If your business is starting out on social media, you know you need to ‘set your stall out’ across a number of different platforms that have different nuances and behaviours. The question is which ones?
Let’s imagine you are a dog walking service. The best place to find your target market would be in the park. All you need to do is look at your target market and find your park equivalent. The chances are your business’s audience hang out on social media; the question is “Where?”
Here are the answers to 5 key questions to point you and your business in the direction of your particular park…
How can your business decide on the best social media platform for its purpose?
The first step would be to survey your existing client base to establish which platforms they use professionally and personally. Nowadays, the line between professional and social relationships is blurred. (With the advent of social media, it is likely that a networking contact becomes a ‘friend’ on Facebook soon after becoming a business ‘connection’ on LinkedIn.) The survey results are likely to be a combination of two/three. Eg. Twitter and Facebook.
How do the big players compare to new and emerging social networks?
Let’s take Facebook:
- The average person checks Facebook 14-16 times per day
- 80% of consumers will purchase food products previously seen on Facebook
- The Facebook app is the most popular app on smartphones after email and browser
- We and 757 million other people spend in excess of half an hour a day on Facebook
In brief, Facebook represents a huge opportunity to market your business and promote your products and services to a specific target audience.
YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram serve different demographics and offer specific services which might suit small businesses perfectly. Eg. A back pain specialist might use YouTube to demonstrate ways to customise your office chair for improved posture; an interior designer might set up pinboards on Pinterest to share ways to decorate your home.
There are other options – Yelp, Soundcloud, Flickr, Myspace – which all have something to offer specific sectors but, for me, the ‘big four’ have both the interaction and the participation on a massive scale. They have the traction. The skill is in how you use that traction to your business advantage.
What role is there for niche social networks and social media platforms?
Niche social networks are geared to particular sectors. Using a niche social media network, businesses can reach a narrowly targeted audience where strategic networking connects businesses with potential customers.
Accountants like networking with accountants; there is definitely a slot in the market for ‘Accountants World’. However, LinkedIn and Facebook contain groups for numerous professions, interests and skills. For example, searching for a group of accountants in Oxfordshire within LinkedIn brings back a group with 1100 members; a perfect online (and potentially offline) networking facility for accountants.
If a group exists within Facebook and LinkedIn to meet the business need, they are very easy to join. Conversely, if a business can see a gap in the market for a specific group, they are free and very easy to set up and manage.
Beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn what other platforms should SMEs be looking at?
Google+. Without a doubt. It’s the USA’s preferred social media platform, and small businesses in the UK should not ignore it. Google+ (G+) is quite a young platform, in that it is only three years old. It is gathering momentum with over 540 million users. (This is up from 390 million in May 2014.)
It’s another platform to learn, but it shares the same traits as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook; it uses its own terminology and has its own distinct ‘personality’. The number one reason why businesses should be active on G+ is that everything you share is indexed by the Google search engine. If your content is shared – +1’d – this does more for your search rankings than the Facebook and Twitter equivalent.
Are the bigger social media channels still as effective for SMEs?
The secret to using the big four – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ – is in how you play the game. Each platform has its own set of behaviours, language and rules. The same communication does not translate across the four platforms; an anecdote you might share on Facebook would be too long for Twitter, too social for LinkedIn and without something visual for Google+. The secret is in the content distribution and the words you use to talk to your audiences through these platforms.
There is no doubt that using the bigger social media channels is just as effective for SME’s. With canny use of LinkedIn and Facebook groups, using appropriate hashtags via Twitter and engaging correctly within Google+ to communicate your business messages, you can raise your social media profile through these channels.
Social networking warms the pipeline. It introduces you and your business to new prospects, building up trust and enhancing relationships before you meet them in person. Just the other day, I met an accountant who booked me for a website copywriting project. Unbeknown to me, she had been following my social media activities and had made up her mind several months ago that when she reviewed her website she would employ my services for her copywriting!
If you have need help in understanding how LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook can help you increase awareness for your business, please feel free to get in touch. I run 1-1 training sessions across these social media platforms and would be more than happy to show you around. Thank you.
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