Brand MarketingHow do customers actually use social media?
How do customers use social media

How do customers actually use social media?

When people think about business promotion on social media they mainly think of the sponsored ads that pop up on a feed. But, while this type of advertising is very effective and can be targeted to specific audiences well, there is a whole lot more to social media that businesses can take advantage of. First off though, you need to understand exactly how users, and particularly your customers, are actually using social media.

Researching brands on social media

On the face of it, social media appears to amount to a passive exercise, the user scrolls and is presented with content. But, in reality, this isn’t how people really use social networks.

How do customers use social media

As people have become more accustomed to the social channels and the information available on them, they are now consistently using social media not just for entertainment but for research, communication and comparison of the businesses they are interested in. In fact, recent global research from Datareportal reveals that across all age brackets social networks now account for the majority of brand research and are the most used tool for brand interaction next to a business’s own website.

This makes a compelling argument for all brands to have a social media presence, but also to make sure they have a variety of informative content that is in line with their values and promotes their business, not just their products and services. In other words, people want to know about the brand and not just its offering. They also want to be able to easily contact the company if they need to, meaning that a business’s social channels should always have clear links to their website and should be monitored for direct messages from customers.

Searching through social media

Given the above, it is not surprising that today social media is a very close competitor with search engines when it comes to actively searching for products or services. This comes back to the ability to research and compare, but also to the networks and communities  that develop on social platforms.

Social networks provide an all-in-one space for many activities. They present ads to potential customers and content to followers and interested users. They evolve communities through shared interests and provide feedback and reviews. And they provide multiple avenues for brand promotion; from videos and posts to personalised marketing through the use of influencers.

Goodbye hashtags, hello keywords

One key feature that has changed when it comes to social content is the use of hashtags. As time has gone on, hashtags have become seen as a rather blatant form of viewer grabbing. As brands jumped on the hashtag bandwagon, related content became diluted and sometimes plain irrelevant, which was frustrating for users. The response from social networks has been to massively reduce the impact of hashtags in influencing feeds. Now, keywords and precise captions are the way to reach people who are actively searching for your products or services.

Inspiring content

Influencers have become a leading way in which brands can present their offering to interested audiences. There are a number of reasons for this, but number one is that this approach feels personal to the user who has already developed a connection to personality. They respect the influencer’s opinion and will often follow it. They may also feel inspired by the person or aspire to be like them and, therefore, what they like, what they use and what they talk about are important.

But, influencers are not the only way in which to personalise and present inspiring content. Video feeds are by far the best way in which to reach new audiences – whether that be on TikTok, Instagram reels, or YouTube shorts – as users want to see authentic content from real people. So, putting one or more personalities behind your brand through short videos is an excellent way to extend your brand’s reach and gain new loyal customers.

The take away

Social networks have developed a lot over the years, and so have the abilities of their users. Brands should look to create a variety of content that isn’t only about selling. Millennials and Gen Z in particular want to know who they are buying from – their values, their attitudes, their knowledge and skills. Creating personalised, engaging and inspirational content is a great way to promote this, while also using precise keywords and captions to get your content in front of the right audience.


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