To be or not to be? That was a tough question for Hamlet, but content marketers pondering whether or not to be on social media on the cusp of 2020 may as well be asking themselves if they should live under a rock or not.

Social media is as ubiquitous as air – it’s everywhere. Every day, 3.2 billion people across the globe are using social media. And new platforms are popping up all the time. In fact, our devices have become bodily appendages of sorts.

It’s undeniable that businesses must leverage the power of social media. The opportunities afforded by social media to engage customers and prospects are like nothing we’ve seen before.

But is social media all good? Are there drawbacks to its ubiquity around the world? Plenty. Let’s explore both the pros and the cons of social media. A careful analysis of both will guide how – not if – we should go about managing social media.

For the sake of this marketing article, we’ll forego discussion of the emotional and societal advantages and disadvantages of social media. Indeed, they are abundant, but let’s let the psychology blogs cover that arena.

PROS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CONTENT MARKETING

Reach. With almost half the world’s population using social media, the opportunity to reach audiences where they live online is immense. Enriching, quality content inspires people to share your content with someone else and, like the old Faberge organic shampoo commercial, so on and so on and so on. Social media is contagious – in a good way (as long as it’s managed properly, but we’ll get to that in a bit).

Cost-effective and easy. It costs next to nothing to run a basic social media campaign, and it’s as easy as choosing a platform(s) and following a few simple instructions to set up a free account. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are common among businesses, but it’s crucial to identify which platforms your target audiences are on.

Live, interactive engagement. Social media invites real time conversation with audiences 24/7, allowing companies to get instant feedback about their products, services and campaigns as well as valuable insight into the wants, needs, interests, and concerns of their customers and prospects.

Concrete data. The many free or low-cost monitoring tools that exist today afford marketers clear, tangible intelligence about the specific content their audiences respond to most, when and where.  Guess work is no longer part of the equation when concrete evidence of consumer engagement is available.

Content promotion. Great content only goes as far as its reach. All the news, blogs, white papers, eBooks and case studies in the world won’t mean a thing unless they can be seen and shared. Social media calls attention to your content and lets you, and others, propagate it.

Immediate dissemination of important news. Social media allows for instantaneous sharing of important, up-to-the-minute news, which is particularly necessary in crisis. Without a clear and truthful message about critical circumstances, the situation will most certainly be addressed by others who may be misinformed and bring risk to your organization. Uniform messages are easy to convey on social media, even as the situation is unfolding.

SEO. Companies and organizations active on social media rank better in search engines, placing their content higher than their competitors’. Content is increasingly accessed through social media. If you’re not on multiple platforms, your content won’t be seen by the billions of people using social media.

Customer loyalty. Establishing positive online relationships with customers and prospects fosters loyalty among them and increases the likelihood of face-to-face interactions. People happy with and trusting of your brand are also more inspired to offer unsolicited referrals and testimonials.

Reviews. Positive reviews on social media are gold since 91% of people read reviews before engaging with a brand, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Your star power counts, but so too do the experiences customer share with your organization. Encouraging customers to give you a review demonstrates a commitment to excellence in services, products and customer care.

CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CONTENT MARKETING

The Yin and the Yang
Some of the benefits of social media to marketing are also converse detriments. Let’s look at the cons of social media and how to manage and mitigate them as much as possible, starting with those that are also pros, as noted above.

Reach. Just as social media can reach massive numbers of people instantaneously to the benefit of your brand, if you miss the mark in your messaging when a lot of eyes are on it, you brand can suffer significantly. Mistakes can be as severe as not communicating a crisis properly or as minor as poor grammar or typos. Great skill is required to create quality content, and great care must be taken to ensure it is crafted well and free of errors, biases or anything that could be insensitive or misinterpreted.

Live, interactive engagement. While two-way conversations with audiences is one of the major benefits of social media, it can also be a drawback in terms of control. Because everyone seeing your content can comment, add to and share it, your message is out of your hands to some degree. But you can gain back control by regularly monitoring and responding, which is every bit as important as creating careful content in the first place.

Immediate dissemination of important news. Like no other, social media allows users to get messages out quickly to huge numbers of people. That’s particularly important in a crisis event; however, the greatest of care must be taken to responsibly, accurately and respectfully convey such news. Those who aren’t trained properly in crisis communications run the risk of causing significant damage not only to the company’s reputation and financial outlook, but to stakeholders as well, including employees, victims, investors, and more. Establishing and practicing a social media policy and crisis communications plan is key, because it sets guidelines and expectations from the outset – before crisis occurs.

Concrete data. The data collected from those participating in social media can be a double-edged sword. When someone engages with social media, content marketers have access to additional information about them, thanks to algorithms that can reveal where one lives, where they work, went to school, and even personal data such as sexual orientation. Understandably, this is very alarming to consumers, and marketers must be especially careful about how they leverage this information. Because social media sites don’t scan for phishing scams, users are also vulnerable to hacking, identity theft and viruses. Establish and commit to clearly defined ethical practices that strive to add value to your audiences, and never exploit their engagement with your brand.

Reviews. While negative reviews on social media are not a crisis, 91% of people read reviews before engaging with a brand, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As noted, encouraging customers to give you a review demonstrates a commitment to excellence in services, products and customer care. But it also opens you to criticism and negative commentary. Commitment to excellence must be seen in action, not just words, but the occasional unhappy consumer will surface, regardless of how outstanding your brand is. Promptly thank the reviewer for their thoughts and affirm that their opinion matters to you and that, whenever possible, you will do what you can to improve the situation.

More Cons of Social Media
It’s time-consuming
. Just as personal relationships require nurturing and regular attention, so do relationships that are formed on social media. Occasional, erratic posts aren’t going to stick. Effective social media communication takes time, effort, attentive response, careful analysis and fresh, continuous content. Employing a person or agency dedicated solely to social media is essential to a robust social media strategy.

All the world’s a stage. Social media invites disgruntled customers and even former employees to vent publicly about their grievances against your company. In today’s culture of “citizen journalism” and customer reviews, people feel very free to say whatever they wish, especially when they’re not communicating face-to-face. While social media managers can delete negative comments, unless it’s something profane or threatening, they shouldn’t. Doing so sends the message that they don’t care enough to respond (creating further cause for complaint) and that they’re less than transparent. Prompt and thoughtful response is the appropriate action, whether or not the conversation about you is flattering. Never react defensively, blame someone else, or lash back in retort. Instead, affirm that the concern has been heard, that it matters to you and that, whenever possible, you will do what you can to improve the situation.

Nothing is ever truly deleted. A footnote to the con above is that comments and posts never really vanish from the Internet. Once posted, they are archived in cyberspace and exist in perpetuity. Before the first keystroke is made, every measure must be taken to ensure that content is clear, responsible, respectful and representative of your highest ideals.

Cons aside, as we’ve said before, today’s content marketers must take advantage of the enormous power of social media. But they have to do it right.

At IVY Marketing Group, our team of certified content experts can help you make the most of social media, engaging your audiences with content they’ll not only see, but act upon too.

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.