Instabook, Pinstagram, that one with the bird … How to choose the best social network(s) for your business!
Last week I posted about Ello, the new social media that’s currently a source of buzz. You wouldn’t be alone if your response to this news was something along the lines of “Another one? How am I supposed to keep up?” That reaction would certainly be justified – there is a staggering selection of social media outlets to choose from, and it would be near impossible to have a presence on all of them without hiring a full-time staff simply for that purpose. And would having a presence on every single form of social media even be a benefit to you? Not likely – each outlet has its own purpose, format and target audience; if you’re marketing to the LinkedIn crowd, you’re probably not going to get much useful exposure from a Snapchat account.
Another important thing to remember is that overextending yourself isn’t going to do you any good. Before you sign yourself up for every possible account, revisit my post about abandoned social media and how poorly it reflects on your business. You don’t want to leave ghost towns scattered across the internet – be realistic about how many accounts you can keep up with. You also shouldn’t simply plan to spend the minimum possible time to keep your profile active. Focusing in on one social media outlet and actually taking the time to interact and connect with your followers there will be a better investment of time than having a half-hearted presence in three places.
The trick is to choose the outlets that are going to play to your strengths, content-wise, as well as do the best job at reaching your target audience. But how do you narrow it down?
Like it or not, the big dog is still the big dog.
Let’s be real here – you’re going to reach your largest potential audience on Facebook. As things stand now, that’s just a given. Facebook’s user numbers are still significantly above any other form of social media. Maybe you’ve determined that your particular target audience is going to be better reached through a different outlet, but if you’ve done enough research to figure that out, you probably have the resources to maintain more than one social media account. Most businesses or organizations that want to maintain an online presence ought to have a Facebook page. Facebook is one of the first places that many people will look when they want to learn more about a business. Even if it isn’t your favorite/primary outlet, it’s one that you’re almost expected to have in the same way that businesses are now expected to have a website.
Fortunately, your efforts on many other social media platforms can also help you keep up your Facebook activity. Pictures on Instagram, videos on Vine, pins on Pinterest – all of these can be shared to your Facebook page. Even tweets can be set up to post to your Facebook page as well as to your Twitter account. While you want to be mindful that connections made between platforms don’t end up seeming spammy to your users (multiple posts a day cross-posted from Pinterest, for example, may get aggravating and cause people to unfollow you), knowing how to effectively use your content in multiple places can help you to maximize your efforts.
Beyond Facebook: How do you know where to start?
Once you’ve gotten all settled in to Facebook, if you’re ready to expand your social media reach, how do you decide where to start branching out? This is where a little knowledge of your target audience will come in handy, and a little understanding of the strengths and formats of the more popular social media sites.
Here is a basic overview of some of the biggest or most talked about networks. For more detailed breakdowns of individual platforms you can follow the links to the full articles on each. For more tips and suggestions about social media in general, you can browse this blog’s social media category and view all of our posts on the topic.
Twitter has a sizable and loyal following, but be aware that Twitter is an extremely fast-moving medium. You can certainly have a casual presence on Twitter by simply tweeting a few times a week, but if you want Twitter to be a primary focus you will want to tweet much more frequently and make certain that you’re responding whenever someone comments on something you post or mentions you in a tweet. Twitter could be a good option for you if you’ve got frequent brief updates that you could make (tips, news tidbits, a store inventory that changes frequently, etc.), as opposed to less frequent posts that might not fit within 140 characters.
If your products are visually appealing (photography, art, original clothing designs, even attractive home construction or remodels), especially if you can combine eye-catching photos with information that will appeal to your audience (well photographed meals paired with recipes) then Pinterest may be a good option for you.
Even if you don’t use Google+ frequently in a social capacity, it’s a good idea to at least flesh out your profile and encourage your customers to leave reviews there. If you maintain a blog, posting links to your blog articles is also smart. Even if Google+ isn’t the busiest social network, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s Google’s home turf, and putting content where Google is sure to take notice of it is certainly not a bad idea!
When marketing to other businesses or professionals, being visible on LinkedIn will likely benefit you. Even if you don’t post to it frequently as you would with other social networks, it can function effectively as a virtual business card.
If you or someone who works for you enjoys taking frequent pictures of their surroundings, both related to your business’s day-to-day operations and apart from them, take advantage of that interest with an Instagram account. Instagram posts can and should sometimes tie in with your brand/product, but Instagram users will also appreciate posts that are more day-in-the-life than straightforward marketing.
Similarly, Vine could work out well if you or someone working with you has any interest in making short, creative videos. Vine can be used as a social network if you create videos regularly and start to gain a following, but it can also be used as a tool for occasionally producing something interesting and different to show off on your other social media profiles.
Is your target audience made up of teens or pre-teens? Snapchat (article to come soon!) has a strong following among this age group, and can be used as a great tool to promote interaction and distribute promotions.
If you want your business to have a reputation as an early adopter and your target audience is a particularly tech savvy and/or artistic crowd, you might want to look into Ello – but at this early stage in the game, Ello is more suited to the advanced social media user!
Find out where your customers are, and be there.
Yes, there are a startling amount of options, but no one expects you to tackle them all. If you’re still unsure about which medium will best reach your audience, try asking them! Talk to some of your customers, conduct a survey, get some information directly from the source. Focus on only the sites that will be the most beneficial to you. Putting the effort into excelling at building your presence on those sites will help to ensure that the time, energy and budget that you have available to allocate to social media will be put to the best possible use!