Which Social Media Platform is Right for YOUR BUSINESS?
Social media is mainstream. Your customers are using it and your competitors are using it. The question is: Are you?
As a business owner, you may need little convincing that social media marketing is something that you need to do. In 2010 it might have been a completely different matter. You may have needed persuading back them as some people were still writing social media off as a fad.
Today, however, there is no battle between social media and mainstream marketing. Social media IS the mainstream. Facebook has over a billion users. Twitter has over 600 million accounts, and people spend more time on social networks than they do on email.
Despite this, there are still many business owners who still don’t know which social media platform is the right one for their business or how best to use it. This article will give you a brief overview of each of the most popular social media platforms and we will also share some of our valuable tips showing you how to make it more effective for you and your company.
Blogs are among the most important sources of ‘rich’ content. They are the real fuel for your social media engine. They are the oldest form of social media and give the average web user the ability to publish long-form content quickly and easily. Instead of static websites, blogs are interactive in nature, allowing visitors to leave a comment on individual articles or blog posts. Many newspaper websites and even online magazines now operate like blogs as readers have the ability to interact and post comments and views and articles.
Blogs began as online diaries, giving people the ability to share their thoughts and ideas online. However, in time, blogs grew in popularity to become a common and powerful tool used by businesses. In fact, many company websites are built on blogging platforms to allow website owners to easily upload content. Today, blogs can support many different business strategies, attracting employees and helping out customer service. Some companies have hundreds of blogs segmented into regions, product lines and customer demographics.
One important aspect to remember about blogging is that it can be a powerful source of search engine traffic. Some companies make the mistake of having a blog separate from their website. That doesn’t make sense and is bad for business. Don’t let anybody talk you into a separate blog. It is better to have a blog integrated into your website and drive people to directly to your site. After all, that is where business gets done.
Podcasting is a bit like audio blogging and is another potential source of rich content.
Although it has been around for quite a long time, the platform has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance because of the growing use of mobile devices. It has become very easy to carry these “radio programs” anywhere you go and listen to them while multi-tasking, driving or working out. While the popularity of podcasting has created the a whole new generation of radio “celebrities”, a lot of businesses have lagged behind in adopting this platform as part of their social media marketing strategy.
One of the reasons is because starting and maintaining a podcast is the most technically complicated channel and also requires a modest investment in audio technology as well as some practise. Don’t let that put you off using it for your business. Because of the slow adoption by many companies, look at podcasting carefully as a potential niche point of differentiation for your business and over time you will have a targeted core audience of dedicated and loyal fans for your brand.
Twitter might not need much of an introduction because it is now used by everybody from marketers and celebrities to teens and members of the media thanks to it’s ‘in the moment’ and public nature. Unless you choose to keep your messages private, everything your post on Twitter is available for the world to see. In today’s social media-driven world, breaking news often comes in the form of a Tweet.
Twitter has also become the de facto ‘second screen’ for commentary while viewing television and has attracted a lot of attention for the advertising ‘ripple’ it is causing with its new relationship with TV. This platform has many advantages for businesses. It’s probably the fastest way to grow a targeted audience and Twitter has also introduced a variety of advertising platforms. Most brands are now utilising Twitter as an extension of their customer service department. This makes sense as research has shown that people who follow your brand on Twitter tend to be very loyal.
There are probably as many ways to use Twitter as there are business strategies. However, the most powerful advantage is networking. The open and public nature of Twitter allows you to develop relationships with new customers, potential employees and business partners in your region and beyond. If your business can benefit from live networking events, it can benefit from Twitter. A good tip is to explore the advanced search function on Twitter. Many business owners and marketers believe that this is one of the most powerful sources for marketing research and insight ever created. And best of all, it is free.
You can even save your Twitter searches to monitor discussions about brands, watch competitors, and discover new customer wants and needs. Perhaps the biggest downside to Twitter for many small companies is that it is difficult to understand, which inhibits adoption. It can be like entering a new world with a different language and a new set of customs but with patience and consistency, you will soon get in the swing of things.
What began as a network for college students has transformed into the biggest social network and the largest website in the world today.
