OPINION: Why getting social media-savvy in a recession could save your business

Peter Boolkah

Peter Boolkah, business consultant, explains how social media can provide a cost-effective marketing channel during economic uncertainty.

All UK businesses are starting to feel the cost of living crisis, rising inflation and the vast increase in energy bills. It is a time of economic uncertainty where CEOs and founders must hold their nerve and rely on robust informed decision making when it comes to their future longevity. We are not spending and therefore businesses are not producing. We do not know how long this period of instability will last. Experts predict that by Christmas the Uk will enter a period of recession which will last for more than a year. Our last notable recession was 2008 when GDP fell by 7.2%. Businesses survived then and they will now. 

Many organisations will be looking to make cuts during this time. Very often a marketing budget is seen as expendable and the first to see large cuts. This is counter intuitive. In times of economic instability, remaining visible to your existing customers and being visible to potential customers is paramount. Marketing is not somewhere to make cuts. If money is tight and cuts do have to be made it is wise to ensure you have a strong social media presence. Quite often this can be a cheaper option in remaining visible to your market. 

The latest statistics tell us that 4.70 billion people use social media worldwide. 227 million new users have come online within the last 12 months and the average daily time spent using social media is 2 hours 29 minutes. We live in a digital era and with those statistics you will find that your existing and potential customers or service users are on social media. In a recession often businesses will look at a profit rather than growth model. With this in mind it is important to ensure you are still making sales and attracting new customers. A good way to do this is by having a solid social media plan.

Social media is one of the most important tools for businesses during a recession. It allows businesses to connect with customers and continue to market their products or services. People spend most of their time in front of a screen. This means that a physical marketplace for most businesses is less important. The way we behave has changed in the digital era. If we have questions now we Google them or go to You tube. Social media can help businesses make a profit by providing visibility during a recession. Additionally, social media can help businesses see a return on investment through increased sales and customers. It helps businesses by providing an avenue to connect with customers and learn about their needs. This is why social media is so important for businesses in a recession. Businesses should focus on creating a social media strategy that includes all of these elements in order to succeed during tough economic times. 

While it may seem counterintuitive to spend money on marketing when business is slow, social media is a cost-effective way to reach out to customers and keep your business top of mind. If you can weather the storm and keep your business visible, you’ll be in a much better position when the economy rebounds. However, there is no point in spending money on social media if you don’t have a joined up strategy. It is also wise to remember that just as we are affected by the economy, so is social media. It is constantly evolving and as we tighten our belts they react accordingly. More emphasis is put on ‘paid for’ content and algorithms change. The newer social media channels are cheaper because they are still in their infancy and attracting users. Depending on your customer demographic it is sometimes worth looking at newer channels such as Tik Tok, for example. When tackling a social media strategy it is important to consider what you need the purpose of your social media to be.  Adding value and driving people to your site is key. A solid social media strategy can build your reputation and attract more customers. With so many social media channels around, it is wise to pick one or two and really focus your energies on them. Consider your aims and who your audience is when deciding which social media channels to utilise. They all have different demographics. Research the best channel that will work for you and focus on it. Marketing ignorance won’t work. Take ownership. Remember that more followers does not necessarily translate to more business so define your purpose.

A social media marketing strategy should consider how the company can work within the social media channels current framework to maximise their investment. There are two things to consider when creating social media content. It is important to create content according to the rules of the channel. Facebook loves videos and images. A post will rank higher if it has one or both of those elements in it. Therefore, when you are considering your social media content, adding the right kind of videos will likely mean your post is seen by more people. Secondly, do your research into what people on your chosen social media channels like to see and create accordingly. Posts need to be well thought out. Consider what action you ultimately want the person looking at your post to take and then work out the social media journey you need to take them on. You don’t want people to just click for vanity. For example, your current business aim may be to build a database of people. By using social media to host a webinar, you can start to create a database from the people who sign up to watch it. This kind of indirect marketing is building your client or customer base. 

Many businesses will be trying to work out how you can define the returns from social media. Once again have an idea of what you want that return to look like. Do you want a larger database with which to connect with potential customers? Are the posts intended to drive people to a certain part of your website where they then buy or register interest. Look at the results of your posts and ensure you have a method of recording the action people take. It isn’t just about the number of people who like your posts. It is wise to watch where people go and how long they spend there. This strategy will help you to work out if the content is translating eventually into sales.  

To ensure survival in tough economic times it requires businesses to think outside of the box and make informed decisions based on strategy. If you do have to make changes to marketing budgets, social media marketing could save the day.

Peter Boolkah is an award winning business consultant who has advised and scaled companies here and in the UK for over 30 years.

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