Sorting Out Social Media
by Susan Young
Which Sites are Right for Your Business?
You may have started to or wanted to jump on the social media bandwagon, but are still unsure of whether you're making the right decisions. The good news is that you don't have to participate in all social media sites to make an impact. You just need to find the right social media sites to reach your target market. Here is an overview of your main options.
LinkedIn: Great for B2B, Hiring
LinkedIn is known to be the social media site for the business-to-business (B2B) audience. It is like an online resume, where individuals can post their career profiles (essentially an online resume), and talk about their personal brand and career goals. The value of a LinkedIn profile is that it’s searchable for companies looking to connect, hire or do business with that person. The more connections you have, the more business opportunities.
Start with building your own profile and adding connections from clients, colleagues, and others you know. If you have sales people, they need to be active on LinkedIn if they sell to other businesses. Individuals can share business-related or industry news and information. They can recommend or ask for recommendations from others, which serve as good reviews for your business. People can also use second-degree connections to get introductions into previously unknown companies or prospects.
You can create a business page and build up a following. Individuals can create custom content articles or blog posts to share on their newsfeed, which is seen by all their connections. Advertising options can help build a following. Since people on LinkedIn are interested in advancing their careers, this social media site is great for job postings and HR-related activities.
Twitter: Breaking News, National & Industry-Focused
Twitter is a great way to reach a national or even international audience for your product or service. It is a very fast-moving, breaking news-style social media site, mixed with a bit of business and personal posts. Though the short, 140-character limit on posts leaves little room to be creative with your message, Twitter now allows you to add photos, videos, polls and GIFs, which don’t count against the character limit.
An easy way to get started on Twitter is to find and follow industry thought leaders, as well as businesses and individuals that you know. If you don’t follow people first, they won’t follow you back, so if you have trouble gaining a Twitter following, it’s probably because you’re not following other pages. Start posting content relevant to your industry or business, and be sure to also share others’ content. Don’t forget to allow enough characters for others to share your posts as well, because a re-tweet counts against your character limit. You may also use Twitter advertising to gain more followers. You can use Twitter to promote your own blog posts, as well as link to your website and landing pages for online ad campaigns. Twitter is great for targeting all age levels, but it skews toward the younger to middle-aged audience range.
Facebook: The Most “Social” of all Networks
Of all the social media sites, Facebook has more of a social aspect than any of the other networks. Think high school reunion mixed with local neighbors and friends, connecting online. Facebook users keep in touch with each other by looking, sharing and commenting on status posts. The best business categories to use Facebook include restaurants, retail stores, and business-to-consumer service businesses. In terms of an audience reach, Facebook is great for those targeting the Generation X to Boomer markets.
Facebook is good for community-focused businesses. If you want to reach a local audience, then advertising on Facebook is a good option because you can tailor the demographics based on your unique target audience. Business-to-business companies will find it harder to communicate and grow a fan base on Facebook. Start by getting customers to become Facebook fans. Then supplement your efforts with some Facebook advertising to increase your fan base, using Facebook’s extensive targeting tools. Offer valuable content and share and comment on other related pages to boost your presence. Facebook rewards business pages that engage their audience, so make sure to encourage likes, comments and shares to see your page status soar.
Instagram: Visually-focused Snapshots
Instagram is considered a visual representation of your brand on social media. The type of content typically shared on Instagram includes snapshots of a product or brands, showcasing your product in action, or showing individuals using your product. This social media site is more commonly used by Millennials and Gen-Xers. Ideal businesses for Instagram include very visual companies such as interior designers, photographers, lawn/landscape companies, event or wedding planners, and catering companies. Think “a day in the life of your business” photos, scenes from a trade show, or community philanthropy events. Although you can add a caption to your photos on Instagram, your visual will usually tell the story and do the marketing for you. Linking to your site is harder on Instagram, as currently you can only link to your website via your profile page, making it harder to convert ROI on this social media site.
Pinterest: Virtual Bulletin Board of Ideas
Much like Instagram, Pinterest is very visual as a social media site. It allows businesses to show their design expertise or creativity. You can create a business or an individual account and pin your favorite blog post as an image, and it is saved within a category-specific board with a link back to the original source (website or blog post). Ideal companies for Pinterest include wedding planners and photographers, event planners, fashion or retail companies, food bloggers or restaurants. Pinterest is great for reaching a female target audience, particularly from the Gen-X and Millennial generations, and for reaching mom bloggers and other bloggers.
Snapchat: Live Video Promotion
Snapchat is very popular in the millennial audience. It is not often thought of as a business social media tool, although that is changing. On Snapchat, businesses can post short, live videos (like Facebook's recent live video feature). This allows a business to offer exclusive content to followers, to get a behind-the-scenes look at a business, or to give companies a way to express their brand personality. However, Snapchat is a short-lived way to reach your audience, as the information only stays online for 24 hours (unless you have recorded it externally). Many individuals and celebrities use Snapchat to communicate with fans, so if you have a business where an individual is your major brand, such as a book author or spokesperson, Snapchat might be a good social media option for you to expand your popularity and reach.
YouTube: Boosting SEO with Video
While some may not consider YouTube a social media outlet, it remains one of the most popular ways to communicate online. YouTube is a great social media site for your business if you need to show your product in action. As a consultant, you can offer periodic tips to your subscribers via your videos, and you can also use tags and video descriptions strategically to boost your SEO efforts. Videos can also be a great way to add unique content to your website. When you embed YouTube videos into your website, you give each page of your website staying power, keeping your web visitors engaged longer.
Which Social Media Sites Should I Choose?
In the end, it is a personal business decision which social media sites on which you decide to focus your time and energy. Consider each site in terms of the audience that it will reach and your specific marketing message. Start with one or two sites, and build fans and engagement before moving on to others. Keep your content posts 80 percent entertaining or educational, and the rest promotional, to keep from alienating your fans. Follow the industry leaders in your social media category and emulate their best practices. In time, you may find some of your best social media followers are also your most loyal customers.