For many people, Facebook is now part of their lifestyle. It is global, addictive, useful and it is the largest media entity in history. You can’t ignore it because that is where your customers are. Facebook is unsurpassed in its ability to connect businesses with its customers in a rapid and human way. It is an ideal platform to spread the word quickly, monitor reactions, and collect data.
By setting up a Facebook Fan Page for business, you open up a myriad of marketing opportunities. What’s more, Facebook’s domination extends onto Smartphones as well as desktops, with an ever-increasing focus on mobile users and location based marketing that businesses just can’t afford to ignore. In addition, Facebook has been evolving and improving its analytics capabilities and ad reporting systems. Since becoming a public company it has been focussing on new revenue streams and advertising platforms, particularly on mobile.
LinkedIn is considered the social network for professionals. LinkedIn showcases your business experience and connects you with contacts from your email address book and places you’ve worked.
LinkedIn profiles are much like an online resume, detailing your education, skills, experience and recommendations from your colleagues and friends. It also gives you the opportunity to link to presentations, blog posts and your portfolio. Among the major social platforms, it is unsurpassed as a place for sales leads and connections, particularly if you are in B2B. There are over 2 million LinkedIn Groups devoted to every professional vocation, company and cause imaginable. Some of them are noisy and spammy, but the majority of them are populated with caring professionals who devote a lot of time helping people in their groups.
Despite the fact that LinkedIn has continually innovated and is a multimedia powerhouse of a platform, the truth is, it is normally a little boring there. There isn’t much socialisation going on. A top tip for better engagement on LinkedIn is this: If you are ever stuck for an idea for your content plan, go to your favourite LinkedIn Group for your industry. Each group has a place where members can post questions and ideas relevant to the topic of the group. Find an interesting question and write a blog post as an answer. Then go back to the group and post a link to your post as an answer to the question, in an authentically helpful way.
This simple exercise helps you to accomplish three important objectives at the same time. First, it provides you with a meaningful source of content for your blog. Second, it provides a kind and helpful service to the person who asked the question. You will certainly be on their radar screen from now on, as well as from others in the group who also read your reply. And third, by answering the question with a link, you are driving highly relevant eyeballs to your website. This system is efficient and really works.
If you are in a business related to fashion, style, food, travel, interior design or crafts, Pinterest is a must for your business. The addictive site can be described as scrapbooks of ideas, dreams, inspirations and aspirational purchases.
The users base is more than 70 per cent women and it is now one of the top five social media platforms in terms of active users. Pinterest is practically made for business. Where ‘selling’ is discouraged on other sites, Pinterest fans actively look for images of favourite products, with the price tag included, and many of these users are ready to buy. In fact ‘pins’ with price tags usually attract 36 per cent more likes than those that don’t. The average Pinterest user spends 1 hour and 17 minutes in the website per visit.
Here is the most important thing to know about Pinterest. It drives more web traffic and actual purchases than any other platform, including Facebook. The Social Habit Report from Edison Research showed that Pinterest users not only click on photos to find the original source, they also go to company sites after leaving Pinterest, inspired by the photos they have seen there.
If you want people to start pinning from your website (which is an incredibly efficient way of spreading the word about your business) then you have to make your website and blog very visual. Spend some time on Pinterest getting to know the style, subject and compositions of the photos your potential customers are pinning.
At a basic level Google+, (sometimes written Google plus) is an attempt by Google to reinvent the social media network on mobile devices and on the web. But Google+ is also Google’s attempt at being Facebook. Launched in 2011, it has now over 300 million active users. It is an impressive number but is still around a quarter of Facebook users.
Google believes Google+ is a “social layer” on top of your normal browsing, rather than a standalone single website. Google+ is based completely around the concept of sharing, not just links and photos, but also to get interesting information sent to you. Google wants to keep it nicely curated in one place. Google+ is continually changing. By merging Maps and Local Business Pages, it is making all business directories redundant. Google+ operates like Twitter in that it’s not merely enough to add someone as a friend. They must also add you to get notified about your content. Unless they’ve got a good reason, they are unlikely to add a brand as a friend.
