Whether you’re just venturing into social media networks with a new company or re-examining your company’s current social media presence, it’s important to focus your attention and time on the most suitable networks first. While it’s true that content can have an immediate impact on your customers, it’s also important to ensure you are targeting the right audience by utilizing the proper channels. There are many factors to consider before venturing into the world of likes, comments, shares, +1s, pins, and tweets.

1. What are your competitors using well; what are they missing out on?

Find your direct, local competitors online and determine which networks they participate in. Keep an eye out for outdated pages/profiles as that may indicate that the network was not a good fit. It’s important to observe what networks your competitors are or are not participating in, but don’t necessarily let it determine your actions.

2. How much time and manpower do you have to devote (ongoing) to your social media presence?

If you’re expecting that you will have only a few hours a week to post, interact, and evaluate your social media presence, then you may want to limit yourself to 1-2 active social networks. Having only a few well-maintained networks is much more effective than having handfuls that are stale and outdated.

As you continue to develop and monitor your social media presence you may find that you wish to invest more time and talent into social media, and at that time you could consider venturing into other networks that fit your goals.

3. Is your company primarily defined as “Business to Customer” or “Business to Business”?

Moz is a well-known company that creates tools to improve marketing for businesses. Their approach on LinkedIn is upbeat and positive and they regularly share content relevant to their industry/followers.

Contrary to what you may assume, Business to Business industries do have a place in social media. Having professional profiles/company pages can be appealing to new business partners, so it’s important for B2B companies to demonstrate their thorough knowledge and expertise through their social media accounts. In the Business to Business sales environment, LinkedIn is often the most valuable social media network primarily due to the emphasis placed on making professional connections. LinkedIn facilitates lead generation through use of InMail, LinkedIn Groups, and the ability to search using advanced filters for companies that fit your demographics.

Business to Customer industries of course are the most obvious to benefit greatly from having active and engaging social media presence. Almost any of the mainstream social media networks can help B2C companies reach their target audiences in an approachable and meaningful way.

4. What is your mission with social media?

Generate sales

Square, like many businesses utilizes Facebook Ads to showcase features and new products. Many businesses small and large have found Facebook Ads to be an affordable and effective option for their online advertisement.

Facebook is a popular network for small and large businesses alike to make sales, partially because this network regularly releases new tools for optimizing sales. With the call-to-action buttons on the fan pages to the ability to setup Facebook Apps in the tabs, it’s convenient for some companies to utilize Facebook for a portion of their sales. Many business find that Facebook Ads are useful in promoting sales, with a flexible cost depending on your budget and goals. Facebook Ads are highly targetable so that businesses can customize each ad to read specific audiences and therefore goals. In addition to purchasing or learning more, users are able to engage with the post using likes, comments, and shares.

Both Pinterest and Instagram have very recently announced their plans to implement buttons for businesses to use on posts/pins to facilitate sales. Pinterest will make use of a “Buy It” button on pins while Instagram will allow advertisers to include a “Shop Now”, “Install Now”, or “Sign Up” button on sponsored posts. These buttons will certainly help close the gap between surfing and acting which has always been a challenge on social media.

For Business to Business sales, LinkedIn has proven to be a key asset. In many B2B transactions, personal connections and affiliations are valued, so being able to connect directly with decision makers for companies can be critical

Disclaimer: Although it’s often times possible to track conversions from social media networks, it’s important to understand that not all social media conversions are able to be tracked. For example: a customer may first see your post on social media which introduces them to your brand, a few days later something may trigger that customer to search online and purchase an item from your site. So when tracking conversions, keep in mind this may not be something you can quantify with 100% accuracy.

Broadcast information

Some companies utilize social media to disseminate information to their employees or shareholders. LinkedIn is great for keeping others in the industry informed of what is occurring at your business. LinkedIn is also beneficial to those searching for employees or for keeping their employees engaged.

Canva is an online image creation tool, and like all online services they experience outages at times. They actively engage with their Twitter followers during site failures in an effort to retain their business.

In the event of breaking news such as during an emergency, natural disaster or outage of some kind, Twitter has shown to be the go-to channel for timely information. In many recent media events Twitter has been able to transmit information to the masses much quicker than traditional network news channels or other traditional forms of mass communication. For small and large businesses alike, spreading urgent messages can be quickly and easily done through use of Twitter.

Customer service

Many companies have quickly improved their online customer service through the use of Twitter. In many cases when a service or product is not working properly, consumers reach out immediately to the business on Twitter for confirmation of the problem, advice to fix the problem, and/or compensation.

It’s important to note that merely responding to Tweets requesting assistance with an automated request to email your support team can be often off-putting and stifle communication. Instead, reply with a solution or recommend a DM (Direct Message) so the customer can continue the conversation on Twitter where they have shown they are most comfortable.

Build online presence

If you search for TOMS on Google, on the right side-bar you will find TOMS’ most recent posts on Google+. This may seem like a small amount of space, but the image and recent time/date stamp help draw the user in.

There are many different ways you can improve or build your reputation through social media. If you’re primarily intending to improve your visibility in search engines then your business should consider Google+. A properly utilized Google+ page can directly impact your ranking within Google searches. As in the example above, screen real estate is an important aspect of SEO. When customers search for a brand on Google, it’s important to take up as much screen real estate as possible so that you can increase the odds they will engage with your content.

Search engines often look to social network profiles/pages in order to determine legitimacy of a company or organization. Since this is the case, it is important to regularly update all social media profiles or pages wielding your business name to ensure they are complete and accurate. Including your business hours, location, current specials, awards/certifications, and affiliations can help boost your search engine performance and improve your overall online presence.

5. Can you capture or create visually compelling images?

If you’re in the business of renovating homes or design you likely have many opportunities to capture compelling images for use on social media, however not all businesses are this lucky. Social media networks such as Instagram or Pinterest are completely reliant on photos. Without strong imagery, you are unlikely to achieve engagement (likes, comments, or pins) and achieve your goals.

DIY Network is a prominent “how-to” website online. They utilize Pinterest to share their most visual projects and link back to posts specifically outlining the steps to create these items.

Pinterest has become a hit to bloggers and DIYers who feature visually compelling content. Some of the most successful pinners often feature food, interior design, fitness, fashion, event planning, and of course DIY home projects. An interesting aspect to Pinterest is that alongside original content, Pinners can share other pins they find interesting and relevant to their followers.

Instagram has become chalked full of behind-the-scenes photos or short video clips. In a similar way to Twitter, businesses and personalities have begun to utilize Instagram to form a more one-on-one interaction with their followers and adopting a more transparent image. Recently an article by Mashable has shed light on more recent trend of discovering and investing in art through use of Instagram.

Even Taco Bell has joined the Instagram scene with artistic and creative representations of their food and beverages.

So what does this all mean?

As you have likely gathered by this point, there is no one social network that works for all businesses, and it’s likely that your company could benefit from a combination of social media platforms. Once you’ve evaluated your company’s needs and decided on the networks you would like to start with, go ahead and have fun… dive right in! Over time we will update here with a more in-depth analysis of each of the networks mentioned in this post. Don’t miss out, subscribe here to be notified or check back regularly.

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