The Strengths and Weaknesses of Different Social Media Channels for B2C

In a now digitally vast world, marketers have an over
whelming amount of digital channels to work with to enable them to target and
engage with the right audiences for their products and services. But as is
often the case, too much choice can ruin what could the perfect recipe for
success. That is why we have decided to look at the pros and cons of each of
the popular, and some less well known, digital channels available to
businesses, and have highlighted which ones are the most appropriate and useful
for B2C companies.
Channel
Strengths
Weaknesses
Facebook  

  • Direct contact
    with audience
  • Useful for
    product development (e.g. Marmite)

  • Your fans may
    be unhappy when you’re not at work and share widely (e.g. Virgin Trains)

Twitter

  • Promote help
    and support
  •  Great for
    monitoring campaigns (#hashtags)

  • Engagement it
    limited to 140 characters
  • Fast paced
    nature can make reaching large audiences hard

Google+

  •  Pages and posts
    often show up in organic searches

  • Users only
    spend an average of 12 minutes per day looking at their ‘stream’
  • Isn’t as
    popular as Facebook or Twitter for social use

Pinterest

  • Product image
    pins and re-pins drive more sales than any other channel
  • New business
    pages rolled out Nov 2012

  • If you don’t
    have visual based business it can be hard to find content to pin
  • Majority of
    users are women (72%-97%)

Facebook
With more than 1 billion worldwide users, it is hard to deny
that Facebook is an essential network for B2C companies to be at the very least
considering.
Business pages are the official way for companies to get
their message across on Facebook, with status updates, images, and third party apps such as ‘fan of the month’ and other fun bits and bobs used to drive
engagement along the way.
One of the main benefits of Facebook above all other social
networks is the direct contact. It levels the playing field between the company
and the customer, allowing them to converse like two equals, and allowing the
company to gain useful and honest feedback from their audience.
This direct contact has come in handy for many businesses on
Facebook, as they have been able to leverage this to create campaigns that both
engage their audience on the highest possible level and give them the best
possible means of gaining feedback to use when creating future products and
services. Marmite’s ‘Marmarati’
campaign, in which they asked Marmite lovers to show their appreciation for the
brown stuff in order to gain a chance to be part of an elite secret group for
Marmite lovers, who would then get to try new product samples and help develop
new product lines for the brand.
One of the main cons of Facebook, or indeed any social media
channel to an extent, is that it isn’t a 9-5 resource for your customers. People
use Facebook all hours of the day and night, weekdays and weekends, without a
thought for office hours. You know you can’t be there 24/7, so you need to make
this clear to your customers so that if they don’t receive a timely reply to
their comments or messages they don’t assume you are ignoring them.
Virgin Trains are just one good example of how companies can
get around this and make it clear to customers when they should expect service.
On the V-Trains Facebook page, the welcome message reads: “Welcome to our
official Virgin Trains Facebook page. We’ll be here to chat 08:00-20:00 – 7
days a week.” It’s simple and to the point, and customers appreciate being
given this information.
Twitter
The fast and instantaneous nature of the micro-blog is both
its main strength and weakness. In one respect people like the quick paced real
time snippets of information, thoughts, opinions, images, etc. But on the other
hand, for a business this can be a major downfall, as trying to grab the
attention of followers at such a rapid rate requires extra cunning and
creativity. But hey, we love a challenge right?
Starbucks
(@Starbucksuk)
knew just how to get the attention of their followers and
more besides with their #FreeStarbucks campaign in March 2012, which created
5.12 million impressions across Twitter in the space of a day. By tweeting the
campaign’s hashtag, Twitter users could claim a free latte from opening til
noon on 14th March 2012 from any UK Starbucks establishment.
According to Starbucks figures, the hashtag was tweeted 25,000 times and they
gave away 350,000 free lattes overall.
But moving on from the bad points, Twitter is also a very
useful tool for B2C companies, as it is free, with over 200 million active
users, meaning as long as you have the initiative to grab their attention, you
have a potentially huge reach.
One of the main benefits of Twitter is being able to use
hashtags not only to create engaging campaigns but also to monitor to a certain
extent the amount of engagement. Even if people don’t tweet your company
directly, search your brand name or popular hashtags you have used in campaigns
to see just how many people are talking about your brand and what they have to
say.
This takes us into the other main benefit of Twitter,
being able to promote help and support. It’s one of the best customer service
tools as you can find people who are having issues with your products and
services, who may not be letting you know directly, and tweet them some advice
or support.
You may also find that people will tweet you directly for
support, as it’s an instant and easy way to get in touch with companies instead
of hanging on hold to call centres or waiting days for replies to emails.
Google+
It may not be the favourite social network, but Google+ is
growing in popularity with a surprising 135 million people active ‘in the
stream’ (G+’s version of the news feed).
The fact is the network’s growing popularity with businesses
is due to its parent, Google. Because it’s owned by the world’s largest search
giant, you can expect that your page and posts are much more likely to appear
in organic searches on Google for relevant keywords, so if only for the SEO
benefits it is worth considering.
The downside is that when it comes to actually getting
people’s attention in the stream, it’s not quite on par with Facebook or even
Twitter yet in terms of social use. Users typically spend just 12 minutes a day
in the stream, which only gives you a very small window to catch their
attention, and the jumbled layout of the stream doesn’t go in your favour
either.
But that isn’t to say that is can’t be a valuable source for
marketing. It just means, like on Twitter, you have to get creative in order to
catch your audience’s attention. The Android Google+ page is a
great example of this. They have found the most engaging content is videos and
infographics, and the odd app promotion goes a long way with their tech hungry
audience.
And the key to getting engagement with content? Post
regularly. Nasa’s Google+
page
updates between 5 and 15 times every day, which is a lot compared with
the average 4-6 updates for Facebook, but with such a small window of
opportunity in a fast moving stream, you have to keep it fresh and flowing to
get exposure.
   
Pinterest
Pinterest drives more product sales than any other social
media channel, with a report in October 2012 stating that 69% of consumers find
an item they want to buy on Pinterest, compared with 40% on Facebook.
The new business pages were rolled out in November 2012, as
Pinterest was soon recognised as the ‘go to’ place for product sales. The
features for businesses selling products are great, with the pricing banners
being tagged as one of the main boosts to sales as Pinterest becomes almost
like an ecommerce home from home for online businesses.
One of the main downfalls of Pinterest is also a major
advantage for some businesses. The fact that between 72% and 97% of Pinterest
users are female might stamp it out as an option for some businesses, but even
businesses with a primarily or entirely male audience can leverage these
percentages to their advantage. For example a men’s wear retailer can use
Pinterest to target wives/girlfriends who often buy clothing for their
partners.
Another downfall of Pinterest is that it works best if you
have a product/visual based business. But like all the other downfalls, there
is always a way around it if you get creative! Take British Midlands
International’s ‘Pinterest Lottery’
campaign. The UK airlines company
picked fans and people who re-pinned their pins at random and gave them free
trips to locations all over the world.
There are many more social media channels, and all bring
their own strengths and weaknesses to individual businesses and their
campaigns. For B2C, running creative campaigns on at least one of the above
channels will enable you to reach the right audience for your business. B2B
company? Don’t worry, we will be running through the pros and cons of channels
for you too, coming up soon!  

If you like this story, do share and tweet me
@annmariehanlon, and share with me your own thoughts on these campaigns
and others!
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