Simply put, being active on social media platforms will only be worth your time if your target audience is on that social media channel. You need to be where your audience is. That way, your product or service can be available when those who want it are looking for it. You do not need to be everywhere, which is good because it would be near-on impossible to be performing at the desired level on every social media platform out there. Besides, a lot of platforms overlap in what they provide, and some channels will be better for you than others. Read Buzz’s stages of what you need to consider, what social media platforms are the most popular, and use our case study as an example of how you can apply this knowledge to your own business.
Set your targets
The first thing you need to do is consider what it is you are looking to achieve from being on social media platforms? Being active on social media platforms, and using social media effectively to market your business, are two separate things. Are you looking to generate more interest in your business? Or do you just want to be visible on social media with regular activity to appear approachable to customers old and new? Maybe you are trying to improve the chances of a potential customer converting into a long term client when they see your brand? There are several targets you may have for your business. It is far better to be producing content consistently in the long-run than to have a short-lasting period where you are regularly posting content.
Choose your platforms
Quality over quantity – there is a balance here. It is very important to not spread yourself too thinly from trying to be active on too many social media platforms. Instead, you must find the ‘key’ platforms that would be beneficial to your business, its size, and the industry you are in. If you can decide on what platforms you can do without, you will save a lot of time and effort that can be directed elsewhere. It would be more time effective for you to spend some time considering whether a social media platform may be beneficial to you, than jumping straight onto the next bandwagon without knowing much about it. Spend time looking into what your competitors or similar businesses are doing for inspiration. What is working for them? What platforms are they on? Are they increasing their brand reputation through being on social media platforms or is it having a minimal effect? You may even benefit from looking to collaborate with a similar business to reach their followers if you can offer them value in return.
Devise your strategies
If you work smart you can perform well on several social media platforms. Strategies like posting at certain times of the day, and constructing a schedule of how often to post, can reduce the amount of time spent and thought required. Look into the latest features of the social media platform you are putting your business on. Several platforms nowadays provide analytics that you can use to your advantage. You don’t have to pay to use analytics, statistics, and information, these tools can be incredibly useful for strategising on the content you put out. You could test out different content to see which generates the most engagement with your audience. For example, how effective is a poll, how did engagement fare when you asked your audience a question? Or when you asked for advice? How many likes or comments did a post or video receive? Learning about your audience is very important, and this will come from being active on social media platforms and looking approachable.
A great mindset to have when posting on social media is that you need to be providing your audience with value. This may be sharing expertise, answering questions, or even sharing a good article you read, or something you found funny. Content is king. Consider your own behaviour on social media, like: what do you tend to do on different platforms, and what do you enjoy? You are a consumer to several companies, so thinking from a consumer perspective about your own business can ensure you are appealing to those who come across your business.
More often than not, you will have a rough idea of how your business could benefit from being on social media platforms and what you could post. The most important thing is to just start: because gaining an understanding of the population on that platform, and what your competitors are doing that works, will take time. The best time of day to post on social media to maximise engagement may differ in different industries. Take the time to learn the platform, to make a plan of action and then enjoy the benefits that being on social media can bring. When done properly, you will wonder how you ever went without it.
Considerations for your own business
-How much time do you have to allocate to social media? Taking a photo here and there for your social media pages does not take long, but it can be enough for some businesses and in some situations. For others, it may only be worth your time to produce quality content that you share.
-Who will be doing your social media? This needs you to consider your own position. Will you be solely responsible for posting social media content, or could one person, or your whole team, be involved in keeping content consistent and pages active?
-Who is your target audience and where are they? If you wanted to run a babysitting business in your local area, then you probably only need a Facebook page: you can reach people in your area, increase brand exposure from word of mouth, and appear in people’s searches. You wouldn’t need an Instagram account as you wouldn’t be posting pictures, and the same goes for Snapchats, tweets, Pinterest images, and LinkedIn posts.
-Is your product or service visual? If so, then Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest may be valuable to you. (Not sure what these are? A summary of the most popular social media platforms is coming up next)
-Is your target audience your local area, or can it potentially be nationwide or even global? If your service could appeal to anyone in the world, then you need to use networks that can reach this scale. If you will only be targeting people in your immediate area: ignore platforms that reach out to people globally and dominate on the platforms that focus on those around you (like a Facebook page).
