Social media has become an essential weapon in the marketeer’s arsenal. With the steady growth of online adoption – and its rapid acceleration throughout the pandemic – opportunities to reach out to potential buyers are there for the taking. In April's issue of Furniture News, we explore the trade’s perceptions of social media marketing, and how these tools can be harnessed to drive sales for both supplier and stockist. In this excerpt, we explore the trade's thoughts on the various platforms available, and discuss which are likely to yield the best results …
According to marketing agency Sprout Social, over 3.6 billion people worldwide use social media – and this figure is set to reach 4.41 billion in 2025. Statista found that internet users spend an average of 144 minutes on social media each day – that’s over two hours spent scrolling, reading, watching, commenting and messaging. Nowhere else can brands enjoy such access to consumers.
And it’s not just B2C operations making use of these channels. The Content Marketing Institute contends that social media advertising is employed by 83% of B2B marketers, and that it comes second only to search engine marketing in its efficacy.
Of course, that effectiveness varies wildly from platform to platform – Facebook might boast the biggest number of active users, but will it enable your business to reach the right people, in the right manner? And is it the most cost-effective route?
According to Statista, as of October 2020, the top social media platforms worldwide (by number of active users) were Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (in that order).
However, that ranking principally reflects consumer use. Statista also found that most B2B marketers (66%) identified LinkedIn as the most effective social media platform their requirements – with only 30% finding Facebook effective.
But what does the picture look like in our industry? In order to better understand our contributors’ social media preferences, we asked them to rank their preferred platforms, and to define whether they utilised them from a B2B or a B2C perspective.
Facebook came out on top, principally for its B2C potential. Behind the scope to build personal relationships, many companies use Facebook as a business tool, and appreciate the ability to execute successful, measurable advertising campaigns therein. However, one respondent did note that profiles can fall victim to negativity and ‘trolling’ more easily on this platform than on others.
LinkedIn scored most highly from a B2B perspective. It, too, has B2C applications (“everyone’s a consumer”, notes one respondent), but elicits the greatest enthusiasm as a forum for voicing opinions, sharing business advice and opportunities, and networking with business purposes in mind. Some noted that while it can work well for individual professionals, LinkedIn delivers the best results for businesses when staff get behind a strong company page and work together to maximise its effectiveness, ensuring it accurately reflects an operation’s people and work ethic.
Instagram scored highly for B2C engagement, and many expect it to grow in importance. One respondent described it as “the most inspiring, influential and visual channel” for their business. Instagram is owned by Facebook, so shares some of the latter’s marketing tools, making it more accessible for existing Facebook marketeers.
Twitter enjoys a good spread of B2C and B2B use, and although rarely a business’ principal platform, it can create huge reach and enable consistent engagement. Many companies use Twitter as a customer service communication channels – although, like Facebook, its reach means it too is more vulnerable to unhealthy exchanges.
YouTube is employed by significantly fewer businesses than the four platforms above, with some failing to even recognise its potential as a social channel. However, from a purely B2C angle, YouTube can be a useful hub for product videos and other visual demonstrations.
Pinterest (again, generally B2C) enjoys relatively little use. One respondent found it difficult to engage the audience through, and saw it more as an image repository than anything else – while another recognised how influential the channel is, but was yet to get to grips with it.
Finally, Snapchat (“for the kids”) and WhatsApp (for communications) received honourable mentions.
A common theme throughout the survey was that the effectiveness of any social media channel depends very much on the nature of the brand in question. It takes time to ensure a given platform matches the brand’s audience, offer, skillset and ambitions – whatever the majority view, it has to work for that business.
April's special feature explores some of the views prevalent in the trade around social media – its use, its limitations, how to achieve the best results, and how Covid-19 has affected its application. Read the rest of the feature here.