Social Media Exposed: Which Platform Is Best for Your Business and How to Get the Most From It

A recent survey by Brandify looked at over 20,000 small business websites to find out how these businesses are using social media. Specifically, they were looking at which social media links were embedded on the home pages of small business owners. They divided the small businesses into web-based and local (brick and mortar) in order to make comparisons.

Overall, results show extensive use of social media by small business owners. The social media figures for web-based businesses versus local businesses (with a physical location) are:

  • Facebook (about 50% each)
  • Twitter (47% web, 38% local)
  • YouTube (23% web, 15% local)
  • Google+ (18% web, 10% local)
  • LinkedIn (15% web, 8% local)
  • Pinterest (8% web, 5% local)

The evidence is clear – small business owners are keeping pace with the times by using social media to promote their business. But are their social media efforts worthwhile?

The fact is that not all social media sites are a good option for all businesses. It can take a lot of time to build and maintain a social media website, so as a small business owner, you have to be careful about choosing the right social media that will deliver results for your business. This means that you shouldn’t just get a Facebook page because ‘everyone’ has one – instead you have to weigh your options and choose the social media that is best for you.

Not sure where to start? We’ve highlighted all of the main social media sites found in the Brandify study below. The details will tell you what the site is, who should be using it, and tips on getting the best results.

Facebook

Who Should Use Facebook?

  • B2C (Business to Consumer) businesses will see the best results with Facebook, although many B2B (Business to Business) companies have pages as well.

Why Facebook?

  • Facebook is the largest social media outlet. It was founded in 2004 and in less than ten years has grown to over one billion active users. Because of this, most small business owners are familiar with Facebook on a personal level. However, if you’re new to the game, you should know that you can use Facebook to create a successful fan page for your business.
  • Facebook is perfect for B2C small businesses because most of your customers are already on the website, spending plenty of time there each day. Fans ‘like’ your Facebook page, and then your company status updates are displayed in their news feed. Since fans have the option to comment, ‘like’ or ‘share’ the messages of your business, it’s an excellent way to build relationships with customers, have conversations, and spread the word about your small business.
  • Facebook is a good option for brick and mortar businesses as well as online small businesses, and it can be a great tool to get more traffic to your company website. For example, a small business owner who makes jewelry and sells it online can use the Facebook page to post pictures of each piece and the link where fans can purchase the jewelry.

Best Practices

  • With over one billion pages, you’ll have to make sure you carefully fill out your profile so people can identify the page with your business. When you do this, it is important to fill your page with the information that customers will be looking for first. The main ‘about’ and tab sections of your profile should contain a direct link to your website, your store hours, the menu of your restaurant, or any other information that people will need to understand and visit your business.
  • Facebook has made it fun and easy to step up your level of engagement with customers. Use the tab feature to give your fans special offers or to run promotions like contests and giveaways.
  • You can also devote some of your marketing budget in order to get new followers and to show off your business to prospective customers. You can pay for ads that show up on the side bar as users read status updates and play games. You can also pay for sponsored posts, where you select a status update from your page to be featured in the news feed of matched Facebook users who may be interested in your products or services.

 If you are a business currently using Facebook to promote your business, or one considering setting up a page, a great resource is Ramon Ray’s book, ‘The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing’.

Twitter

Who Should Use Twitter?

  • B2C and B2B small businesses who want to deliver information about their products and services quickly and efficiently.

Why Twitter?

  • Twitter is the social media equivalent of a cell phone’s text message. It was launched in 2006. When you sign up for your free account, you’ll create a user name that begins with the @ symbol (example, @ramonray), and then you can send “tweets” to your followers. Tweets are short text-style messages that are 140 characters or less.
  • Twitter is a fast, instant way to get your information out, so it’s great for posting special offers, company news and important announcements that have to be delivered in a timely fashion. It’s not one-way either. Followers can retweet (RT) your message to spread it to their own followers and they can also reply to you directly.
  • Twitter can get you more visibility because they give recommendations based on current followings. For example, if you’re a toy store (and you fill out your profile properly so you can clearly be identified as one), Twitter users who have followed other toy stores will get on-site and emailed recommendations of other toy stores on Twitter, including yours. This will help you get new followers and maybe even new customers.