-The quality of your following is very important. So many people nowadays obsess over having loads of followers for their personal account or for their business. Yes, it can appear impressive, but only if these are ‘real’ followers who have an interest in your business. It is far more beneficial to have followers who actually engage and enjoy your content. Artificial followers who have no interest in your business are of no real benefit to you. This sheds light on an aspect of social media marketing that is very important. What is a ‘good following’ is subjective and down to your industry. Putting out quality content is only worth your time if enough people can see it, but people need to be interested in it for them to be potential customers.
Social media platforms
Here’s a brief summary of the most popular social media platforms today. Platforms are constantly updated and improved to give customer’s the best experience, and to reach new audiences. It is a really worthwhile practice to get into the routine of checking out new features and being aware of how people, for example, ‘influencers’ are using the platform to their advantage (more on influencers later).
Facebook is the largest social network site. It has more than 2 billion monthly active users and more than 1.32 billion of those users log on daily (as of June 30th, 2017). This means that quite literally nearly every man and his dog (we all have a friend who’s made an account for their dog) is on Facebook already. This makes Facebook a necessity for your business as your target audience is very likely to be using the platform already, every single day. So with a bit of strategy and planning, you can really put your business right under their noses.
A Facebook ‘page’ can contain most of the information you would have on a website. You can post videos, photos, statuses, and polls and with a click of a button, you can invite anyone you have on Facebook to like the page. On Facebook, you can see what posts, pictures, and pages your ‘friends’ are liking. This is great from a business point of view for brand exposure. Posts can be shared and made visible to a level you set, allowing you to be in charge of how far a post can reach. On Facebook pages, you also have access to who has seen your post and how many people have shared it. This is very useful for strategising and getting an idea of how effective your content is.
What do you use more nowadays? Text or a messaging app? Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have become the largest platforms that we communicate on. Facebook Messenger can be implemented with your Facebook Page to have chats with clients, to answer enquiries and to add a personal and human touch to your brand. Good customer service will be worth its weight in gold. Messenger also allows your brand to be contactable on the go, as it is used as an app on mobiles.
Twitter is where news breaks first as people use it to share information alongside their opinions. Twitter is a practical microblogging network that encourages you to post frequently so that your posts are seen on people’s busy news feeds. Tactically, for this reason, you could post photos and videos stand out on a news feed when a consumer is scrolling. A relatively recent feature on Twitter is ‘analytics’ which shows you how much engagement your posts are getting. For example, you can see how many people scrolled past your tweet and how many of those people stopped to click on it. This instant feedback can be used in your strategy to test what type of content you get the best response from. ‘Retweets’ allow your post to gather momentum, as people retweet it onto their followers’ news feeds, which can increase exposure of your brand across the country and around the world. The posts you like and retweet will also show your businesses’ personality. If you share interesting and valuable content, you can become an important account to follow, making a Twitter account have several benefits.
LinkedIn is the social network for professionals who want to network. LinkedIn now has over 200 million users who use it to add value to conversations and to share their expertise. It is also used by job recruiters and head hunters as people’s profiles are essentially CVs, where previous colleagues and employers can write recommendations. From a consumer perspective, LinkedIn can be full of opportunities as you can message important people in important businesses. You can publish articles to share your expertise, although like with most social media platforms, only those you are ‘connected’ with will see it (unless they share it onto their own connections). Networking done properly can be very useful as your business can build a great reputation and you can reach new clients through being recommended. A LinkedIn account looks professional and it is great if you are in a service industry that isn’t limited to location (this will be discussed later on in the case study).
After Google, Youtube is the second largest search engine that is actually owned by Google itself. Youtube can be great to share testimonials, to show tutorials, showcase products, and to visually show who you are as a brand. Youtube is a free platform to upload video content to, where you can amass a large following if you are providing quality content such as industry expertise and knowledge. Youtube has 1 billion users who visit the platform every month, meaning nearly half of all people on the internet use it! Your content can be shared on all social media platforms, and cleverly edited or transcribed to be posted in different forms. For example, you may post a quote of what you said on Facebook, or a short clip of the video on Instagram, which makes producing content on Youtube time effective.
