Have you seen those article and cartoons circulating online?
You know, the ones about how social media obsessed our culture is, and that we need to enjoy nature and our loved ones more?
I know I’ve seen more than enough myself. A brief Google search brought up doodles of a teacher telling a kid that no, he can’t just follow her on Facebook, he has to come to class; a young professional asking a colleague if he’d like to join her and her friends later at her house to stare at their phones; and much more.
They’re at least a little funny, and certainly some of them have their roots in truth—who among us hasn’t been guilty of glancing at our phone every two seconds when we’re supposed to be doing something else?
But the overall picture is that social media is some newfangled, kind of scary thing that might be destroying society.
Often the punchlines are based on a misunderstanding of how social media is actually used.
It’s not just something people stare at.
It speaks to where your customers’ attention is. We all know that if you’re watching TV and a commercial comes on, what do you do? Grab your phone and scroll through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or whatever your social media poison is.
Like it or not, social media is where your customers are. It’s an opportunity for you to drive engagement with your customers, students, or anyone else who might be viewing your digital signs.
- Your audience is on social media
These days, no matter who your audience is, they’re probably on social media. Even if they’re in the older demographic: 49 percent of people over aged 65 use at least one social networking site. This is true across income levels: the same study found at least 70% of people were on social media in every income bracket.
Hopefully, you already connect with your audience on social media in some way.
But if you’re just starting out, or are looking to optimize your social media presence, it’s worth it to do some research to discover where your target audience is hanging out online, and whether it would be an appropriate venue for promoting your business or other venture.
To get you started, here’s the Pew Research Center’s in-depth study of demographics in social media. It includes breakdowns of who uses which sites.
Don’t just think about demographics, though. Also consider what’s right for you.
For example, if your products have a major visual component (perhaps you make lovely cupcakes, do graphic design, sell clothes…) you’ll definitely want an Instagram presence—that site is all about sharing images. And, bonus, Instagram has the highest follower engagement rate of any social network: 4.21 percent. That means 4.21 interactions per post per 100 followers, which is 120 times higher than Twitter’s engagement rate!
Of course that research study was published before the recent explosion with Snapchat. If you have 1,000 followers, 900 of them will view your story on Snapchat.
That’s unprecedented with online interaction, except for email marketing in the mid to late 1990’s.
- For competitors are on social media
If you aren’t using social media, you’re losing ground—because your competitors definitely are.
They know that social media works as a way to foster loyalty and engagement, and ultimately bring in more business.
They’ve seen the numbers: 80 percent of marketers say that, as a result of their social media efforts, the businesses they work for have seen an increase in traffic. The other side backs this up as well. Fifty-five percent of Americans say they’re more loyal to brands they follow on social media—especially in the younger age brackets.
That’s why 81 percent of small and medium businesses in America use social media.
What better way to show that you’re keeping up with the times than to display your social media feeds on your digital signage? Which brings us to the next point…
- It’ll broaden your follower base
How are your customers supposed to find your social media accounts if you don’t publicize their existence? If you want to take advantage of, for example, the 19 percent of social media users who have shared branded content, your social media has to be visible. Few are likely to seek it out of their own volition.
Why not stream it to your digital signage system?
Not only will it demonstrate that you do have a presence, it’ll show your customers that your accounts are active, and even give them a taste of the kind of content they can expect.
- Content that updates itself!
Keeping the content on your signage fresh is absolutely vital to make sure it keeps drawing eyes.
However, constantly producing new content can be costly and exhausting.
Social media is here to help! Your content management software will be able to automatically update your feed each time you Tweet (or post to Facebook… or Instagram… or Foursquare… or whatever else you choose). Many social media networks have an API that developers can use to develop a custom module for your signage.
Or, you can just display part of your social media webpage as a content block—while a bit less elegant, it might be easier.
If you’re staying active, your digital signage content will be updating itself.
By now, you’re probably already brainstorming about adding your social media feeds to your digital signage. Now that you’ve got this new tool in your pocket, how can you maximize its usefulness? Here’s a couple ideas for retailers and educators.
After all, it’s not just retailers using digital signage. Everyone from colleges down to primary schools are taking advantage. And with 89 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds on social media, it’s an essential way to connect.
One fun example: During the University of Southern California’s graduation ceremony last year, they livestreamed Tweets from audience members using a certain hashtag to large screens in the auditorium. It gave graduates and their friends and relatives a way to share their congratulations and fond memories in real time.
Make it interactive
Your audience wants to know their voices are being heard.
Social media is already inherently interactive, but you can go a step further by letting them see their own words on display on-location. Not only will that be gratifying, it’ll also redirect their attention to your screens so they’ll catch other important messages or promotions.
Encourage your viewers to post using a certain hashtag, and either stream the responses live or curate especially good ones to feature.
Or go a step further by making it a contest. For example, you could encourage students to post their best dining commons hacks. Stream the entries onscreen and have your viewers vote by liking/favoriting. The winner gets a school-branded T-shirt.
You can also use digital signage to generate social media posts by displaying a QR code for viewers to scan to Tweet their location, enter a giveaway, or what have you.
Spread the word about limited-time opportunities
By displaying your social media feeds on your digital signage system, you unlock an easy way to cross-promote between social media and your physical location.
Is there a sale going on in the bookstore? Are frozen vegetables 20% off? Does the musical theatre department’s new production debut tomorrow? By posting to social media, you’re sharing that news to viewers both inside and outside your store or school.
It’s a great way to distribute coupons as well. If you’re sharing special offers on social media and also to in-location screens, your viewers will have twice the chance catch a deal they might otherwise have missed.
The benefits to you are two-fold. First, customers will realize that your social media accounts are a good place to hear about special offers and might give you a follow.
Second, they’ll be looking at your digital signage more often in hopes of spotting another deal, and in the process will be exposed to your other messaging.
Send out alerts
If an emergency situation arises, you’re likely already planning on using your digital signage system to distribute alerts. To maximize effectiveness of that system and make sure people stay as safe as possible, you’ll also want a way to update people on the situation in real time. Social media is a popular choice.
By having a system for displaying Tweets or Facebook posts on your digital signage screens, you’ll be able to provide both the initial alert and rapid updates in one place. (Of course, people will still be able to check social media as well if they’re not in view of a sign, but what if they don’t have a phone or laptop with them?)
This ability especially essential in an educational institution.
As you can see, there are many, many ways to use social media to maximize your digital signage effectiveness. And given the massive prevalence of social media use today, among consumers and businesses alike, there’s never been a better time to get on board with using it. It’s not scary, it’s an opportunity!
Be honest: when was the last time you updated your social media? Did this post give you an itch to go do just that? (You could always share this article!)