Best Practices

  • To help your tweets find people who aren’t following you yet, use hashtags (#) to categorize your tweet and make it searchable. For example, use #technology when you post about a new technology product you’re selling – it will make your tweet visible to anyone who searches that hashtag (thus reaching non-followers who may be interested in your business but don’t know about it yet).
  • You can include website links within your tweet – for example, so that people can click the link and visit your company webpage. However, since you’re limited to 140 characters, you should shorten website links, using a page like goo.gl or bit.ly. This will give you more room for your message.
  • Although it may seem that Twitter is all about one-way text messages, you should also be using it to engage with customers. Follow them back to learn more about them, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation. If you want to reply to someone, make sure you include their twitter name (example, @ramonray) in your tweet to ensure that the message is delivered to them.

YouTube

Who Should Use YouTube?

  • B2C and B2B small businesses who need to share information in video format in order to show (not tell) what their business is about

Why YouTube?

  • YouTube is a video sharing website that was founded in 2005. Users upload videos onto the website, give it a description and tag the video with keywords that help other users find your content using the search feature. Other users then have the ability to rate and comment on your videos.
  • YouTube is an excellent social media choice for small businesses who want to SHOW their customers what they do, instead of just talk about it. YouTube videos that are especially informational or entertaining also have the ability to go viral, giving your business a huge boost of exposure.
  • There are plenty of ways that businesses can utilize YouTube, such as video walk-throughs of your facilities, informational content about how your products are made or your services are delivered, and even as a way to give local on-air commercials an online presence. One example of how YouTube can be effectively used is for real estate agents to show off the properties they currently have on the market to prospective buyers.

Best Practices

  • Instead of just setting up a basic account, small businesses can create their own YouTube Channel for the business. A YouTube Channel is basically a home for all your company-related videos. The bonus is that customers can become fans by subscribing to your channel, which will keep them in the loop when you post new videos.
  • Whenever you post a video you will have the opportunity to put a description. Always make sure to clearly identify your business in the description, including your website link and contact information where appropriate. Since long descriptions are truncated, place this information near the beginning so it will be visible to everyone.
  • You don’t have to be a pro to make a video, but follow these tips: be careful of a shaky picture when using a handheld camera, check audio quality to make sure people can hear and understand you, and consider including a call-to-action at the end of your video. For example, if you’re a small bakery who is featuring a video on how you make your cinnamon rolls from scratch, consider providing a unique link at the end of the video where the viewer can print a coupon to get 10% off their purchase of cinnamon rolls.

Google+

Who Should Use Google+?

  • B2B and B2C businesses can both benefit from Google+, although it is currently underutilized by both

Why Google+?

  • Google+ is a social media site that launched in 2011 and already has 500 million users. Although not as popular as Facebook and Twitter for small businesses (yet), small businesses are slowly but steadily moving to Google+ because of its unique features. In Google+, people follow your business by adding you to their circles (sometimes called ‘circling’ you) – and by doing so, they’ll get all the latest updates that you post on your Google+ page.
  • Joining Google+ is important for all small business owners (B2B and B2C) because it can improve your SEO efforts. Google+ content is treated the same as regular webpages in Google search results. Therefore, by claiming a Google+ page and keeping it updated with new posts, you’re increasing your company’s presence on the web and allowing Google to learn more about your business (and thus rank you higher in organic search results).
  • Google+ can be particularly beneficial for businesses with a local, physical location. For example, if you own a restaurant in a particular city, you can claim a Google+ Business page (for social media and SEO purposes, as described above) but also a Google+ Local page – and when you have Google+ Local, your restaurant’s address, phone number, hours, reviews, menu and more will be highlighted in search results.

Best Practices

  • You can create a Google+ account quickly if you have a Gmail address. Or, to claim your pages, go to this website. Select Local Business to claim your local page (which is just a listing of address, phone, etc). To get a full social media account (and get SEO benefits) click on Company, Institution or Organization.
  • If you write content for your business website (such as a side blog on your main company page), you’ll want to take advantage of Google Authorship. When you link your Google+ page to the websites where you contribute, your content will receive a higher ‘authority’ ranking, making it appear higher in search results.
  • Consider using Google+ for an interactive event, called a Google+ Hangout. Up to ten participants can join a video discussion and your fans can watch. Hangouts are a great way to discuss your business, conduct interviews, or provide your fans with a free webinar full of useful industry-related or just plain fun information.

LinkedIn

Who Should Use LinkedIn?

  • B2B businesses will see the best results with LinkedIn.