Instagram has become one of the favourite social networks for on-the-go mobile photo-sharing. With smart phones, anyone can easily snap a quality photo and share it with the world. Also, now with ‘Stories’, you can post a picture or video to all of your contacts. Here, Instagram is rivaling Snapchat with the thinking: ‘Well if you are going to Instagram to post a picture, why not share it on a story while you’re there?’ Nowadays, Instagram ‘influencers’ are people that are making money from advertising products. These influencers create content that people enjoy, meaning they gain large followings. They then advertise products in a caption or wear/use sponsored products in their posts. If you have a product that an influencer may be interested in, you could get in contact with them over the prospect of sending them a product for them to post promoting it. Done right, paid promotion can really increase brand exposure, but this is only effective for certain industries, and it is dependent on your budget and product. You can benefit for free from having an Instagram account for your business by posting pictures of your products or your service. You could even post fun ‘behind the scenes’ footage of your staff. Instagram is a visual platform, so any aesthetic or funny picture you post can attract likes and engagement. You can create a portfolio of what you sell or provide, or you could be strategic and jump onto hashtags: achieving brand exposure to consumers and businesses in your local area or worldwide.
Pinterest has really grown in popularity recently as another ‘visual’ social network that now has a following of 175 million people. Its intuitive pinboard-style is a useful resource for collecting in one place your favourite images. You can organise your images into separate categories or ‘pinboards’ for easy access. Pinterest has become another huge ‘influencer’ now in social shopping, as you can select ‘buy’ on a photo and be directed to suppliers of that exact product or similar products. This quick and convenient access is becoming very powerful for selling products and services. If your product is something you could take great photos of, consider whether you could try and market it on Pinterest. Just like with Instagram, sending your product to an influencer or collaborating with a known brand can be incredibly effective. You can also show your brand personality through sharing the images, articles, products, and services you are interested in. Like with all social media platforms, it is important to look into the demographics to see whether your target audience is using the platform. Pinterest is made up of approximately 80% female users, so use demographic information to consider whether it is a suitable platform for your brand.
Snapchat, over the years, has encouraged people to send quick ‘snaps’ and videos that expire after a set amount of time instead of sending messages. Snapchat also has fun filters and you can send messages to people in particular, groups of people, or on your ‘Story’ where all of your contacts can see it. Snapchat can be used to show a fun side to your business, and to provide easy, real-time updates of what is going on during the day. However, there are limitations to using Snapchat as you can only contact/message those who have added you on the platform. This is something people might not do, especially when the benefits to having you on Snapchat is currently unclear to them. You could benefit from documenting snaps of your business on your personal Snapchat account, but this will certainly be a limited amount of people you are reaching to, compared to the previously discussed platforms. As on Snapchat, there are no ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ options that allow your posts to be shared to new people, but even if you only used the latest face filters and posted the picture elsewhere, you can give off the image that your brand is current.
Not really a social media platform, Google My Business is worth noting as a business listing directory that can have great benefits for your business. A Facebook page and a Google My Business listing are arguably necessities for your business. Google My Business essentially allows your business to be visible when people search for it in Google: showing your contact details, location, and reviews. Reviews are heavily influential to whether a consumer uses a company or not. Besides, any company can say they are the best company around, so it is far more useful to hear real customer opinions. This has become a recent trend as Amazon, TripAdvisor and Airbnb have really taken off as being some of the most valuable businesses today. It is important to provide your customers with a platform where they can recommend you to potential new customers – so definitely get listed!
To demonstrate the above points, and to provide an example that you can relate to your own businesses’ situation, here is a case study for a barber shop who want to be effective on social media:
Case study example: Scissor Han’s Barber Shop
Han has a barber shop, and he is looking for the right social media platforms for his business. After contemplating why he wants to be on social media, he outlines that he wants to increase brand exposure and to show people his service. It is very important to him that he is attracting new clients, therefore, he wants to appear where people in his area are searching. Han wants to be active on social media to create a positive brand image, that will lead to more men in his local area going to him over his competitors.
A Facebook page for Han is a no brainer. He can have his contact details, opening times listed and can post updates like when the business may be closed in the future. He can have his location, so new clients can find him, his price list, pictures of his work and he can engage with his current and new customers. His pictures can gain likes, receive comments and be shared by happy customers to their Facebook ‘friends’ which increases brand exposure. He can gather reviews to look professional and to have a platform where he can be recommended. He can have a ‘book appointment’ section and receive and respond to messages on Facebook Messenger.
Han may want to use Instagram as it matches the fact his barber shop produces visual results. He could post before and after pictures, or pictures of happy clients. From a consumer point of view, you would want peace of mind that this barber can give you the haircut you want. Han can build a portfolio of his work that is always there, so when he is busy and can’t post, his old pictures are there that people can see. Hashtags can be used to show the world his work, gathering likes from hairdressers in the area, and support from those around the world.
