It seems as if a new social platform pops up every week, and as a small business owner, it can feel overwhelming. So how can you establish yourself on social media when users are bouncing from one network to the other, and the next hot network may have no reliable messaging for your business?
First, take a deep breath. Second, there are a lot of social platforms and many audiences, but not every one may be right for you. Before diving head-first into the social sphere, you should know what each is used for and whether it's useful for you. This is especially true if you're spending your valuable time managing these accounts yourself.
Here is a breakdown of the seven major social media sites and how they can be beneficial to small businesses.
Twitter is a great platform for projecting what your company is doing and accessing a large audience. Branding a business requires a lot of time and money, but creating a consistent voice with your tweets is an easy way to get started.
If you already have a blog, which almost every small businesses should, syncing it with Twitter lets you seamlessly publish any major company news to both simultaneously. There are dozens of in-house apps on every blogging platform that make this easy to do.
But Twitter is not just a megaphone for your company, it's also a great way to engage with thousands of customers. Use social tools, such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, to effectively receive feedback from your followers in an organized manner.
Facebook and Twitter are useful for similar reasons. Both allow you to connect with your audience, start a conversation and update with company news. Why should a business juggle both accounts?
Facebook's advantage is that the conversation is gathered all in one place. Customers want the opportunity to feel a part of the company they care about, and Facebook allows them to do just that.
Keep in mind that Facebook is much more visual than Twitter, so it's best to include more than short bursts of text. Post colorful photos, insightful videos or something interesting that's relevant to your company, valuable for customers and beautiful on your Facebook Timeline.
Because the platform is still fairly new, most brands still aren't sure what to make of Pinterest. But as traffic and engagement are spiking, early adopters have a great opportunity to make their mark on the site before a lot of major brands hop on.
We've already seen some pretty creative initiatives from major brands, but even if you don't have room in your budget for a contest, there are still great ways to benefit.
Pinterest is a social discovery network, but it's not a platform for self-promotion. Rather than broadcasting what the company is doing, small business owners can crowdsource and create highly visual pinboards for inspiration. Collecting images, logos and websites with good design and clever copywriting will inspire your brand and team, but also show followers that you have an eye for good taste.
Location-based social media services might not be best for every brand. First of all, it requires a person to physically check in somewhere that represents your brand, for example a store or an event. If your company is virtual, there's really no need (unless you're having an event).
Foursquare is great for restaurants, retail stores and venues, because it allows customers to post reviews and leave tips. Because these tips are from regular customers, newcomers will feel that they're receiving authentic information that you simply can't provide as the owner.
Because Foursquare is partnered with Scoutmob and American Express, brands can use these apps to reward customers with discounts for checking in to an establishment. It's a small bit of courtesy that helps bring happy customers back.
Don't let the cat videos fool you, YouTube is a valuable resource for small businesses. Today, technology has made it easy for anyone to create a video without spending a ton on production. Even a smartphone is capable of creating something worthwhile for your audience.
A mountain of content is uploaded every day to YouTube, which can seem intimidating when you're trying to be heard. The bright side is that you also have access to that content. If you want to know how to do something, there are millions of tutorials on YouTube to help you learn.
But as a leader of your business, you also have something to give the millions of viewers and uploaders. And with the right strategy and engaging content, you can reach a large audience easily.
That being said, don't expect your videos to go viral every time (or even at all). Instead, focus on creating content that's thorough and insightful. Some ways to utilize YouTube for marketing include tutorials, interviews with relevant professionals or video blogging about a new product or event.
The advantage of Linkedin is that you can filter companies through size, industry and geography. By fully completing your company page, it will show up in the search results of potential customers.
While Facebook and Twitter are great resources for feedback from customers, LinkedIn is where you can partake in conversations with like-minded professionals. In addition to networking offline, small business owners should consider joining groups and participating in Q&A forums that are useful to your industry.
Many small businesses join Google+ for SEO purposes and syndication with other Google applications, like AdSense or Gmail.
It's also a great platform to expand content distribution—many business owners claim it's easy to gather an audience.
The audience for Google+ is highly engaged, meaning that like Facebook and Twitter, it's a great tool for conversation. What Google+ has that the others don't is the Hangout feature. Here businesses can talk about products or ideas face-to-face with consumers, through videochat.
Which social media platforms do you use? Are they effective?
Image by OPEN Forum