Social Media and its popularity across all ages and walks of life means it constitutes a huge opportunity to promote your business.

But the very nature of its appeal – how far and wide social media reaches – means it can be daunting if you are just starting out and exploring the possibilities it opens up for your business.

However, a little bit of time spent thinking about what you want to achieve with social media, can save you hours of wasted time and effort.

Getting started with social media?

One of the biggest barriers to getting started in social for businesses is knowing where to start.

The key is to do a little research before you even set up a profile to ensure your efforts are not wasted.

Each platform has its own benefits, and while only using one or two may mean you are passing over the opportunities the others have to offer, trying to be active on all social networks will ultimately be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve.

Biting off more than you can chew will mean social media takes up hours and hours of your day. This is time which could be better spent concentrating on your business.
The other possible outcome is that you struggle to be social at all – churning out irrelevant content and failing to interact with your followers.
Or both!

Have a social media strategy

Success on social media is down to having a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve, knowing who you are “talking” to and having a way of measuring your progress towards your target.

For instance, are you trying to raise brand awareness? If so, your “reach” on social media, ie the number of people who see your posts, is probably the metric to keep an eye on.

If you are trying to secure more paying customers you will need a way of measuring how many people who call you or buy from your website found out about you on Facebook, Twitter or whichever platform you choose.

Know your market

Another key to choosing which social media platform to use is knowing who it is you want to be social with. Presumably this will be people who are likely to be interested in your business.

Having a “buyer persona”, with information about their gender, age and interests can go a long way towards making the decision for you. You go where they hang out!

Which social media platform will work for me?

Facebook

The biggest of all, Facebook  is good for businesses who want to build brand loyalty.

One of its biggest benefits is that it is flexible – you can share photos, videos, company updates, links to blogs etc.

It is also considered to be a “low maintenance” social media platform. You can choose how often you update – whether it’s several times a day or just once or twice a week.

Facebook is also very “interactive” with a number of ways your followers can interact with your posts, such as commenting, sharing and liking.

Insights offer analytics on how many people are seeing your posts and how they are reacting to them.

You can use this information to tailor your posts to your audience and even work out what time of day is best to get maximum interaction.

In recent times, organic reach (the number of people who see the statuses you post that are not “paid for”) has declined and you may find you need to use Facebook ads.

The great thing about Facebook ads are that you can set a budget and target a very specific demographic, for example women of a certain age who live within a certain radius of your business.

Trial and error

You do not need a massive budget to achieve results with Facebook ads, but it may take some trial and error (or help from an expert) to figure out what works best in your adverts, eg the image, wording and call to action.

Resist the urge to turn your whole Facebook business page into one big advert for your products or services.

Facebook – and social media generally – works best when you are building a relationship with your followers.

Try posts that inspire conversation and shares. Ask questions and show your business’s human side with behind the scenes videos, for example.

Facebook is probably the easiest network to get to grips with when you are just starting out, but one of the major downsides is the sheer volume of businesses already active on it. You need to rise above the noise to get your business noticed.

Twitter

There are those who consider Twitter to be the social media platform for marketing and customer service. One survey suggested that 49 per cent of people prefer to hear from businesses on Twitter than on any other platform.

The key to building a following on Twitter is not to just tweet promotional posts about your business.

By all means share your own content, but balance it with sharing and retweeting other users’ content and taking part in the conversation.

Just one share away from going viral

A big selling point of Twitter is that it just takes one person with a large following to share your post and it could go viral – bringing your business lots of attention.

One of the things Twitter is perhaps best known for is bringing us the “hashtag”. Use them to join in popular conversations and enable people interested in a topic to find your relevant posts.

One of the downsides is that your tweets have a relatively short shelf life before they are pushed down your followers’ timeline.

It is said that a tweet is only likely to be seen within an 18-minute window.

This compares to five hours on Facebook, 21 hours on Instagram and 24 hours on LinkedIn.

Because of this, it is advisable to post multiple times a day to maximise the chances of your posts being seen as your followers log in at different times of the day.

You can, of course, use Twitter ads to maximise your exposure, but this can be a pricier option than Facebook ads, for example.

Instagram

Instagram is a very “visual” social media platform, based solely on photo and video posts.

It boasts unique photo and video editing options, such as adding filters, and relies heavily on the use of hashtags. It is almost entirely “mobile” – you can’t take photos or create new posts on your desktop computer.

Instagram is a good choice of social media platform for businesses whose products or services are very visual, such as cake makers, fashion retailers, hairdressers.

It can be made to work for other businesses if you get a little creative with “behind the scenes” pictures and videos, memes, motivational quotes, for example.

You can also use Instagram to post exclusive offers and run competitions, but bear in mind that you cannot include links in comments or captions which can limit your capacity to drive traffic to your website.

There’s also the option of exploring Instagram stories – posts that disappear after 24 hours.

As it is such a visual site, you do need to ensure the images you post are of a decent quality, so it helps if you have an eye for detail and decent photography skills.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a very business orientated social media platform and can be good for B2B networking and building credibility.

It gives you the opportunity to view other business profiles and the recommendations and reviews they have received. You can also show recommendations and reviews your business has received to build trust.

Your bio can include a vast amount of detail about your professional background, work experience, knowledge and skills, as well as a link to your website.

Establish yourself as an expert

Share blog posts from your website or use LinkedIn’s own Publisher to create posts that establish you as an expert in your field, or use LinkedIn to post job opportunities in your business.

You can also use your “connections” to request personal introductions to other people you would like to be connected with.

LinkedIn offers personal profiles and company pages, which can increase brand awareness.

There is also a paid-for version, which improves on the limitations the free version imposes on private and personal interactions.

Other options are available…

YouTube – Obviously worth considering if you are producing lots of video content for your business.

Pinterest – Good for visual organisations, but still finding its feet as a social media platform for business, so not particularly useful for those in B2B. The upside is that Pins stay active for months

Foursquare/Yelp – Good for “bricks and mortar” businesses. Little effort required as these are “word-of-mouth” style networks where you rely on customers providing reviews.

Summing up social media…

The upshot of all of this is that there is no “one size fits all” answer to which is the best social media platform for your business.

Your best option is to be armed with all the information you need to make an informed decision, such as your buyer persona, and then “test, measure, repeat”.

Try different things on different platforms. Make sure you have a defined way of measuring the results against your goals and if they don’t work, try something else.

But, whichever platform you choose, it is crucial to “be social”, be authentic to yourself and your brand and care about your followers and potential clients – be human!

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