Snapchat is probably not needed by Han, but he could try to use it effectively. Han could snap daily pictures of his haircuts and he could show the environment and atmosphere in the barber shop to increase appeal. This could work well to make regulars feel they are kept in the loop. However, problems arise as you can’t really grow on Snapchat: you cannot add new customers as you don’t know who they are yet. And to upload pictures to both Snapchat and Instagram would take up a fair amount of time. That being said, doesn’t it sound like he is already doing on social media what he would do on Snapchat? After failing to acquire Snapchat, Facebook bought Instagram. And with Instagram, they have now created Instagram Stories to duplicate Snapchat’s unique selling point (USP). Just like Snapchat stories, you can see how many people have viewed your Instagram story. Which is helpful to Han as he can see how many people are viewing his posts, at what time of day people see his posts the most, and how his following is growing over time.
Han may not need another visual platform for his business if he is already on Instagram, as a social media platform needs to be worth your time. He may create pinboards of his own haircuts, his favourite products that he sells, and he may like and share images of products and styles he personally likes. These pinboards may create a good vibe and provide an impression of his personality and his barbershop for his customers. However, Pinterest’s demographics show that it is predominately woman who use the platform, therefore would male haircuts appeal to women, and is it worthwhile if only 20% of users on Pinterest are male? Pinterest and other social media platforms can certainly be effective for some businesses in some industries. It is very important to reflect on your own position, for example, if your service could be delivered online like it can be for a website developer. You can create a website for anybody in the world and interact with your client online. Your target audience is larger, and it makes more sense to try and improve awareness on this scale. In fact, here, focusing only on the local would limit your opportunities massively.
LinkedIn is used for professional networking. As a hairdresser, Han may not need LinkedIn for his business as his main networking is in his local area, where networking can be effectively achieved through a Facebook page. Even if somebody in another part of the country did like Han’s business, they would not be able to be a customer. A barber shop is a great example as to why you need to consider who your business is targeting. A barber shop needs to be focusing on improving local awareness and converting visitors into regulars. LinkedIn isn’t really a visual platform, although pictures and quotes do stand out on news feeds, there is a time and a place for them on this platform. However, LinkedIn may be more beneficial on a personal level for Han to show that he is a business owner and to network and liase with other business owners.
Google My Business
Han would definitely benefit from making a Google My Business account as people will be searching for barbers in their area. If Han’s barber shop was in Norfolk, it would be beneficial to have his barbers listed when people search for hairdressers in the Norfolk area on Google. Yes, his competitors may be listed too, but if Han is providing a quality service, he will have reviews that stand out from the rest. This is also a time where social media marketing is very important, as if a potential customer can see that you are putting out quality content, that you are approachable and responsive on social media, they may then choose to go with you rather than a competitor.
A summary of ‘What Social Media Platforms Should Your Business Be On?’
For your business, a Facebook page is great to have for a catalogue of reasons. For the majority of people, this should be the first platform you are on. It is always a great start to first outline why you want a social media platform so you utilise the functions relevant to you. A Google My Business listing is definitely another platform worth your time, and once set up, there is nothing else to do.
Instagram can be an effective tool to have a portfolio of your work, to engage with customers you have had business with, and to use hashtags to promote your business and be visible to those searching the service. You can hone in on the area you are in to try and drive customers your way.
Snapchat may not be useful for every brand. If you were a marketing business, and you wanted to look like a fun employer to work for: you may encourage your staff to run Snapchat and Instagram accounts, to have behind the scenes footage on your businesses’ story. You could visually share what is going on, sharing pictures and videos of anything fun in the office. This may achieve brand exposure through word of mouth, as if you are producing fun content, consumers may show people they know.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site which can be great to have in the form of a personal account. For a business, setting up a LinkedIn account may be useful for allowing your employers to state where they work. This can spread awareness of the business whenever they post on their personal account. LinkedIn is also great for brand exposure if you can produce quality content that gets shared.
Pinterest can be seen as a ‘niche’ social media platform that can be very beneficial to some industries, and less so for others. Dependent on the size of your business and the time you can allocate to social media platforms, Instagram may fulfill your needs of producing visual content and reaching out to a larger audience.
Youtube can be a unique way to show visually the products or services you offer, your team and testimonials. Those who can give value on Youtube usually benefit from views, likes, and comments. With a recent trend of video being favoured on social media, Youtube videos can be shared on most social media platforms which stand out on news feeds.
Take home message: do not spread yourself too thinly. You will have better results focusing on a few social media channels and doing well on them than spreading your time across too many channels.