Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses: How to Choose Social Networks

This is Part 2 of Social Media Marketing 101, a series of step-by-step guides written specifically for small business owners who are new to social media. Read Part 1 here.

Welcome back to Social Media Marketing 101! In our first post, we narrowed down your strategy and clarified ways in which you can approach social media marketing, depending on your business goals.

Today, we will discuss the next very important step of your social media marketing journey: choosing the social networks to focus on in your marketing campaigns! We will:

  • cover six of the most popular social networks,
  • list their advantages and special features,
  • and help you decide which ones are best-suited for your business!

Let’s get started!

1. Facebook

Facebook is the largest social network on the planet with over 1.86 billion monthly active users. The platform has evolved over the years. Facebook users stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues by posting various types of content (photos, videos, text updates, links). They also:

  • follow and comment on news;
  • connect with brands, businesses, public figures on various Pages;
  • engage with like-minded individuals in public and private Groups.

Why your business should be on Facebook

The sheer number of active users should have convinced you already. In case not, Facebook refers more traffic to third-party websites than any other social network. Business owners can build beautiful, functional and content-rich pages to represent their companies on Facebook. Its advertising platform is also incredibly powerful, for which only Google Adwords is a valid competitor.

Why your business should NOT be on Facebook

You may want to consider investing your time in another social network (namely LinkedIn), if your business is in the niche that isn’t too marketable or palatable to wide audiences. An example would be a funeral home, a hospice or a collection agency. We are struggling to come up with another example. Convincing a business not to be on Facebook in most cases is playing devil’s advocate.

2. Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging public platform which allows users to publish messages of 140 characters or shorter (called “Tweets”). Anything and everything that can be expressed in 140 characters goes! Breaking news, commentary, opinions, live tweets of events, chatting with friends (called “Followers”)… Twitter is surprisingly versatile for what it offers. Most tweets are public, which makes it easier to discover interesting people and companies to follow.

Why your business should be on Twitter

If you create a lot of content like blog posts, case studies or articles, sharing them on Twitter is a great way to spread the word about your business. Twitter has made itself visually appealing and interesting by allowing images, GIFs and even videos to be attached to tweets.

If you are in a niche industry, you are likely to find peers and other professionals more easily on Twitter than on Facebook. Twitter is also a great customer service tool which allows you to monitor your customers’ feedback about your business and quickly respond to their concerns.

Why your business should NOT be on Twitter

If your primary goal on social media is to direct people to your website to make a purchase or an order, Twitter scores quite low in that regard. You are better off with Facebook (and using its ads). Furthermore, if not a lot of people offer praise or complaints to you on Twitter, it may not be worth your time to try to pedal it as a customer support channel.

3. Instagram

Instagram is a highly visual social network which focuses exclusively on photos and video content. It is used for sharing photos and videos that users mostly take on their phones. It has also become increasingly commonplace to share high-quality professional photography, comics, illustrations and other entertaining visual content.

Indeed, a lot of brands are able to effectively connect with their customers through photo sharing on Instagram. Instagram feels immediate and personal, and harnessing that humanizing feel has brought many brands huge success on the network.

Why your business should be on Instagram

If your company has a strong visual representation of its offering, Instagram is perfect for you. Fashion sellers, cooking schools, bars, restaurants, travel agencies, book stores etc can all benefit! It is a lot easier to get discovered on Instagram by potential customers than on Facebook or even Twitter through the use of hashtags (clickable tags like #Instagram or #socialmedia).

Why your business should NOT be on Instagram

Being highly visual, Instagram requires a steady stream of high-quality visual content to keep your followers engaged. It also does not make it easy to share other people’s visual content, the way Pinterest does.

Unfortunately, some businesses simply do not easily translate into visuals. For example, an accounting firm would have a hard time making Instagram work. It will be unlikely to find clients through it. It can still have an Instagram account to publish photos of team retreats or client success stories, but that is a different use of it entirely.

To put it simply, if you can’t immediately think of ten images you could post on Instagram about your business, reconsider it as your main choice. Place your focus on Facebook and Twitter, or another niche network, instead.

