Social Media Channels for Your Business
It’s old news that social media is big. Facebook recently reported 1.5 billion active monthly users, and that’s nearly a fourth of the world! Almost all social media channels worth their salt has reported an increase in their total number of active users. Some social media channels or platforms, like LinkedIn and Pinterest, have grown faster than others, such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.
However, statistics show that most demographics are already consuming popular social media channels, and usage is likely to plateau out in the next ten years or so as entire populations come into the fold of social media. What we will see then is the slow balancing out of social media as users figure out what works best for them.
Now, the question for you, as a business person, is: What are these social media channels all about? How do you leverage your social media presence? Is it by doing more or by doing less? Or by doing more with less?
Many a time, the plethora of options confuses marketing departments. People want to get on everything, eager not to lose out. Marketing departments are often checking off social media platforms like items on a grocery list:
Facebook? Check. YouTube? Check. Twitter? Check. Google+? Check. LinkedIn? Check. Pinterest? Check. Oh, is that a new social media channel? Let’s get on it!
Don’t do that.
While that may be a good initial strategy, it must be followed by careful evaluation and revision.
Needless to say, all social media are not created equal. Each of them has its own unique characteristics. It is not necessary to be on ALL of them. What’s important is that the business uses the social media channels that are relevant to it.
A quick note: You may be on Facebook, but your business need not be. As said in an earlier article in the context of a website <insert link>, it is perfectly okay not to have a social media presence if you think you don’t need one.
So what’s all the hoopla about, and which one should you choose? First, let’s take a look at the popular ones out there and what they are all about. All popular social media channels perform different functions, and it is important to know what they do.
Social Media Channels
Below is the list of Social Media channels for business.
The Big Kahuna. The one none can ignore. It is a given for any serious business, more so than a website these days! Facebook says you can target your ads and posts with demographic data such as age, geography, likes, and tastes. That’s an advertiser’s dream. It’s like having a business dinner with your client. Its promise is exciting; it holds a lot of opportunities. But it is, as many of you may have experienced, very difficult to break into. Facebook’s policies make it extremely difficult to promote your product effectively and to make any sort of dent in the market; you need to spend both time and money. Of course, you know the audience is there, and that can be frustrating.
- Bottom line: Be there if you want to be social. Advertising can be tricky, but for B2C local businesses, a great place to be.
- Look out for: Facebook will make it easier and more obvious to advertise, but the money for reach will doubtless increase.
This is more like the young Lion King. Twitter has reported 307 million active monthly users worldwide at the end of the third quarter of 2015. Anyone can view your posts, so it’s a bit like throwing your bait out there and hoping some fish will bite. Twitter works for interesting ideas and conversations, so if you’re a service professional in a particular niche, say, animal welfare or nonprofits, you can build a serious base of probable customers simply by retweeting others’ content.
- Bottom line: Use if you have something to say often. Just putting out content when you have a product release or an event will not work.
- Look out for: Twitter will also build advertising and business capabilities into the system; so, watch the space. When they do, you need to be ready.
Let’s move to the next social media channels.
Owned by Facebook, this video sharing platform works only for certain kinds of social media users. It is primarily for a younger demographic, and it can be tough to use it for marketing purposes. The YouTube site is also not used much anymore, as the content is accessed directly from the social media page itself, for example, from the Facebook feed, rather than on the YouTube page.
- Bottom line: Try it out and see if it works, only for specific types of businesses.
- Look out for: More embedding on all social media channels will mean that the YouTube site will be visited less.
Pinterest, the image-sharing platform, is much more than that. It is a place where people create their own albums of visual content. There are two ways you can use this: either curate awesome content so you have a great fan following yourself or create such attractive content that famous pinners pin your content onto their boards. This can be a tricky place to navigate, and most of the boards here are veered towards female consumers: food, fashion, trends, etc. Remember, though, that curating good content relevant to your audience is not as easy as it sounds. Rich Pins are a way that companies can display their products with relevant price and availability information.
- Bottom line: Evaluate your capabilities. Ask yourself: Can you curate good content?
- Look out for: An increase in Rich Pin-like capabilities to enable easier purchasing through the site itself.
Let’s move to the next social media channels.
This is the social media platform, in my opinion, that has not been exploited well by marketers. It is shaping up to be a great community of people, meaning business, and organized by their professional interests and lives. This is what they want their business associates to see. It has mostly been used for job-hunting and recruitment, but that is just one of the things that LinkedIn can do.
For businesses, LinkedIn is a great place for promotion and creating business relationships as well. And this is filtered content with next-to-no frivolity.