However, they may add your business as something else. Google+ makes you put people into categories, known as circles, which you can create to suit your purposes – whether that’s family, friends, work colleagues or something else. To make an impression, post frequently and keep your profile up to date. Remember, posts on Google+ don’t have to be long. By default, only the first few lines of a long post are shown, so either keep them short or link out to other sites or blogs. Choose carefully how you can share with which of your circles, and encourage people to comment or +1 your posts, which helps in search results.
Another way it is good for local business is the fact that positive reviews may get you into the local results carousel on the main Google search page. To drive most traffic to your page, visit your profile and set a custom URL in the links box. Use this URL in emails and marketing, including Google Adwords campaigns. You can also add a custom Google+ badge to your website.
Make sure your Google+ page has a link to your website. Google will provide a code snippet to add to your homepage that helps it keep track of traffic and advertising, and which improves your pages SEO. Finally, use your brand to comment on other people’s posts and honestly review other local businesses to help further bump up traffic to your brands page.
Just a few years ago, the most popular videos on YouTube were homemade productions of piano playing cats and brides falling into swimming pools. Those days are over.
Today, YouTube is mainstream entertainment, viewed by commuters on trains and at home on big TV screens. We are living in a video crazy world and experts predict that the percentage of video-related content we will consume in the next few years will double. Because of its popularity and predictions such as the one we just mentioned, major brands are capitalising by creating increasingly epic mini-movies exclusively for their dedicated YouTube channels. The bar for quality is constantly going up.
In addition to feeding the publics nearly insatiable hunger for video content, companies also realise that YouTube is owned by Google and is the second largest search engine in the world. Billions of videos are watched on YouTube every day. As a small business, it may seem daunting trying to enter this crowded world of Hollywood-quality videos but there is still room for small businesses in this space. Remember that search results are typically local so even start-ups have a chance to compete for attention by providing useful, informative and entertaining videos.
The most effective way to successfully compete and get a huge, loyal following is to concentrate on creating practical, informative and engaging videos for topics within your field or niche. While every business dreams of creating the perfect “viral” video, the fact is that it is extremely difficult to predict what is going to go viral. However, many businesses are ruling the airwaves (and search results) with very simple videos to help customers solve their problems and answer their questions.
Slideshare is not normally considered a “major” social media platform, but we have included it in this overview because as you consider adding more content and information online this is an excellent place to start.
The idea is very simple: Slideshare allows users to upload and share slideshow presentations on any topic, but it is particularly powerful for marketing your business knowledge and expertise. It has often been called the Sleeping Giant of the social media world as, despite its massive user base, it doesn’t receive the same amount of attention as the other big social networks. However, with the right approach, it can be a brilliant tool in your social media arsenal. Slideshare accepts videos and various types of documents, but it is the PowerPoint slideshows that tend to perform best and attract the most views.
To get the most from Slideshare use it in conjunction with your other social media platforms. For example you could show your Twitter feed on your Slideshare profile to gain Twitter followers from your shares. It is easy to d as Slideshare allows you to insert your Twitter feed on to your profile page. The benefit is that it gives your profile viewers a quick and easy way to get taste of what you and your business is all about, and a link to click-through to Twitter and get in touch.
Another cool Twitter-related feature is this: when someone tweets one of your Slideshare presentations, they will automatically be prompted to follow you on Twitter. Slideshare has reported that this feature has helped some users to considerably boost their Twitter following. If you do this too, who knows where that could lead for your business. The possibilities are huge.
Instagram, the fun and quirky image app for iPhone and Android devices has taken the world by storm. Millions upon millions of people use it as a way to transform everyday photos with filters and frames, into memory-laden content, which can be shared with the world on an online gallery.
It is a superb social media tool for businesses to engage with their customers, build relationships, and increase sales. You can use Instagram to promote your new products, services and offers through images and a tempting description. Virtually every major brand now has an Instagram account. Be creative by featuring customers using your products. There is no better promotion for your business to brand new customers than to show photos of existing customers enjoying what you offer, so take advantage of this idea when using Instagram.
