection to look like. That way, you can streamline your messaging for your audience. And this is crucially important: if your messaging doesn’t connect with your customers or you don’t have quick responses to your audience’s comments or questions, your online presence will backfire….fast.
2. Increased brand awareness
This is about sheer numbers. Again, nearly half the world is on social media. If you want to spread the word to a broader audience, going onto social media platforms is like using the world’s ultimate megaphone.
But does your business need a megaphone? When answering this question, think about your product or service when weighing your options here. Do you have a mom-and-pop furniture store? If so, then maybe a ton of extra awareness isn’t what you need. That said, if you want to start online orders or you offer a virtual service, it could be just the trick.
Getting this part right is all about truly understanding your audience and targeting accordingly to make sure that your content shows up to the right people, at the right place, at the right time.
On Facebook, specifically, you can join groups or make ads that reach people based on factors like age, geographic location, and search history. For example, if you offer professional hanging services, you can target people in your area that have looked for paintings or frames. Pretty cool if you have your audience’s details down pat.
3. Increased website traffic
The proof here is in the numbers: almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic. So if you’re trying to spread the word and get more eyes on your website, it’s a great place to start. This can be as easy as posting regularly and making sure that you respond quickly to your online engagement.
That said, you don’t just want any traffic, you want qualified traffic. These are people that actually want to work with you or buy your product or service. Qualifying your traffic, just like increasing awareness, is all about understanding your customers so you know who they are and how to reach them.
In other words, you have to do your research. If you truly relate to your customers and “speak their language,” your traffic will grow more quickly and consistently.
4. Understanding what your customers think
If your customers love a certain product or found themselves unhappy with customer service, they’ll be sure to let you know on social media. It’s perfectly acceptable for people to engage with brands on social media and share their likes, gripes, and everything in between.
For this reason, you’ll get far more engagement on social media than you would anywhere else. This can be a valuable tool that can help you both see what’s working and identify areas of improvement quickly and efficiently.
How? Simply look in the comments and see what people are thinking. When you offer a certain service like professional home improvement help, do you get a lot of interest? If you post about a certain product, do people comment that it doesn’t work? Pay attention to this conversation. You can drive the dialogue by asking straightforward questions, and you’re sure to get many more responses than you would on a traditional survey.
5. Higher conversion rates
Where there are more qualified people, there’s more money. To be clear, this is about more than sheer quantity. It’s about building an audience of people that love your business and regularly buy from you.
With a regular social media presence, you have the opportunity to continue building relationships with that audience. This can help you remain top-of-mind for customers that might otherwise totally forget about your product or service after their first purchase.
This can be a game-changer: 66% of return customers spend more money on brands that they love while getting a new customer can cost a whopping 5x more money than keeping an existing one. So keeping your existing relationships can mean better conversions.
Again, though, you have to evaluate whether or not you can truly keep up your social media presence to make this happen. To increase conversions, you must:
- Understand your customers’ interests
- Create regular posts that speak to those interests
- Respond quickly to comments and direct messages
- Engage with the broader industry.
- Follow best practices, like using customer testimonials to drive sales or adding a link in your Instagram bio.
If you can’t do these things, it may not be worth your effort.
6. Taking on the competition
If you have a competitor that’s nipping at your heels, your social media presence can help set you apart.
Say, for example, that a customer is debating where to go for dinner. They look online and see that one of the contenders has amazing pictures on social media, while the other restaurant has no online presence at all. Chances are they’re going to choose the restaurant with the pictures. The food looks delicious and the comments are positive – so they’re immediately sold.
This kind of thing plays out every day. That’s why social media can be incredibly effective at tipping the scales in your favor. This is especially true if you have a social cause or a brand personality that you want to get out there to connect with your customers.
7. High return on investment of advertising campaigns (if done right)
Ad costs can get out of control, and it’s much more difficult to redistribute funds or cap budgets with things like flyers, billboards, and magazine ads. Social media ads, on the other hand, can be much less costly and much more effective. And people really click: 92% of Instagram users say they’ve followed a brand, clicked on their website, or made a purchase after seeing a product/service on the platform. Similarly, worldwide, the average Facebook user has clicked 12 ads in the last 30 days.
