As a small business owner or professional, before you jump into social media and start setting up your profiles, there are some things you may want to consider. First, you should determine whether you have the resources to follow through on any social media initiatives that you start. Do you have someone in-house who is interested in social media and can dedicate the time to make it work? Or do you have the finances to hire an outside resource to help? Second, make sure your marketing message is clear.
Your online and offline marketing should convey the same message through the different channels you select. Third, you need to know what you want to accomplish with social media. Are you aiming to increase the number of sales leads, reinforce your brand messaging, position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, handle customer service inquiries faster, connect with influencers in your industry or provide another sales channel for your products?
Once you have done these three things, you should select 1 – 2 social media platforms to start with rather than spreading your efforts over a lot of platforms. It is a good idea to claim your business name right away on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest so no one else takes it. But it is not a good idea to try to become active on all of these at the same time. Let’s take a brief look at today’s major social media platforms.
This is the Goliath among social networking sites with close to a billion users, about one out of every seven people on the planet. If your target market is using social media, odds are that they are on Facebook. You can create personal profiles as well as commercial or nonprofit profiles (Company Pages). Facebook also allows you to advertise and you can target your ads based on the interests, location, and other demographics of your audience.
Businesses addressing the consumer market should definitely have a presence on Facebook. Those purchasing consumer goods are likely to rely on Facebook are a source of information from friends and peers and they may search for a Facebook Page for your business. Business-to-business enterprises will also often find that their customers are on Facebook, but in most cases LinkedIn should be their first choice with Facebook coming later if they have the resources to maintain both.
Twitter is the largest of the microblogging sites and is ideal for tracking and sharing real-time information. It can be used in a variety of ways by businesses including handling customer service inquiries, informing customers of time sensitive offers/promotions, sending out event updates as they happen and the list goes on. The fact that Twitter is ideal for use with mobile devices has definitely contributed to its growth. Twitter offers advertising as well.
This is the leading social networking platform for the professional community with over 235 million members. It is designed to help professionals become more successful by facilitating their access to human and informational resources. All LinkedIn members have an individual Profile, and there is also the option to set up a Company Page to showcase your organization once you are a member.
LinkedIn enables you to search for contacts by title, industry, keyword, company, location and other parameters making it a valuable resource for sales professionals, recruiters and any enterprise seeking business and professional connections. It can also be used for market research, competitive intelligence, finding answers to business questions and connecting with potential investors. Like the other major platforms, LinkedIn provides the opportunity to advertise.
This is the second most searched site in the Internet after Google, as the use of video for marketing is growing rapidly. Businesses of all types can use YouTube to present their offerings in video. Of course, those with products and services that can be demonstrated visually can use it most effectively. However, all types of businesses can use it to show live testimonials, present product information visually and show presentations in a video format.
There are hundreds of other platforms out there, most notably Google+ and Pinterest right now, but selecting one of these four to start with and expanding to others later is usually the best approach depending on the resources you have available.