You can take snaps from inside your store, restaurant or business. You can also use images submitted to you by happy existing customers. For example, pen manufacture Sharpie, regularly features sketches drawn by its customers via Instagram. Show behind the scenes of your business. To increase intimacy with your brand and make customers feel special, use Instagram to snap photos of behind-the-scenes goings-on at your company.
It is easy to kick-start your follower base on Instagram. Simply announce your Instagram presence on other social media, including Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr. In Instagram’s “Sharing Settings”, enter your social media usernames and passwords for the various accounts on offer, to make sure that your Instagram photos are seen by your various followers on each site when you publish them. The importance of photo-oriented content is being driven by a couple of market factors. First, the use of mobile smart devices has brought the barriers to creating and sharing photographic content down to zero. It is fun. It is fast and it is easy.
Second, in our information-dense world, we may only have time to consume images rather than read huge articles. It is very easy for people to fill a few seconds of spare time thumbing through Instagram photos. Finally, you can do it at work. Many companies may block access to Facebook or Twitter on company computers, but people can easily sneak some time with a site like Instagram on their smartphone. The Social Habit research showed that 85% of the people who use Instagram do it at work, easily the most work-friendly social media site around. If you are a ‘visual’ brand, the emerging popularity of photo sites can be a goldmine of opportunity.
Now that you have an overview of the various social media platforms what would you like to do now?
As we said at the outset, as a business owner you already know how important social media is for your business. However a lot of business owners we speak to are too busy running their businesses and simply don’t have the time it takes to even plan a social media campaign never mind run a social media account. Even if you do run a moderately successful social media site you might want to take it to another level.
No matter what your situation is, we can help you to give your social media marketing a kick-start and show you what huge profits and brand awareness awaits you and your business as a result of a success social media marketing campaign.
Contact us today to see how we can help your business.
Burnside | A technology professional with more than two decades of experience writing. He has served as contributing author for ‘Talking Tech’ Column in the Pride of Durham News Paper(NC), and has an ongoing contribution here on CyrilBurnside.com. He is a professional services consultant with PC99Solutions, an IT consulting firm for small business. Contact us today and watch your online business grow.
If you own a business, there is a good chance that you have spent many years, investing time, sweat and tears into building it, and have missed many family functions and events in order to make it a success. Building a business is hard work and you don’t want that hard work to be undone by comments made about your business online.
Of course, no business can please every customer, and there isn’t a business out there that has not had an issue arise. Ideally, problems can be resolved quickly and quietly, before they reach a point where the customer feels that they have to warn others about your business through a public forum. The Internet has made it so that there are no barriers between customers, and word of mouth can travel further and more rapidly than ever before.
Regardless of the type of business you are in, a lot of your customers are going to be active users of social media websites. Which means if they are happy, or unhappy with your business, there is a very good chance, they will share their feelings online, usually in the form of location check-in’s, reviews, or Twitter and Facebook posts. If they are pleased with your business, that is fantastic. However, if they are unhappy, a complaint on a social media network can quickly turn into a disaster.
To combat this, you should make sure that both your customer service and public relations departments are socially perceptive, work quickly on resolving and defusing problems, and keep an eye on customer feedback and make improvements to your business when necessary. Social networks are a great way to interact with your customers, and turn around any experiences for those that are unhappy.
If you and your staff have prepared and planned how to handle online criticism, the impact of any complaints can be greatly reduced, and you will probably be able to respond more effectively and quickly to minimize any potential damage.
For any business owner, the reputation of their business is extremely important, and even one bad review, regardless of whether it is true or false, online or off, can negatively influence a business and its sales. Fortunately, there are things you can do to monitor and protect your reputation online.
Keep an Eye on Social Media
In order to monitor, protect and maintain your online reputation, you must keep an eye on social media websites so that you know what people are saying about your business. However, if you are not particularly Internet savvy, you may not know what types of things to look for.
Begin by looking for anything that references your business name, services and products. Make sure that you include abbreviations, nicknames and possible misspellings in your search. Other things that you can search for include seasonal campaigns, special offers, sales, the names of the business owners, including your own name, and the names of CEOs and stockholders.
