When we think about online marketing (or digital marketing), social media is often the term that springs to mind. 
Social media is certainly an incredibly powerful tool for creating and engaging with a specific target audience. Some businesses rely on it completely, choosing to go without a website and communicate solely through their social media accounts. 
However, whilst this can work, it’s not an approach we’d recommend. Instead, we see your website as the hub of your online marketing strategy, and social media as one of the spokes that radiates from its centre.  
And, like any element that forms part of a whole, social media works best when not used alone. It’s an important part of your digital marketing strategy – but not something that can replace it, or your website. 

Social media offers many advantages… 

A unique benefit of social media is its ability to let you tap into specific audiences and put your message in front of them almost instantly (social media is the fastest way to spread the word – even quicker than TV and radio!).  
It also enables you to respond to questions and comments straightaway, improving perceptions of the customer service you offer and helping you get to know your audience better. 
Even if your social media accounts don’t have a huge fanbase, these are people who’ve chosen to follow your business. This means that what you say is likely to be interesting and relevant, so they’re more likely to engage with your messaging.  
You know exactly who you’re talking to, which isn’t the case with some forms of digital marketing such as blog posts and online advertising.  
Using the Insights tools linked to most platforms, you can find out even more about your followers and use this information to refine your messaging. 
Through your social media accounts, your followers are free to tell you – and the world – what they think about your business by liking, commenting on, and sharing your content.  
This includes sharing content not originally posted on social media, such as blog posts, email campaigns, and links to pages on your website. This can give your brand awareness a serious boost, making social media an indispensable part of your wider online presence. 
Of course, you’ll also be posting links to your other online content yourself. Your digital marketing activities can therefore become seamlessly linked via social media, increasing your online ‘reach’ and multiplying the effectiveness of each individual element within your strategy. 
A particularly strong example of how this can work is remarketing. This is targeted advertising that displays relevant adverts on the websites a person visits, based on what they’ve typed into search engines.  
A common place for remarketing adverts to appear is social media channels, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn. 
So, if someone who’s never heard of you displays an interest in the type of products and services you offer, your business could be placed in front of them next time they’re on social media.  
From there, it’s just a simple click to ‘Like’ your Facebook page or connect with you on LinkedIn – and they’re part of your audience from that moment on. 
Another important link between social media and your wider digital marketing strategy is search engine optimisation (SEO).  
If your website is the hub of your strategy, then SEO should be its cornerstone. Using social media effectively can help your business fly up the Google rankings. 
It’s easy to include hashtags and keywords in your posts, helping people find you online and driving increased traffic to your website through strategic links.  
Interactive elements such as videos and infographics will attract people to your posts; these can quickly be shared and even on occasion become viral. Search engines love this stuff! 

…but there are also drawbacks 

Like all the tools you’ll use for digital marketing, social media has cons as well as pros. One of these is lack of control.  
Yes, you’ll create the content that goes onto your accounts, but once it’s out there the control stops. Anyone can post negative comments about your business or leave you a bad review – and there’s nothing you can do about it. 
Social media also relies on you being reactive and proactive. You need to commit to creating regular content, not just for the social media posts, but also content you can link to and from, such as blogs and email campaigns.  
Add in the necessity to continuously interact with your followers and it can all get very time-consuming. 
There’s also the fact that social media use is declining. There are doubtless various reasons for this, but a spate of privacy scandals hasn’t helped matters.  
In July 2019, The Guardian reported that Facebook use fell 20% after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in April 2018. And before that, Facebook itself announced a 5% drop in use after changes made in 2017 altered how content was displayed. 5% may not sound a lot, but at the time it equated to a massive 50 million fewer hours spent on the platform. 
Of course, millions of people around the world still use social media. But the decline in use and other changing trends are things to keep an eye on. 

In conclusion 

There’s no doubt that, used effectively and as part of a well-structured online marketing strategy, social media offers a host of benefits.  
However, as noted at the beginning of this article, all roads will eventually lead back to your website. 
So, before you even think about launching your business into the world of social media, take the time to get your website right first.  
If you’d like help doing this, get in touch with it'seeze Web Design Twickenham to find out more about the one of a kind websites and affordable web design packages we offer. 
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