Are you new to social media and currently deciding what social media platforms would be best for your small business to use? Or have you been active on social media for a while and feel you’re ready to add a new platform into the mix? Either way, this guide to the 6 most popular social media profiles including reasons to use each, challenges to each platform, and what you will need in order to make that social platform a success, is included below.
As with most things in online marketing – and, well, life in general – there are no absolutes. You’d definitely be able to find some business type that excels on a social media platform where it “shouldn’t” excel, just like you’ll definitely be able to spot a business type that should be kicking butt on a specific social media platform, yet it is struggling.
Assuming all other social media “best practices” are being followed (e.g. consistent activity levels), our guide will be a major resource in helping you navigate through the complicated waters of choosing the (next) best social media platform for your small business.
Why Use It: Facebook has the most users of any social media platform. It is a robust platform where you can share links, photos, videos and text about your brand, offers strong advertising opportunities, and has the capability to offer you a forum for your customers with Facebook Groups.
Challenges: As a fan page, you are limited in your interaction capabilities; you have to wait for a customer to come to you in order to engage with them. This limitation is present for Facebook fan pages and LinkedIn Company pages, but no other platform. More importantly, drastic, purposeful changes to Facebook algorithm have resulted in a significant drop on organic reach of updates posted by a fan page. Without an ads budget, Facebook fan pages are little more than digital billboards; the organic publishing component of fan pages has been whittled down to almost 0.
Best Industries for Facebook: B2C companies. Any company that users would feel comfortable interacting with (as page likes, and comments and likes made on status updates, are publicly viewable, and activity that’s often put in the News Feeds of your Facebook Friends).
What You Need for it to be Successful for your Business: A budget for ads. It’s the only way to guarantee any kind of worthwhile Reach (translation: the number of Facebook users shown your update) for your most important updates.
Advertising options? Yes. Facebook Ads are considered a good value for the return.
Are contests allowed? Yes. Click to view Facebook’s Page & Promotion Guidelines.
Why Use It:Â Twitter offers the closest thing to a real-time conversation. It’s great for sharing news, article links, and utilizing hashtags. It allows for several tweets to be posted in 1 day. It’s also easy to localize your efforts to your specific geographic region, or go as broad as your brand reaches.
Challenges: Each tweet is limited to 140 characters. Although Twitter wasn’t image-friendly for a long time, it more recently has made huge strides in incorporating images, too.
Best Industries for Twitter:Â All companies. Twitter is often seen as the first choice for customer questions and customer service inquiries.
What You Need for it to be Successful for your Business: You need to actively engage those you follow. Talk to people like you’d speak to customers who walked into your store. You won’t get anywhere with Twitter if you use it solely for outgoing messages. You also need to send more than just a handful of tweets a day (whereas you could easily get by with 1 update a day on Facebook).
Advertising options? Yes. Twitter offers Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends. You only pay for what people click on. Here’s a link to Twitter’s Ad tool.
Are contests allowed? Yes. Here’s a link to Twitter’s Contest rules.
LinkedIn Company Pages
Why Use It: It’s the business form of a LinkedIn profile. You can publish updates about your business or industry.
Challenges: There’s not much that you can do with your LinkedIn Company page. LinkedIn removed the features of customer recommendations and product/service listings. You can’t interact with others as your company page; you are limited to replying only to individuals who left a comment on an update posted by your page.
Best Industries for LinkedIn: B2B companies, and any company that often posts job listings.
What You Need for it to be Successful for your Business: If you are using at least one other social media platform like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, you can reuse the same content for updates on your Company Page. If not, you can link up blog posts from your business blog and curate industry content to share.
Advertising options? Yes. They are pricier than Facebook ads, but for some industries, LinkedIn Ads are a better targeted option than ads on other platforms. Visit the LinkedIn Ads interface.
Are contests allowed?Â No.
Why Use It: Pinterest in a major traffic-driver to your website, blog, or online shop. It also provides businesses a place to showcase a broader, deeper view of their brand while appealing to popular interests of their ideal customer base. Pinterest offers a higher-than-average chance of achieving virality with one or more pins.
Challenges:Â Without a lot of images, and without a lot of website or online catalog links, it’s going to be difficult to be successful on Pinterest. Also, it’s difficult to localize. Pinterest doesn’t currently offer a way to search users by location, and through repins, it’s very easy for someone on the opposite side of the country to repin your local business’ content.
Best Industries for Pinterest: B2C companies. Businesses that have a high percentage of female customers. Businesses that have a natural aesthetic appeal to what they sell (e.g. fashion, makeup/hair, personal style, home decor, entertaining, education, etc.)
What You Need for it to be Successful for your Business:Â You need a website with a lot of pages, a business blog, or online catalog, and lots of beautiful images.
Advertising options? Yes. Promoted Pins are currently in the test phase, but should be made widely available to all users in 2015.
Why Use It: Google+ is a Google product, and Google is the King of Search. Google+ has an update style similar to Facebook, but is not limited in interaction capabilities like Facebook is. It’s easy to control who sees each update posted, and has a high capacity for sharing updates. Google+ offers a lot of niche opportunities on the platform itself and within Google+ Communities. Hangouts and Hangouts on Air offer additional video and screen sharing resources for free.
Challenges: It’s a newer social media platform that doesn’t have as many users as some of the other major social media platforms.
Best Industries for Google+:Â All, though it’s especially beneficial if you have a brick and mortar location with a Google Local listing/Google Place.
What You Need for it to be Successful for your Business: Nothing in particular. Good content of various types works on Google+. Just be consistent and engaging, and you’re set!
Advertising options?Â Read here about Google+ Ads.
Are contests allowed?Â No.Â Read here for information on its Promotions policy.
Why Use It: Instagram is a photo-sharing app that allows you to connect your Facebook, Twitter, and TumblrÂ accounts to it. This social media “platform” comes with an asterisk because Instagram is widely considered a social media platform even though it is housed solely in an app on your smart phone. There are some browser-based programs that will help you to follow and interact with other Instagram accounts, though the initial posting of photos on Instagram still has to begin in the app.
Challenges: If you can’t commit to regularly taking photos to use on Instagram, you aren’t ready to commit to Instagram.
Best Industries for Instagram:Â All industries that you can feasibly photograph the products or services of, and company employees and/or customers.
What You Need for it to be Successful for your Business:Â Lots of original photos, and a good handle on how to use and search via hashtags.
Advertising options? Yes. Click to read about Instagram ads.
Are contests allowed? Yes. Click to visit Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines.
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If you are still unsure about what the next best platform is for your small business, give us a call! We’re happy to help you decipher what social media platform makes the most sense for your small business.
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