Once you have a good idea of how your business appears on social media websites, run similar searches for some of your competitors. This will help you determine if your online reputation is better, or worse than theirs is. If it is worse, try to determine what the other companies are doing well. On the other hand, if your company has a good reputation and your competitors do not, find out what they are doing wrong to ensure that you do not make the same mistakes.
Social Media Tracking
Of course, you could run these social media searches manually, but completing them on a regular basis can take a lot of time. Fortunately, there are many free, or low cost programs available online that can track social media for you.
Apps such as Social Mention and Hootsuite, paired with free services such as Google Alerts can make social media monitoring much easier. Many of these apps even allow you to schedule posting times and reply to comments.
Customer Service via Social Media
Tracking and monitoring your social media reputation is only the beginning. In order to leverage social media efficiently, you need to interact and talk with your customers.
If someone posts praise about your products or service, reply to the post and thank the person for their kind words, you could even offer them a small, one-time discount. If someone posts a negative comment, reply and ask what your company can do to resolve the issue and make the customer happy. Of course, you cannot satisfy every customer, and even if they remain unhappy, you are showing other social media users that you take customer service very seriously.
Additionally, find the time to get involved with forums, message boards and other sites where your business name, or your competitors names crops up. If you become an active participant in these conversations, you are increasing your reputation and brand awareness.
Maintaining Your Social Media Presence
In today’s technological world, many businesses have some kind of social media presence, but many of them treat their social media pages the same as their static web pages.
However, a social media page and a static website are completely different. A social media page needs frequent attention. You should be adding photographs of new products, offering special discounts to social media users, and of course, linking to your business’s website.
Nevertheless, simply posting is not enough you also need to engage. Ask your social media followers what types of things they would like to see in new products and services. Take customer satisfaction poles, or run contests specific to social media. The more comments you can generate, the better your online reputation will become. Just remember to read what people are posting, and respond in a timely manner to both the good, and the bad comments.
Turning Unhappy Customers into Happy Ones
Because online posts can act like word of mouth on steroids, one or two unhappy customers can become a real problem. All businesses should allocate the necessary resources to be able to monitor mentions of their company. However, what should you do if your business gets a negative comment or receives a bad review? The most important things are to keep calm, address the issue, be professional, and attempt to solve the problem.
Online communities are typically anonymous, allowing people the freedom to post damaging comments without repercussion. Because of this, feedback can become very negative quite quickly.
When dealing with negative feedback, it is important to remember not to take it personally, because if you do, it will stop you taking an honest look at what improvements need to be made. For example, if you get a lot of negative feedback about a particular site feature, then you should be prepared to take immediate action to change, improve or remove that feature to rectify the problem.
One of the main points when dealing with customer complaints is empathy. In most cases, unhappy customers are simply looking for a solution to their problem, they have merely chosen social media channels to voice their concerns, opinions and problems. Empathy helps to set the tone for any public responses. Remember in many cases, customers just want to be heard.
When it comes to positive comments, you should still ensure that you keep track of what they seem to think you are doing right. Of course, you should also make sure that you thank them, and share their comments with others when appropriate. Ultimately, your customers, users, clients and shoppers are using social networks, which mean that you need to be using them too to ensure you hear what they are saying and respond appropriately.
Don’t Opt Out of Reputation Management
Many small businesses do not realize the importance of reputation management, and without it, they are left in the position of a sitting duck. If a business only has a website to represent them online, they are in a precarious position if someone creates a site to target them, or simply posts something negative on social media. This is because these items can rank on search engines when someone does a business name search. Believe it or not, people frequently search for businesses online by using their business name, so having negative comments and other bad stuff rank in search results can directly impact the bottom line.
Online reputation management and repair has been a large part of online marketing for many years. Many businesses have had to spend many man-hours repairing their reputation. If a business neglects to develop their online presence and reputation proactively, they may find that they pay the price later in lost revenues, and additional man-hours repairing damage and developing a presence that they neglected.
