Let me start by re-affirming the context of my title. Does the size of your social media audience really matter, or is it what you do with your audience that really counts?
Is it more powerful to have a following running into the tens of thousands, or is it preferential if you have a truly engaging and interactive fan base that’s small in number but loud in voice?
With the explosion of social media in recent years and the relentless appetite for it, from individuals right the way through to brands and blue chip companies, it seems that everyone has been on a race to growing the biggest fan base, even if it meant buying their way to the top. After all, surly the bigger the better, right?
I must admit that’s what I thought when I first started on social media. However, I’ve recently come to realise what the real opportunity is that the online platforms provide, and frankly, for a business like mine, it’s nothing to do with the size of your audience.
When I founded Cocorose London in 2007, social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist and Facebook was still in its infancy, so my route to market was through my website, www.cocoroselondon.com. More importantly, I knew that I needed to get in front of my potential customers to show them my concept and designs and listen to their feedback. I believed that the only way to really shape my brand was to communicate and have face to face interaction with individuals at trade shows and market stalls up and down the country and listen and act upon what they were saying. It was through this listening that enabled the development and growth of the brand and business in those early days.
To be honest, little has changed over the years except that we now live in an even more virtual world with the opening up of social platforms. The online community is providing small businesses with an international platform and the recent trend of sharing relevant posts and articles allows brands to acquire new followers within a matter of seconds, enabling businesses to amass their customer base much faster than would have been expected just a few years ago. Similarly, brand reputation in this digitalised world is increasingly reliant on a strong social media presence.
I have increasingly seen social media as the modern world’s theatre, where brands and individuals can share their stories from their own stage to a global audience. Whereby a traditional theatre would allow the actor to cite a monologue, today’s modern theatre encourages a conversational dialogue to take place between actor and audience. As I learned from my early days with Cocorose, this conversation and opportunity to listen to your audience is incredibly valuable for future development and growth.
It’s so easy to get carried away with all the social media hype and noise however, when you cut through it all, I believe the fundamental values hark back to the pre-social media days. The real gold dust is the ability to use your social platforms to grow your awareness globally to what may have been an otherwise unreachable audience by interacting, engaging and listening to your followers and customers.
I believe social marketing can only take businesses so far. It is social listening and engagement that provides the differentiating factor needed for real success and enables businesses to grow to their full potential.
The virtual world is full of promise and this is exciting to all small businesses. It allows us the freedom to dream and the opportunity to make our dreams a reality. To help us create reality, I believe having a strong social media presence is vital. Strong really does not mean big in this instance. A strong social media presence means interacting and engaging with your audience, ready to create and build a conversation, and quick to act upon any feedback received. It takes time to build a community, as I’m finding with Cocorose London, but it’s through this very personal touch that I believe customer and brand will bond and create a closer affinity, which will in turn help to humanise the digital brands of today and ensure they succeed in both the online and physical worlds.
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