- Bottom line: If yours is a B2B business, go for it!
- Look out for: Better and more enhanced relationships between businesses and similar interest groups.
It’s from Google, so we have to talk about it. People are now coming around to the realization that Google+ was perhaps not meant to rival Facebook after all. It was meant to collate all Gmail users and to induce everyone to get a Gmail account (doesn’t everybody?)
But it’s not the social media channels that ever took off. Google itself has admitted that Google+ had a lot of components that required change, and many of those: Google Plus Photos, for instance, have been changed to Google Photos.
However, special interest groups and conversations abound on Google+, but for businesses with limited resources, Google + isn’t a happening place. Yet. Undoubtedly, the engineers at Google will want to tweak it and roll it out in a different avatar. Watch the space and if you must be there, mirror your other content on to Google+.
- Bottom line: If you have a good team or an agency, throw this into the mix.
- Look out for: A more improved version soon.
Let’s move to the next social media channels.
This has steadily been increasing in popularity. The company claims that 41% of B2B marketers in North America use SlideShare to distribute content, and 17% of B2B marketers use SlideShare to launch a new product. SlideShare has also crept up Google’s search rankings so that it is a good place to park your product information. If you have a business or product launch, you will want to consider SlideShare. However, it cannot be a source of constant engagement but rather as a repository of information. This is especially true of manufacturing and trading businesses. For other businesses, such as social media marketers, creating different interesting topics on SlideShare can dramatically increase the chances of landing a client. However, remember that creating a presentation is a laborious process, and you will need the bandwidth to do this.
- Bottom line: Migrate all your existing slides. Consider chopping up long presentations.
- Look out for Better functionality, takeover by one of the big social media companies.
There are several other social media outlets that are making waves: Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram, etc. One of those might work for your business. They all have their unique characteristics, and just spending a few hours on each of them will give you a feel of whether or not it will work for your organization.
Can Social Media Get Me Sales?
Yes, and no. If you mean, will someone click a button on your social media page and buy your product? It’s not very likely.
One thing to remember is that there is no one magic formula for a business that equals sales. For instance: Two Facebook posts plus 100 Likes equals one sale. Using social media for business is often a hit-or-miss proposition. It also depends on the organization itself, its culture and its people.
For all its immediacy and new age-ness, at its heart, social media is still like that old newspaper ad. It will get you eyeballs. But in contrast to newspapers, you can track these eyeballs at some level. You can figure out what works and what doesn’t. Just by looking at your Facebook or Twitter stats, you can tell what has been happening with the messages you are putting out.
For instance, in one organization (a boutique) that we worked with, we found that one particular type of post, the Wednesday Wow! specials, did very well. They got shared the most. We then tried to tweak the posting around the weekend and saw that the shares increased. A bit of rebranding, and we saw that the traffic had nearly doubled. And the sales didn’t increase immediately. There were more calls, and then, slowly, over a couple of months, the sales increased. There’s another lesson: As with most advertising/marketing efforts, do not assume that things will happen instantly.
We worked with another client who found that their Facebook page was not gaining any traction. It was an English language training programme. We realized that the factor was not just in the choice of social media; it was in choosing the correct media for the right product. People were hesitant to publicly declare their ignorance of English and so rarely liked the page. We tried another tack: we used LinkedIn, which is used extensively for recruitment. We got a good response, including an unseen line of customers: companies who wanted to know more about the programme for their own employees or new recruits who may be lacking in the English language skill!
A Final Note
Most statistics, unfairly but rather inevitably, looks at social media consumption based on the United States. There are websites that provide data based on the country in which you are located. If you are doing business in China, you will have to look toward the networks that reach that country.
And if you are looking to do business in India, you might want to consider the platforms that are used more in that country.
You might be surprised to know that the people of the Philippines use social media the most, spending an average of 3.7 hours a day on social media, compared to 1.7 hours spent by the average American who uses social media. Facebook owns nearly half the social media traffic worldwide; these trends fluctuate based on a number of factors.
Reports and statistics on social media are freely available and might help you decipher which social media channels you might want to use.
So, the mix of social media is something that you will have to slowly navigate and figure out. It is a good time to experiment and know more about what works and what doesn’t. Just doing more of what works and none of what doesn’t should help you get closer to your ideal exposure on social media.
The most important thing, of course, is having fun doing it!
This has been a guide to the best social media channels for business. Here we discuss 7 social media channels like Twitter, SlideShare, Pinterest, Google+, etc. Here are some articles that will help you to get more detail about the Social Media channels, so just go through the link.