Social media has become an indispensable tool for communicating, engaging with customers and generating sales. Even so, as many as 47% of small businesses are not making the most of the tremendous opportunities offered by social networks.
Perhaps, ‘overwhelm’ is one of the reasons many small business owners are slow to embrace social. And this is completely understandable given that new social channels and features come up every day and it can indeed be difficult to determine where to start.
If you are just getting started, and you want to optimize your experience and business bottom line from social media, here are the most important questions and tips on choosing the best social channel for your business:
The social channels you choose will depend on what your business is about. If you are in a visual business such as photography, food, or design, specific channels including Instagram and Pinterest may be more suitable. On the other hand, if you are a B2B company, LinkedIn should be the primary channel of communication for your business.
Matching the nature of your business to the most appropriate social channel allows you to get the most bang for your buck and to meet your business goals.
While a large aspect of social media is free, smart businesses are dedicating budgets to their social media efforts to leverage the opportunities offered on these platforms.
Engagement on social media also requires time investment. It is not enough to just create profiles; you need to dedicate reasonable amounts of time to build your social presence.
Depending on the amount of resources and time you have, choose the most important platforms and focus your efforts on those. It is advisable to focus on at least 3 channels that are relevant to your business so that you are not stretching your time and budget too thin. You can always add further channels later if necessary. You are better off excelling in a few channels than trying to engage in as many as possible if you are unable to do so productively.
Your customers or target audience play a very important role in determining the best social channel to use. You need to find out where your audience is spending time, the channels they are using, and how they are using these channels.
Depending on the nature of your business, it may be necessary to segment your audience in terms of demographics, geography and other characteristics that will provide you with comprehensive data on social media usage trends among your target audience and in your specific industry.
Once you understand how your target market uses social media, you want to know the type of content that best resonates with them. Videos and images may be popular among millenials and not business-to-business customers, some of your audiences may prefer Twitter Vines to SlideShare presentations etc.
When you have a clear picture of where your audience spend most of their time and the type of content they consume, you will be able to determine the most appropriate channels to engage your target market and meet their needs.
In addition to considering your business’ capabilities and the needs of your target market, you also need to conduct a competitor analysis to determine if there are any unmet needs.
Are your competitors conspicuously missing on YouTube? Are they more engaged on Twitter and overlooking the opportunities on Facebook?
Quick polls with your target market can help you figure out whether there is an unmet content need within specific social channels and how you can get ahead of competitors to fulfil this need for your target market.
So, what specific sites will be best for your business? There are no cookie-cutter answers, but consider these broad tips:
No matter what your business does, you must join the three most important social sites: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Although Google+ is not as popular as the other three are, it does not show any signs of going away and you might as well build a presence there if only for SEO purposes that can be accrued from building authority/ thought leadership on the platform.
Facebook is excellent for making initial connections with your target market and for lead generation while Twitter works well for brand awareness, customer support, one-on-one engagement and network growth. LinkedIn is ideal for making B2B connections, establishing thought leadership, recruiting talent for your business and expanding your industry knowledge.
In addition to the Big 4, consider leveraging Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram. These sites have more than 1 billion users combined and should be part of your social media mix. Visuals are a big deal as consumers across all market segments insatiably demand for engaging images, infographs, videos, memes and other types of visual content.
Whether you are selling products or services, selling to individual consumers or businesses, women or men, millenials or baby-boomers, investing in visual social content can generate massive ROI.
I also recommend considering Snapchat and Periscope for video sharing content and many smart businesses are having huge success on these platforms.
Lastly, you may opt to engage your market on niche sites. These platforms may be small but if used strategically they can be great for brand awareness, brand loyalty, list building and for sales generation as well. There are hundreds of niche sites for different industries, products and services; with a little creativity, you can find one or two that are the right fit for your business.