Social media has only been in existence since 1997, and was not widespread until 2005 with the launches of YouTube and Facebook. The many formats available today provide different ways for people to express themselves, connect with like-minded individuals and groups, and stay in touch with family and friends. It has also revolutionized the ways businesses market themselves. Creating profiles and pages on social media sites is done at no cost. Businesses, especially smaller ones, could reach customers instantly without the expense of commercials and radio advertisements. That leveled the playing field between huge corporations with unlimited marketing resources and tiny businesses that operated locally.
Social media also changed the way businesses interact with customers. Direct communication is possible so questions can get answered in a matter of hours instead of days. Feedback on new products or ideas is helpful to developing or improving product lines. Coupons and contests available on a social media page enticed people into trying products and sharing the business page on their personal pages. Businesses reached customers at an unprecedented rate, and on a more personal and deeper level. Customers can connect with manufacturers directly as well rather than dealing with stores that sold the products. An individual who has a question regarding a new vehicle, for example, can post it on the Ford Facebook page instead of calling a dealership that may or may not have the information.
Businesses that maintain many social media pages will get the most benefits from the format. People who prefer their information written in articles and posts will search Twitter or LinkedIn, among other sites, for what they need or want. Visual learners will go to YouTube, Instagram, or Pinterest to view demonstration videos. That does require attention and management of all those sites, but the results are worth it for most businesses. Social media is also a way to attract people who may not even realize the business product exists. Laser cutting and engraving machines are an excellent example. Small desk top models are available for hobbyists and small businesses. Seeing a YouTube video about how to create decorative home improvements cost-effectively may spark interest or generate buzz about that new model. Social media pages can be interconnected so that video can include a suggestion to visit Facebook for more details, along with a link to that page for convenience.