Social media has seen a lot of changes in the short time we’ve had it in our lives. Though we use it for everything from idle chatter to heated discussions, perhaps the largest development is how integral it has become to brand awareness, customer service and sales. As the way in which we do business continues to evolve, an active presence on social media has never been more important for companies of all shapes and sizes.
Rich Sutherland is the Managing Director of sobananapenguin, a digital marketing agency in Hull. Whilst the majority of their clients are based in Yorkshire, the team regularly delivers copywriting, social media management and inbound marketing services to organisations around the UK. Passionate about modern marketing, part of the company’s mission is to explain to business owners why communications via social media are so essential to the future of their operations.
“Millennials are people who were born between 1981 and 1996 and those who are categorised as Gen Z were born after 1996,” says Rich. “At the moment, these groups account for 38% of the workforce, which is set to increase to 58% in the next decade. Meanwhile, GlobalWebIndex shows that social media is used just as much as search engines by these generations when researching products and services. It’s crystal clear that social media plays a leading role in both brand growth and retail transactions, which is why businesses need to incorporate it into their marketing strategies more than ever.”
Another core factor is how social media platforms are constantly developing. LinkedIn was once solely used for posting corporate news, recruitment opportunities and company successes, yet it has now taken on a more relaxed vibe, with many users also sharing personal opinions and light-hearted content. In 2019, the platform added the sticker feature that allows the overlaying of bright and humorous cartoons onto a user’s photos, which some may consider more appropriate for Instagram and Snapchat. This new tool reflects a shift in user behaviour, gradually transforming what was once a relatively stuffy networking site into a far more relatable and friendly community.
“Something that I hear all the time when talking to new clients is that they believe one platform or another is on its way out,” says Rich. “However, this is often down to subjective experiences and individual preference, rather than genuine trends and what’s best for their business. In fact, all four of the major players – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn – remain extremely popular with consumers and can each be used in different ways to grow a brand.”
According to Hootsuite, 86% of B2B organisations prefer LinkedIn and 98% of B2C companies choose Facebook as their favourite platform. Granted, this is useful data that can help to shape marketing activity, but Rich is adamant that the bigger picture must always be in focus:
“Taking limited stats as gospel can be a dangerous game. If I were to ask someone what their favourite fruit was and they said oranges, I wouldn’t assume that they don’t like apples. The same goes for a company’s social media – if their primary audience is on LinkedIn, the team at sobananapenguin ensures that their page becomes stronger and more polished, simultaneously factoring in ways to add value to their other channels, increasing relevance and engagement.”
With over a decade’s experience of managing social media accounts for sectors that include accounting, law, IT, retail, tech, pharmaceuticals, engineering and the arts, Rich believes that brands should forge their own digital paths, rather than blindly following those of others:
“I’ve seen so many companies that post to Facebook a few times a day, Twitter haphazardly and LinkedIn whenever they happen to remember their account exists. Even worse, content is often cross-posted without tweaking it to suit each site’s format. Consistency mixed with customisation is crucial, as sloppy content and lack of responsiveness can make a particular audience feel excluded, which reflects poorly on the brand.
“The key is to balance regular posts with engagement techniques specific to each platform, making the customer experience a fluidic process across the entirety of your social presence. At the forefront of this is your company’s unique voice and vision, which is what converts curiosity into custom.”