What's Next in Social Media for Small Businesses
Social media is one of the best ways for businesses to connect with their target customers, but it's a moving target: Platforms come and go, and capabilities change.
To help you get ahead of the trends, here are some of the new ways businesses use social media to keep the attention of their customers.
1. Connecting with customers on messaging apps
In the last couple of years, all the major social media platforms have expanded their in-app messaging capabilities to businesses, including the two most popular mobile messaging apps—Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp.
Connecting with customers through messaging apps feels more personal — and it's more effective. Customers are more likely to open, read and respond to messages sent through apps. According to ManyChat, messaging apps boast an open rate of 80% and a click through rate of around 30%, far better than email. According to MailChimp, the average email open rate across all industries is 20.81%, and the average click rate is 2.43%.
Plus, messaging apps make it easy for you to quickly respond to customers during the workday, keeping them happy and engaged.
Outside of business hours, some messaging apps include chatbots. You've probably noticed them on Facebook; they've been part of the Facebook Messenger platform since 2016.
For example, when sending a Facebook message on some business pages, you'll get a greeting, followed by a question to determine what you need. Sometimes you're prompted to select from a few options. After you choose one, you may be directed to a relevant resource, and you get a response indicating when someone will follow up.
Some chatbots are voice-activated—if you've used Google Assistant or Siri, you've already interacted with a chatbot.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, half of all medium and large businesses will use this type of intelligent automation tool. Small businesses can't afford to be left behind.
Some of the business advantages of chatbots include:
- Allowing you to respond to potential customers instantly even outside of business hours
- Connecting with multiple people at once through an interaction that feels personal to them
- Starting your customer relationship in a more conversational way
- Guiding new customers through an onboarding process
Overall, by enabling instant communication, chatbots can help you stay connected to your audience with minimal effort, even if you don't have a large team.
To create a chatbot quickly, connect a tool like Chatfuel or ManyChat to your Facebook page. Next, craft responses to the questions you think visitors will ask. Then, enable artificial intelligence so your chatbot will recognize related questions. After that, you can make your chatbot live, and it will show up in the Messenger interface. Check out this guide from Clearvoice for more detail.
3. Ephemeral content
Ephemeral content is content that disappears after 24 hours. Snapchat pioneered this type of content with its "story" feature. Other social media sites were quick to catch on. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram now also have a "stories" feature.
Why is ephemeral content so successful? Think urgency and scarcity. If something's not going to be available for long, you have to view it now or risk missing out.
Brands like Sephora and Nordstrom have used Instagram stories to boost engagement and extend their reach.
For example, Sephora regularly runs story polls to assess users' preferences on particular products. These are popular with their followers, who appreciate being asked. And Nordstrom uses stories to share quotes that match their brand values.
Small businesses can follow their example, and use ephemeral content to:
- Create marketing content quickly
- Build trust with customers
- Grow your audience
Pro-tip: Include live video, a proven way to get leads and sales.
4. Live Streaming
By 2020, live streaming is expected to account for 80% of all internet traffic. That's reason enough to take it seriously. But businesses should think beyond Facebook and Instagram live, and consider a platform that was built for live streaming from the start: Twitch.
Twitch started as a gaming live streaming platform, and has always had a highly social component with in-game chat. Acquired by Amazon in 2014, the platform now allows people in different niches to broadcast to its huge audience. Twitch has more than 100 million monthly viewers.
As well as creating your own live stream, like Old Spice did in 2015, you can also use Twitch to promote your business via sponsored mentions by influencers. Streamer Dr Lupo helped raise $40,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation.
With the platform recently announcing the addition of new categories like science and technology, and talk shows and podcasts, now's a good time to tap into Twitch's large audience with live, interactive content.
That's it! If you integrate messaging apps, chatbots, ephemeral content, and live streaming into your digital marketing strategy, your business will be set for the next wave of customer interactions.