Any business that is closely tied to the identities of their founders, the name of their executive officers may be another area of reputation that needs to be proactively managed. While many executives avoid social media because they have chosen to keep a low profile, having no online reputation built around their name, they may also be sitting ducks for reputation damage if someone decides to post something negative about them.
While under-engaging in online media is bad, handling social media badly can be much worse. Nobody can cause as much damage as you can if you do not know what you are doing. Many entrepreneurs and employees of small businesses develop a case of over confidence, possibly because many people who open small businesses find they have to become jacks-of-all-trades in order to be able to run the business effectively.
However, the ability to create a great product and do everything necessary to manage and run a small business does not automatically make business owners effective communicators, especially on the Internet. With this in mind, below are a few helpful tips to help business owners successfully manage their online reputation.
1. Set Up Online Accounts and Monitor Them
At the very least, your company should have a Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account. For many high-tech, B2B and other professional businesses, you may also want to set up a Linkedin account. If you sell visually oriented products, Pinterest, Flickr and Instagram may also be useful. Finally, if you want to benefit from shared videos, consider Vimeo and YouTube.
2. Don’t Neglect These Accounts
Simply having these social media accounts is not enough. Once you have them set up, it is important you build them to develop your audience. Use your social media accounts to interact with customers and increase your influence.
3. Consider Brands and Products
If you have specific brand or product names, you may want to develop web pages, social media profiles and materials to help claim and reserve those names.
4. Protect Individuals Associated with the Business
Develop a social media presence for the names of your owners, founders and executives, especially if their names are unique.
5. Read Posts and Reviews Carefully
Typically, the first reaction to a bad review is to get mad, or to argue. However, neither approach is productive. Instead, read the review as carefully as possible. It may be raising a problem that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
6. Address Any Issues
If there has been a negative review, address the issue and find out what the problem was that caused it. This will allow you to turn a potential disaster into an opportunity to connect with existing and potential customers.
Blogging can greatly help with site’s rankings and provides content for social media accounts. It can also help to build and maintain your company’s reputation and give you a platform where you can respond to any allegations made about your company.
When you respond to bad reviews or online complaints, remember to listen to what your customers are saying with an open mind. You may find that there is a weakness in your company that needs addressing. Always try to be flexible, and come up with creative ways to give your customers what they want without creating more problems.
If you, or your company does something wrong, own up to it and make a genuine apology. This can quickly help to diffuse a situation and move the process towards a speedy solution.
10. Do Not Argue
It doesn’t matter how bad the review is, show your class by thanking the reviewer. Write a short note of appreciation, thanking them for taking the time to provide feedback. If you take the time to be professional and personal, your response may actually gain some new customers for your business.
11. Make an Investment in Your Reputation Management
Developing and maintaining a social media reputation requires an investment in both time and money. Many small businesses either ignore reputation management completely, or attempt to do it themselves on a shoestring budget and an as needed, or as time allows basis.
However, a social media reputation is a vital element of almost any business and not simply something, which is nice to have. Additionally, if you do not have adequate experience interacting with online communities, doing it yourself may not be the best idea. If you do not have the experience, or time to do it properly, or simply don’t know how, make an investment and hire an online reputation management service to take care of it for you.
While proactive online reputation management may cost a little to set up and put in place, it will save you time and money in the end. Your online reputation is very important. With so many consumers reading, posting and sharing business reviews on websites such as Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Foursquare, it is critical that every business manages and monitors their online reviews, as they play a major part in shaping your business reputation.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
Even if you have not had any issues online, prevention is better than cure. It makes sense to apply the tips in this article and have a monitoring plan in place.
If, like many small businesses, you simply don’t have the time or the staff to monitor your online brand, why not give us a call and see what we can do to not only protect your brand but promote it.
As online marketing experts, we can present a positive image of your business to the world and attract thousands more customers to your site. Give us a call today.
Burnside | A technology professional with more than two decades of experience writing. He has served as contributing author for ‘Talking Tech’ Column in the Pride of Durham News Paper(NC), and has an ongoing contribution here on CyrilBurnside. He works with PC99Solutions, a technology consulting firm focused on services for small business. Contact us today and watch your online business grow.