Small businesses often feel pressure to hop on every social networking site for fear of missing out on the next cool thing, but not every social medium makes sense for every business.
Writing and managing posts on every trendy social media platform can quickly become a time suck, and if you’re not focusing on where your target audience is, you may completely waste your time. How can you evaluate which mediums are worth it for you? Read on and we’ll help you figure out which social sites are best for which purposes.
Social network: Facebook
The verdict: Every business targeting consumers should be on it, period.
If you had to pick just one social network to spend time on as a B2C business, Facebook would be it. It’s wildly popular around the globe and reaches billions of consumers of every interest, income level, and location. While there is a trend of teens leaving Facebook, it’s still heavily popular with most other age groups. Plus, affordable Facebook ads are effective for many businesses.
While you may not realize any huge benefits from being on Facebook, you can’t not be on Facebook. These days, consumers expect you to have a Facebook page as much as they expect you to have a website. If you have no Facebook page, your legitimacy may be questioned. There’s no need to post more than a few times a week, so don’t stress about spending tons of time here–just make sure you have a presence. Note that Facebook works best for reaching consumers, so if your company is B2B only, create a basic page but don’t devote much time to this medium.
Social network: Twitter
The verdict: Every business should be on it, if possible.
Alongside Facebook, Twitter is the other social media consumers expect most businesses to be active on. Businesses of all industries can and should use Twitter, even if just a few times a week. You can use this space to post company updates, discuss industry news, share interesting facts, and even post photos.
Part of the beauty of Twitter is that it’s so interactive. Instead of always having to create new content from scratch, make sure to retweet content from customers and others in your industry and respond to others’ tweets. This can also help boost your following, and consumers love it when brands use Twitter as a two-way street rather than a platform for only broadcasting news about themselves. You can also stay active on it by participating in live-tweeting related to your industry.
Social network: Instagram
The verdict: Best for brands with superb visual content
Instagram is where most of the Facebook-fleeing teens have gone, but it’s popular with other generations, too. It’s a visual tool primarily used as a smartphone app. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, which give you the ability to post content or a photo, every post on Instagram is a photo that can be tweaked with a variety of vintage-looking filters. You can add captions, but the focus is on imagery.
While many youngsters use Instagram for selfies, it’s extremely popular for viewing and sharing pictures of food, making it ideal for any business in the food and beverage industry. Due to the focus on photos, Instagram also works well for any other businesses with visually appealing material–especially beauty and fashion (show cool nails, hair, makeup, outfits) and travel (show beautiful destinations and accommodations). Professional photographers, artists, and jewelers also love using Instagram to share their latest work.
There are many other creative ways to use it. For example, if you have an events company, you can populate your field with photos of your latest events–the decor, the food, the guests, and more. But if your company sells a product or service that’s not easy to communicate visually, such as software development or financial services, Instagram may be a challenge not worth spending time on.
Social network: Pinterest
The verdict: Best for brands with great images or sharable content
We love Pinterest for its link-building capabilities and fun visual appeal. One of the fastest-growing social networks, Pinterest allows users to “pin,” or bookmark, images with links in a scrapbook-like format.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is ideal for brands with great visuals to share. However, since sharing and pinning content from other sites is so common, there’s less pressure for you to create gobs of your own content like there is with Instagram. Say you run a boutique hotel; you can include several boards that feature images of your hotel, but you can also make boards that feature travel tips, photos of your city, food from your city, and other content that’s visually engaging but pinned from other sites or repinned from other users.
If you don’t have products or services that are visually stunning, you can still be successful on Pinterest by sharing content from your blog or on-site articles. However, Pins with the best images get repinned the most, so even if you pin a link to fabulous content, it probably won’t be shared if the image isn’t captivating. Make sure to use a great photo or graphic in your content (even a great stock photo is fine) so the pin is compelling enough to be clicked on and repinned.
Social network: LinkedIn
The verdict: Best for B2B companies or those with a strong focus on recruiting
While LinkedIn is an increasingly popular social networking site, keep in mind that it’s geared toward business professionals rather than consumers.
It’s not a bad idea to start a company page and occasionally post job openings or company news for potential recruits, especially if your company is on a hiring spree. You can also join groups to network with others in your industry or meet potential clients. The site also allows you to write long-form thought leadership posts, which give you the opportunity to shine as an expert and build credibility.
Unless your business is heavily B2B or you want to become very visible to job candidates, you may not find much benefit from spending time posting on this social networking site.
Social network: Google Plus
The verdict: Be there, but don’t spend much time on it.
Google Plus has been getting mixed reviews lately. Earlier this year, Forrester Research claimed every marketer should use it. But with the recent demise of Google authorship, the reason many people used Google Plus in the first place, its value is in question.
What’s indisputable is that it’s owned by the largest search engine in the world, so your content may be ranked better if you share it there. It’s also a growing network. So we do recommend you make account to control your brand’s presence, then post at least once a week (you can recycle content from a Facebook or Twitter post for time’s sake if you have limited resources to add another social medium to the mix) to keep it active. But probably not necessary to spend a ton of time here.
Social network: YouTube
The verdict: Create a few basic videos if you can produce something with great quality
Having your own video content is highly desirable, and YouTube not only serves as a convenient place to store it, but it makes it easy for others to share on social networks. Hosting videos on YouTube also allows others to embed the content on their own sites, increasing your exposure and views.
Not sure where to start? Whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, there are many types of videos you can create for YouTube. Why not a two-minute introduction to your company? How about a short video about what it’s like to work there for job candidates? YouTube is also perfect for how-to and tutorial videos related to your products or services. You can also post user-generated videos about your brand on YouTube if you have permission from the creators.
We encourage you to use professional video equipment if possible, but if you don’t have access to such resources, a well-shot iPhone video is better than nothing.
Need help figuring out if these or other social networking sites are for you? Contact Message Sprout and we’ll help you get started!
Photo courtesy Jason A. Howie