These days, you’d be hard pressed to find a business that doesn’t have a Facebook page. And, on paper, it makes sense for these businesses to set up these pages and employ people full-time to maintain them.

The statistics for worldwide social media use are staggering. In just one day Facebook users post over 4.5 billion pieces of content, about 400 million tweets are sent, over a billion Instagram photos are ‘liked’, and YouTube users will view about 4 billion videos – all in just 24 hours.

With so many people using social media, and the high volume of activity on these sites, businesses are trying to take their products to the places where potential customers spend most of their time – the average South African internet user will spend about 3 hours of their day on social media sites.

Consumers and Social Media

Many businesses assume that having a social media presence and pushing their products through these pages will result in instant sales of their products, only to be disappointed. These businesses need to ask themselves whether or not they’re using social media the right way.

The answer for most of these businesses will probably be no. According to recent report titled ‘The State of the American Consumer’ conducted by Gallup, an American research-based, global performance-management consulting company:

“Just 5% of consumers who use social media say these channels have a “great deal” of influence on their purchasing decisions, while 62% say they have no influence at all. Gallup research reveals that friends, in-store displays, television commercials, and even mail catalogues and magazines have more influence on consumers’ purchasing decisions than social media.”

They also reported the real reasons why people log onto their social media accounts: 94% of people said that the main reason they use social media is to connect with their friends and family.

Furthermore, only 29% of the survey respondents said that they would use social media to do product research, and 20% said that they actively engage with businesses by writing product reviews online.

Another crucial piece of information from the report said that of all the consumers who had ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ a business’s Facebook page, 34% still claimed that the social media page had no influence on their buying decisions.

Businesses need to consider all of this data when they set up their social media pages, and it should dictate how they engage with their social media audience, and although this report is geared toward the US, there’s no reason to think similar mindsets don’t apply here.

Key Features of Social Media

Social media is just that – a social place. A Facebook user goes online to connect with their friends and family, so it’s the last place they want to hear a sales pitch. People want to connect with other humans, not with products.

Social Media is also a place of instant interactions. When somebody sends a message out, they expect a quick response – no matter the time of day or on weekends.

As said above, there are over 4.5 billion pieces of content uploaded and shared on Facebook alone every day. Social media users are constantly presented with a wide range of content from a number of different sources.

Make the Most of Social Media

Rather than trying to sell your products through social media, focus on building relationships with your customers. Creating an open dialogue between your business and your customers will result in a deeper relationship and a more positive perception of your business.

Make yourself available on social media at all times. Social media users expect instant responses, so you need to ensure that you’re always available to respond to their questions, to address their complaints, and most importantly, to publicly take responsibility for any mistakes or misunderstandings that may occur.

Produce engaging and interesting content to share on social media. With so many posts and pieces of content available to social media users, ensure that the content that you’re producing and sharing stands out from the rest of the posts that they would otherwise scroll past disinterestedly. Good content will engage your audience and give them a reason to keep coming back your page.

Remember, just posting content to your account isn’t enough. You have to go out and find people to engage with to get yourself known for who you are, and what you can do.