Whether you're just starting out or are looking to expand your social presence, there are quite a few routes you can take. Many fall into the trap of trying to tackle every social network at once and wind up spreading their efforts too thin. Especially for small business owners, who are likely already wearing many others hats, using your time efficiently on social media is crucial.
So, what platforms should you be focusing on? In order to properly determine the answer, you first need to ask yourself two questions.
- What kind of business are you? A jeweler is going to have a much different target audience than a hardware store or dental office. Different demographics have different frequencies on the various platforms and this will affect your social strategy. Also, consider your intended brand voice because each platform lends itself to a particular style of communication.
- Additionally, it's also important to consider what your businesses' overall goals are before you begin investing time in social media. One of the biggest mistakes we see a lot of small businesses make on social is to move forward without any real plan in place. Determining the objectives of your marketing efforts helps you decide which platforms to focus on because each platform can best be used for different purposes. Are you trying to grow awareness for your brand online? Are you trying to promote specific offers/sales? Trying to drive followers to your physical location?
Let's begin with the social media juggernaut, Facebook. By now, it is almost assumed that everyone has a Facebook profile. More important for you, it is also assumed that all businesses are now on Facebook. Maintaining an active presence on the platform is vital because its currently the most ubiquitous social network with over 1.5 billion users. Facebook has powerful advertising capabilities built right into the platform with the ability to create custom audiences and target by interests and demographics.
Facebook is also very useful because it allows for a variety of different functions such as short form posting, long form posting, and photo/video sharing. It encompasses most features of other social networks, making it a popular choice among marketers. Content on Facebook is less time-sensitive than other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, however it is largely pay-to-play if you want your followers to see your posts. Also important to consider with Facebook, is that the user demographic is starting to skew older than other networks which could benefit you depending on your business.
Next, let's move onto Instagram, which passed Twitter last year in terms of monthly active users. The platform boasts one of the highest user engagement rates, making it an effective space to build a brand community. Instagram is an especially great platform for businesses that have products that lend themselves to being showcased visually. Restaurants, jewelers, and clothing manufacturers are all examples of businesses with visually appealing products that are perfect for Instagram.
Don't have a product that lends itself easily to pictures or video? Don't worry, the 'Gram is also a great place to humanize your brand by showing off your company culture. This is especially important on Instagram because users on the platform tend to skew younger and these younger consumers value connecting with brands online. Office shenanigans and behind-the-scenes looks can go a long way in putting a face to your business.
One challenging aspect of Instagram for marketing purposes is that the platform does not support links within posts. You are only allowed one link within your bio which can make it challenging to redirect followers to content on your website or blog. One way around this is to make use of Instagram ads which redirect to an external website. These ads were originally for larger brands, but have recently become more affordable for small businesses.
Twitter has recently been suffering an identity crisis of sorts and its user base has started to stagnate. However, this is not to say it's alright to start ignoring the platform. Twitter remains a great place to receive small bursts of current information and to connect with industry thought leaders. The platforms lends itself particularly well to reaching out to people you may not fully know yet. Here at Likeable, we connect with people on Twitter all the time and frequently are able to take conversations with prospects into email or Skype.
Twitter is particularly useful for redirecting to external content and you can insert multiple links into a single tweet. The network also has powerful advertising capabilities with the added bonus of the promoted tweets looking very similar to normal tweets. If you want to maximize your reach on Twitter, it's recommended that you make use of ads because the lifespan of tweets are so short. Ads will boost your reach and the platform even gives you estimates of how many link clicks you will receive based on your ad spend.
Similar to Instagram, Twitter is great for fostering an engaged community around your products. Its a helpful place to find out what people are saying about your business, your competitors, and your industry in general. There are also listening tools to help you gather these insights to make better informed decisions moving forward. Finally, Twitter is often used as a customer service platform because of its real-time nature, so make sure you are responsive!
LinkedIn is an interesting network because its audience is more easily defined than other platforms. Billed as the "network for professionals," LinkedIn can serve a variety of purposes for both businesses and individuals alike. One of the most powerful aspects of the platform is its networking capabilities. On LinkedIn its possible to connect with and recruit users based on industry and common connections. It's an especially powerful resource for B2B companies and can also be used to establish your thought leadership within an industry.
Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn also has a helpful groups feature that can allow you to have private conversations with thought leaders on trending industry topics.
If you are not a B2B company, you can still certainly find use for the platform as an individual, but as a B2C company it might be better to initially stick to other the other platforms previously mentioned.
I have already outlined my thoughts on Snapchat here, but let's recap (because it's my still my favorite platform).
The platform has quickly moved from the fringe of social media relevance to a legitimate platform where the likes of BMW and Hasbro now frequently advertise. Snapchat has deftly figured a way to include paid advertisements within in its app without disrupting the user experience. Now for small business purposes, the paid advertisements are not within the realm of financial feasibility. However, this is not to say that small businesses can not find use for the app.
As of last year, over 400 million snaps were sent daily. With over 25 million users in the United States alone, there is a good possibility that you may have some potential customers frequently using the app (even more likely if your target demographic is skewed younger). Especially with the inclusion of the story and chat features, companies are starting to figure out ways to effectively use Snapchat’s organic reach potential.
Snapchat differs greatly from some of the other platforms here because of its innate casual and time-sensitive nature. More so than any other network Snapchat really allows you to be your authentic self. Snapchat will be most effective for your business if you have a product that's interesting to show off visually and if you have a younger customer base.
So, which of these social media platforms are you currently using and why? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @LikeableLocal! We're going to keep adding platforms to this list until we have all of them covered!