4. Pinterest

Pinterest is a social network of beautiful images (called “Pins”) organized (or “pinned”) into collections (called “Boards”). Just like Instagram, Pinterest is a very visual medium. It got its start as a DIY and interior design heaven. Today it has grown into a powerhouse of visual inspiration, tips, and instructions on travel, fashion, food, gardening and anything else you can possibly imagine. Pinterest has a monthly active user count of 150 million, with the demographic being very female-dominant (85% of users are women).

Why your business should be on Pinterest

If your brand has a visually appealing side targeting Pinterest’s core demographic, it could be a great choice. Unlike on Instagram, you can layer your brand presentation, building up from a single Pin to a whole Board. You may also include keyword-rich product descriptions and attractive clickable links. Pinterest ads (Promoted Pins) may help you reach a wider audience, increase engagement with your content and send more traffic to the website.

Why your business should NOT be on Pinterest

You should look critically at your product and decide if it can be represented well on the medium. See above for examples that wouldn’t do well on Instagram, as Pinterest is similar. Visuals are key!

If you have plans of casting your social media net really wide, building a Pinterest presence using your existing content is doable. If you are looking for one or two “big” ones to focus on, and Pinterest does not seem like a natural choice, keep looking.

5. YouTube

YouTube is a platform for user-uploaded videos featuring an incredible range of talent producing all sorts of videos. How-to videos, comedy sketches, and even short action films attract over a billion users. Every registered user has an option of starting a channel to upload videos (for free) or simply use her account to interact with videos on the platform. YouTube has an advertising platform that allows content creators to place ads before, after or in the middle of their video clips.

Why your business should be on YouTube

According to Shareaholic, YouTube drives the most engaged traffic of all the social networks, period. If your company can afford to invest in the creation of videos about your product, you should be on YouTube. (Put simply, if you can only say it in a video, YouTube is for you.)

For sure, a lot of different businesses in different industries can attract a lot of views and generate genuine engagement by putting up videos to help or to inspire prospective customers. The key is figuring out whether the benefits of producing videos for YouTube will outweigh the costs of their production.

Why your business should NOT be on YouTube

If you want to test the waters of sharing videos with your customers, look into Instagram first. See if the video format is the right fit. Do not dive into YouTube head first only to abandon your channel a few months later.

6. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network where professionals come to, well, network. Think of LinkedIn as Facebook for your professional connections. You have a personal profile which focuses on your career and professional skills, effectively acting as your online resume. You can choose to restrict access to your profile fully or partially. LinkedIn is actively used by recruiters to hire employees.

Why your business should be on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has 450 million users, with 25% consistently active on the network. LinkedIn stands apart from all the other social networks discussed because its nature is not inherently entertaining. Instead, it focuses specifically on work, career search, and (especially) professional services. Therefore, if you feel that every other network is not “serious” enough for your business, LinkedIn may be for you. Another reason you may want to consider building a presence on LinkedIn is its robust B2B advertising and publishing capabilities.

Why your business should NOT be on LinkedIn

As a business, you have limited platform functionality. Businesses are represented by Company Pages that do not yet live up to the standard of Facebook Pages. Apart from being present purely from a brand image point of view, you will likely not benefit from it if you are a small local business or an eCommerce website. B2C tend to have better results on other social networks. That said, you as a business owner should definitely have a LinkedIn profile!

So Which One?

Above, we talked about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram which offer the most diverse set of uses suitable for many small businesses. We also covered YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, listing their advantages and niche uses.

Your business does not have to be on all six. In fact, we strongly encourage you to pick just one or two to get started. Keeping your social media goals in mind, study the list to decide which ones are the best for you.

  • The Facebook + Twitter combo is very common.
  • Instagram + Pinterest is a great choice for highly visual brands.
  • Twitter + LinkedIn would suit a service professional perfectly.
  • Only Facebook? Good.
  • Just Twitter? Depending on your industry, it could work!

Which one will your business go for?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Social Media Marketing 101!

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