In other words, people are looking and they’re clicking on the ads that they’re interested in. That said, these costs can skyrocket without the right messaging and targeting, so you must hone in on these aspects to get this part right. This goes back to truly understanding your customers and making sure you’re putting out the most appropriate content for them. Do your research, and don’t just guess.
8. Save money overall
Social media is fast-paced and low-priced. In many cases, it offers free passive advertising just by showing up on your audience’s feed. The trick here is to take advantage of the free modes of engagement that social media has to offer (rather than focusing on paid ads). This could be things like hashtags and live stories, although these modes admittedly don’t yield a very high ROI.
That said, it could also be as simple as organic engagement via social media platforms. Organic engagement, as the name implies, is when your audience finds you naturally. That means you’re not paying for their engagement. And it can really work: 96% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to increase organic engagement, and they find success.
They may take longer to yield results, but you could save buckets of money over time if you get the right message to the right people at a consistent pace.
9. Build company culture
If you’re looking to build company culture and engagement, social media is a great place to make that happen. And this isn’t possible elsewhere. After all, a study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies showed that just 4% of consumers believe that marketers and advertisers practice integrity. That means they don’t trust what “official” ads have to say. Yikes.
On social media, you don’t have that same barrier. That means you can break the ice and build trust with your audience by:
- Giving users a “behind the scenes” look at your company
- Showcasing testimonials
- Giving people the opportunity to be a part of your community.
10. Grow your team
Remember, it’s not just about the people buying from you. It’s also about the people who make up your company and your team. Well, classic ads and job boards are much less frequented today than they were 10 years ago. On social media, you can attract people that might not even be actively looking for a job. You can also get a better sense of who they are and if they align with your company and its values.
This can be as simple as continuing to post regularly and honing in on your brand messaging and your unique voice. When you do that, the people that connect to that messaging will already be on your page. Many of those people may be interested in a job, and it’ll be easy to make a post about your openings and start a conversation.
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The Cons: The 10 Biggest Drawbacks of Social Media Marketing
With the sweet inevitably comes the sour, and everyone knows that things can often go wrong on social media platforms. Here are the top disadvantages to keep your eye out for.
1. You’ll receive negative feedback
If there’s one thing that social media is famous for, it’s social media trolling. Your business will inevitably have to face negative feedback and backlash, even if you have the best of intentions.
Think about your team’s ability to respond to that feedback and stay above the fray before you take the social plunge. What will you stand for? Will you respond to trolls with kindness? Humor? Having a well-thought-out plan can help you respond quickly and effectively when negative feedback comes.
To this end, your strategy could be to:
- Kill them with kindness
- Be humorous
- Respond with facts
- Be aloof, etc.
The options are limitless, but you do need a strategy.
2. There’s potential for embarrassment
In the same vein, you could lose control of the train, and it can easily fall off the tracks. And an out-of-control social media presence can harm your brand recognition and your relationship with customers.
That’s why navigating this landscape requires deft control and understanding of your messaging. This is even true when it comes to comments and responses to customer complaints and messages. Otherwise, one unscripted moment can lead to major windfall.
For example, if someone says something like, “I hate this company,” come up with a plan about how you will respond. You could be earnest, saying something like, “We’re sorry to hear that! Our customer support team will DM you about how we can do better.” Or will you be funny, saying, “We LOVE all our customers and hope to see you soon.”
In any case, determine your tone and stick to it to maintain control.
3. High advertising costs
Advertising costs on social media can quickly spiral out of control, particularly if you don’t have a firm grasp on your targets or your budget. On Facebook, for example, the average cost per click is $5, and a YouTube ad can cost $10 a day just to run. And these numbers get even higher with paid ads on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. If you have a small business or a low marketing budget, then, this may not be the avenue for you.
Alternatively, if you do want to move forward with some ads, make sure you have an expert working on it to keep the budget under control. The right person will specifically be able to help with targeting and budgeting so unexpected costs don’t spiral out of control.
