If you are in business I’m willing to bet you’ve been told, on a number of occasions, that if you’re not doing social, you’re setting yourself up to fail. You aren’t keeping up with the times and you are going to go the way of the dodo. While we certainly appreciate the power of social media channels, and there’s plenty of reasons to leverage some of these, we don’t echo the above sentiment.
People sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of social platforms available to use, so they end up using them all. This is often a mistake. First of all, lets look at some of the most popular social channels, and really ask ourselves what they’re good for. A handmade candle company would be better off on Instagram, Pinterest & Etsy, whereas an insurance company would probably be better off focusing on Twitter & LinkedIn. It’s important to understand the differences between different social media channels to stand a chance of using them effectively. We’re by no means experts but we hope these brief explanations help you make head or tail of these.
Facebook pages are a good starting point for many businesses. You can build up a following of people who have liked your brand, and subsequently you are allowed into their news feed. Your content won’t be shown to everyone who likes your page, but those who are more engaged with your brand are more likely to see it. You can also use Facebook to run marketing campaigns, to your page’s audience, or to a wider audience. Paying for likes is a trap we’d recommend steering clear of – these Facebook users are often ‘serial likers’, who may even be getting paid to like pages.
Twitter trumps all the others when it comes to customer engagement. It’s real time and so often where the news really breaks, or where a customer will contact you if they want a quick response. If you’re using Twitter, make sure you do reply to your customers promptly, they’ll expect it. Just remember that everything you say is in the public domain! No in jokes here, and certainly don’t discuss anything confidential with a customer without first following each other and switching to direct messages.
Linkedin is often touted as the Facebook for business. A better explanation would be that it’s only worth using if you are a B2B company. LinkedIn is great for networking and for endorsements and recommendations. Very popular with marketing, insurance and other professionals in specific verticals.
Google+ has a great set of features, it really does. Unfortunately, it really hasn’t taken off well here in the UK. Still, I’d advise setting up a page for your business, even if you don’t actively use it, as Google looks favourably on those businesses with a Google+ presence when ranking search results. Please note that this is the only instance I’d recommend setting up a social media page which you do not use frequently. This can be damaging (it’s basically reverse social proof!).
Instagram is a platform for sharing images which uses hashtags like Twitter. Unlike Twitter the focus is on the image, with the majority of the user base being female. Expect lots of selfies, photos of food and cats with filters applied. Great if you are selling a physical product (especially one that photographs well or is very visual), generally not so great if you are selling a service. Note that at the time of writing, there’s no web interface for insta, so everything needs to be done through the app on a phone / tablet. Best for giving your customers a personal experience with your brand. #wokeuplikethis
Pinterest is very similar to Instagram, except each image when clicked, links to the source of the image. This means it’s less for creating an experience for your customers as it is for driving traffic to your website. This still requires that you generate interesting & original content however. Similar demographic to Instagram, though less teenagers here and more foodies and crafters.
I’ve included YouTube, even though I don’t really consider it a social network, because it’s a really handy platform to use if you want to share video content with your users. This could be a product video (see here for the best around: http://sandwichvideo.com/), or how-to guides etc. You’ll likely host your video here and link to it through your other social channels depending in your audience. Don’t forget to disable comments unless you have the time, energy and thick skin to moderate them!
After you’ve figured out which networks will work for your business, how do you go about getting the most out of them?
It’s a complicated answer, depending on which networks you’re using, your product or service and your customer demographic. Broadly speaking though you’ll need to come up with a social media strategy. In this, you’ll define what you’re hoping to achieve with each platform, what content you will produce & share, your tone of voice, and of course, your success criteria. After all, even with good planning managing your social media platforms can be time consuming – you need a measure of success so you can monitor progress and see if what you’re doing is working.
The true power of social media is that which is given to your customers. They can be sure that their voice is heard – just make sure you’re listening!