Why LinkedIn?

  • LinkedIn is a professional network, more aimed at finding professional contacts than ‘friends’ and ‘followers.’ It was launched in 2003 and currently has more than 225 million members around the world, about 74 million being from the United States.
  • LinkedIn is a great way for small businesses to find people they know, and people they WANT to know. You send and receive ‘connection’ requests – all of which have to be approved (i.e. no one can add you if you don’t allow it). The website then builds an elaborate contact network. The people you’ve accepted are direct connections, but based on those connections you can then view second and third degree connections to meet other professionals in your industry.
  • Small businesses can benefit from two different memberships that LinkedIn offers – profiles and company pages. For example, a B2B business that sells technology solutions can create a page for the company (and update it with company news and announcements) and then also create individual employee profiles. This results in greater exposure and provides a direct channel for interested parties to contact the senior management, HR or other professionals they need to work with.

Best Practices

  • Professional networking is made easy with LinkedIn via the Advanced Search feature. First, think about who you want to connect with – which industries, companies, job titles, geographic locations, etc. Then use Advanced Search to filter results and get exactly what you’re looking for. You then have the option to send a message or request a connection.
  • Get new connections and valuable insights by joining LinkedIn Groups. There are groups dedicated to all types of industries and professionals, so join in and participate regularly to make new contacts and learn more about your industry.
  • Take time each week to tend to your LinkedIn pages. Update employee profiles and company pages regularly to keep activity and exposure up. Another great feature of LinkedIn is the ability to see who has viewed your profile, so spend some time each week checking out these potentially hot leads.

Pinterest

Who Should Use Pinterest?

  • B2C and B2B companies who can benefit by sharing visual images of their product or service

Why Pinterest?

  • Pinterest is a relatively new social media site, launched in 2010. It is basically a gallery of photos, organized by topic, in a pinboard style. Other users can choose to follow one or all of your ‘boards,’ thus keeping them in contact with your business.
  • Pinterest works great if you already have a website for your business where you post pictures. By creating your free Pinterest account, you can post the same pictures – when users click on your picture in Pinterest they are automatically brought to your original webpage, thus boosting your traffic.
  • An example might be a hair salon that posts pictures of the hairstyles and cuts they have done. They would organize pictures in Pinterest galleries like ‘short cuts,’ ‘prom hairstyles,’ and the like. A teen searching for ‘prom hair’ on Pinterest might then stumble upon this Pinterest page. They then can follow you to get cool hair inspirations, and visit your website to obtain your services.

Best Practices

  • Make sure your photo boards are well categorized and organized so people can find exactly what they’re looking for. Post multiple boards so people have a reason to stick around and browse.
  • Include the “Pin It” button on your own business website. This will place a small Pin It icon near the images on your site. This means that people who visit your site and like what they see can easily pin your images to their own Pinterest pages – maximizing your exposure and giving free advertising that links everyone back to your company website.
  • When you gain new followers, make sure to follow them back. This will give you crucial information about who your customers are and what they like. It may also spark some creative ideas for your business, such as new products or services, and new ways to connect with your customers (for example, via promotions).

 

General Social Media Best Practices

The guide above should help you choose a couple social media sites that are best for your own small business – but when proceeding, there are a few more general tips that you should keep in mind for ANY social media site.

For one, no matter which social media outlet you’ll be working with, make sure to fill out your profile completely. Your social media profile should be specific and make it clear that it belongs to your business. Include things like your website address, physical location, phone, and business hours.

Next, engagement should be the key of any social media website option. You should schedule time every week to maintain your page – if not every day. Use the time to update your status, share messages and company information, and respond to fan questions and comments. You should also consider starting a blog on your company website – a weekly blog post is a great way to update your social media with new information about your business or the industry in general.

Finally, you have to spend time promoting your social media pages in store and online. The Brandify survey looked at businesses who had embedded social media links on their home page – so make sure you’re social media is front-and-center on your business site. You can use one social media to promote another (for example, by telling your Facebook fans about your Twitter account and asking them to join you) and if you have a physical location, make sure to promote in your store as well.

 

Small Biz Technology is devoted to helping small businesses with technology in the modern era. Make sure to browse the archives for additional help with your social media endeavors, and as always – stay tuned for the latest social media news and advice.

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About Jennifer Peaslee

Jennifer has a Masters in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently working as a freelance writer, editor, blogger and researcher.