4. Slow returns on investments
When you’re playing on social media, you’re in the long game. After all, it takes time to build your audience, get your messaging right, and increase brand loyalty and engagement. If you’re looking for a quick ROI, then, social media marketing is not the best way to go.
That said, if you’re interested in the long game, it’s all about:
- Tracking your campaign performance
- Checking out your competition, and
- Doing more of what works.
Did you have one campaign that had five times more engagement than the rest? Do more of that. Do your competitors do something that you’ve never tried? Weave it into your strategy and make your long game strong.
5. Exposure to competitors
On social media, you’re playing with all the big fish…and the small fish…and the medium-sized fish. After all, nearly everyone is online. In this context, it can be difficult to get engagement and to stand out from the crowd.
This is particularly true if you have:
- A smaller business
- Unfocused messaging, or
- A newly established social media presence.
In such instances, it may not be worth the hassle to try to beat the “big guys.”
If this is the case, you can rethink your social media and simply use it as a platform to remain connected with your existing customers. Alternatively, you can find the niche differentiating factor that helps you stand out from everyone else. Do you offer a service customers won’t be able to find elsewhere? Do you stand for a social cause they know nothing about? Make your mark and connect with your people, even if it’s small.
6. You must meet high expectations
Today’s customers have higher expectations than ever before. Think about it: with companies like Amazon, customers have everything they could possibly need (sometimes before they even know they need it).
Even before they start shopping, they can just mention an item and start receiving ads about it. Once they actually go to buy, they experience an intuitive user interface, tons of ultra-personalized messaging, and instant answers to any questions they might have.
It’s personalization and forward-thinking targeting at it’s best. And customers have come to expect that level of hyper-personalization and near-psychic ability from essentially every company that they interact with.
If you’re on social media, you must be ready to meet those expectations or get lost. At the very least, that means you need fast responses, targeted ads, and regular communication.
Meeting ultra-high customer expectations and maintaining your presence on social media requires a lot of time. At a minimum, you should be posting on social media platforms like LinkedIn once a day to remain top of mind (and some platforms, like Twitter, call for even more frequent engagement).
Additionally, someone must be available to comment and respond to customers. This is a significant time investment. If you don’t have the bandwidth, you should stay off the platforms or invest in a service or tool that can help you manage the task.
8. Social media a moving target
Best practices on social media are constantly changing. While Facebook still dominates the social media landscape with 2.8 billion users, new platforms like TikTok – which has 680 million monthly users – are gaining momentum, particularly among younger demographics.
Even within the platforms themselves, there are constantly new features and functionalities that you have to keep in mind. This includes updated features like Instagram Live or reels.
You must be prepared to constantly learn and update your strategies — and this is something you must make time for.
9. It’s hard to grab attention online
If you’re on social media yourself, you know that it’s easy for people to scroll past 90% of the posts they see on the screen. Grabbing attention in this sea of content requires something significant, like a great product or something that triggers emotion (hello, puppy videos). This is hard to produce regularly, and you won’t get engagement if you don’t get it right.
Here, it’s all about getting started and seeing what sticks. Try things like behind-the-scenes videos, customer videos, images about social causes, or jokes. See what your audience responds to and take it from there.
10. You need ultra-qualified staff
You’ve probably already figured this out by now, but getting social media right requires ultra-qualified staff that really know what they’re doing. This can be a significant investment since, when executed properly, it is a full-time job. If you don’t have the bandwidth, it may not be the best avenue for you. You’ll have to hire the people, find an agency, or take some courses yourself to get the qualification you need.
Is Social Media Marketing Right for You?
Social media is undoubtedly a powerful force and an effective tool for many businesses. That said, a strong social media presence isn’t the most straightforward path to success for all organizations, and you must consider the pros and cons before you make the leap.
Our best piece of advice? Remember that it’s always changing, stay prepared, and get ready to do the work to make your online presence grow. And remember, with the average social media user on 9 different platforms, you’re sure to find a place that makes the best home for you.
Want to learn more? Make sure that Social Media Marketing is right for your local business.