It’s highly unlikely that in 2020 there are still businesses that are unconvinced about the value of social media networks. However, for any remaining skeptics that may still be out there, here are some of the latest social media statistics that should help you realize the opportunity that is social media.
In 2019, the global social media user base expanded by 9% to reach 3.48 billion, or 45% of the world’s population. Social media consumed nearly a third of users’ internet time and a seventh of their waking lives. From a business perspective, 36% of all social media users follow brands they like on social platforms, and companies that focused on social selling improved their ROI by as much as 119%.
Social media platforms are now a vital cog in the digital marketing machine. Today, social media can add tremendous value across the digital marketing funnel, from creating brand awareness, building audience engagement, boosting organic visibility, attracting prospects, generating leads, and driving conversions, to mapping consumer sentiment and tracking competitive activity.
Now, no business can afford to ignore all that potential inherent in social media marketing. Indeed, social marketing can be a particularly potent growth lever for startups seeking to quickly grow their brand, acquire new customers and connect with potential investors – all within a limited budget. With social media, startups can design and deliver targeted, cost-effective campaigns to a specific audience and maximize ROI by using the wide range of metrics available to continuously improve and refocus campaign performance.
However, startups without the depth and breadth of human resources may face significant challenges in converting the potential of social media into business value. According to a 2019 CMO survey, even as social media investments are expanding their share of marketing budgets, their corresponding contribution has been relatively modest. The average CMO rating for social media performance has languished between 3.1 and 3.3 on a seven-point scale across seven years of the survey. The only businesses that bucked that trend were B2C products, ecommerce firms with more than 10% of sales over the internet, and large companies with over $10B in revenues.
Nearly all businesses face several fundamental social media marketing challenges according to recent research. These include prioritizing social media, identifying and understanding the target audience, and developing a social media strategy. But these challenges are only compounded for startups who typically do not have the budgets, resources, and time to deploy an effective in-house social media team.
Partnering with external agencies for social media activities is already becoming a prevalent practice, according to a recent CMO survey. In 2019, 23% of a company’s social media activities – up from around 19% the previous year – involved external partnerships. This partnership model is of particularly strategic significance for startups, as it allows them to focus on their core business while professional partners shoulder the responsibility of ensuring optimal social media performance and business outcomes. Here, then, are the top 5 reasons for startups to seriously consider partnering with specialist agencies for their social media marketing programs.
Social media is a constantly-moving target. Trends are continuously changing and evolving, and what may be considered a best practice on one day could be turned on its head the next. Social media agencies tend to be abreast, if not ahead, of industry trends and developments across multiple industries and channels. Partnering with an agency with in-depth experience in a specific industry eliminates trial and error and allows startups to focus on developing more innovative and effective social media strategies.
Effective social media management requires a specialized team with diverse skill sets that even the most deep-pocketed companies will find a challenge to put together. By choosing the right social media partner, startups gain access to the entire range of skills and services – from industry experts to practice specialists – on day one without the hassle of acquiring and training all this talent. This means that startups can benefit from a series of quick gains even as the long-term strategy unfolds.
Agencies have access to a vast number of top-tier paid tools that are essential for planning, managing and monetizing social campaigns. Most startups do not have the bandwidth to either warrant or afford some of these sophisticated tools. But these tools are critical to ensuring that a campaign is aligned with expected business outcomes and to accelerate time to value.
Agencies bring an unbiased, objective and outside perspective that can be quite hard to replicate with in-house teams. These partners can combine their knowledge of the startup’s industry with their distilled experience across sectors and channels to innovate with a social media strategy and make it more productive.
Specialist partnerships give startups the flexibility to scale up engagement as the business grows. This approach is especially suited for the startup environment where budgets and business performance are almost always tightly linked.
Specialized social media management partnerships are not merely about outsourcing and can be leveraged to enhance the startup team’s social media skills. Of course, all this depends on the choice of partner and whether they are the perfect fit for the startup’s industry dynamics, business requirements and social marketing expectations.
Here are some tips to help you choose the perfect social media marketing partner.
1. Define your business needs: Document the company’s expectations from social media including available budgets, key performance metrics and desired outcomes so that it can be clearly communicated to your prospective partners. Any lapses in this stage will only get further compounded as the partnership progresses.
2. Research: The key is to shortlist prospects based on at least three basic criteria. One, they must have relevant experience with startup companies in your industry. Two, they have the social media service specializations that your business needs. And three, they have verifiable credentials, expertise and a compelling portfolio of industry-specific case studies. Back all this up with referrals if required. Most important of all, check that the shortlisted agencies are available within your budget.
3. Interact with the team: Organize a meeting where key members of your team can interact with the agency’s team. Understand who will be assigned to the account and evaluate their skills, expertise and cultural fit. Understand the agency’s account management and reporting processes.
4. Start with a pilot: Choose one short-term pilot project to ensure that there is a cultural as well as professional fit with the prospective agency.
Social media marketing is perhaps the most cost-effective way for startups to get their businesses off the ground. However, it is also a complex and intricate practice to design and manage a coordinated social media campaign across multiple channels. Building partnerships with external social media agencies is the easiest and most economical way for startups with resource constraints to access the entire suite of services and skills required to run a successful social campaign.
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