Which Social Media Platform is Best for Businesses?

best-social-platform As you start to look ahead to your social media plans for 2014,  have you wondered if it’s time to add another network to your roster?

Of course everyone has a favorite social media platform. Some people are addicted to Facebook — checking the Pages they admin every hour, on the hour, while sneaking an occasional glance at their personal News Feeds. (You know who you are.) Others shudder at the very thought of life without Twitter. Could they stay in the know about, well, anything without the microblogging service? Most recently, Pinterest and Vine have gotten lots of attention, Then there is the steady one of the bunch, LinkedIn, favored by mid-level managers, CEOs and job seekers from coast to coast. Add to that Reddit and Quora, Flickr and Instagram, Ning and Bing, Google+ and Yelp and you have, well, brain freeze.

There are a handful of people who have figured out how to use eight or ten or even a dozen social media platforms well, but it’s an art. And most people simply don’t have the time to devote to maintaining an effective presence among many platforms.

That’s okay: it’s better to have a strong presence on a few platforms than to spread yourself so thin that none gets sufficient attention and your business or brand suffers because of it.

So how do you know where to go? With the exception of Facebook, there is not *one* platform that every business should be on. (In fact, there are some that don’t really need to be on Facebook, but that’s a separate post.) Since we write bout Facebook all the time,  we won’t repeat ourselves here and instead will focus on a couple of the others that we think many, if not most, business would be wise to investigate and invest some time in.

  • YouTube. More than 3 BILLION videos are viewed on YouTube every day. It’s fairly easy to post videos that relate to your company’s products or services. Even two-minute homemade videos can inform your customers and even inspire virality. There’s an  example, below. If you were the sponsor of a similar event, or the manufacturer of supplies used at such an event (in this case, paint ball supplies) this video would be a slam dunk. The production quality is higher than a total amateur could create, but it wouldn’t be that difficult to create something more homemade that captures the same flavor. We use YouTube as a resource for our users, uploading all sorts of quick how-to-use-ShortStack videos and tutorials. It’s also where we store our weekly get-started webinars.

For other inspiration, check out digital camera maker GoPro‘s channel full of user-generated videos.

  • Twitter. People either love Twitter or they hate it (or, more accurately,  they “don’t get it”). If you’re in the latter camp,  we urge you to commit to it for a few weeks and then see what you think. By committing we mean target a few key players in your business segment, follow them, and see how they reach out to their customers. Read the content they link to. Chances are this exercise will give you some ideas about how to better market your own brand or service. At first it will be confusing. Following people on Twitter is like getting a glimpse into some weird secret world ( in a good way) where people are sharing all sorts of great information. Yes, there is a lot of junk, too, which is why you have to be selective about whom to follow.  Books have been written about how to use Twitter, but for starters,  head over to Twellow, a directory of Twitter users, broken down by “industry.” It will help you narrow your focus.  Did anyone else see this description of Twitter than seemed right on?  “It’s a simple service for smart people.” Give it a few weeks and let us know what you think — via Twitter of course.

  • LinkedIn. This social network is mistakenly thought of as a job-hunting website. It’s much, much more. Once you set up a profile for your business, look for LinkedIn groups that are related to your business. They exist so that professionals in specific fields can meet virtually to discuss issues related to their industries.   By joining and then participating with groups you can stay current with what’s happening in your industry. Of course it’s also great for networking. On our Small Biz Social Friday series we wrote about how to set up a LinkedIn account for your company and also how you can use LinkedIn in 5 minutes a day. Oh, if you’re not following us on LinkedIn, please do! 
  • Google+. Google + hasn’t attained the popularity of Facebook, or Twitter,  but, come on: it’s Google.  As of today it has 400 million  users and it’s  only a matter of time before oodles more people are on it. In the meantime, why not get a jump start and at least establish a profile for yourself  and make it a place where you can initiate conversations with your customers. Establishing “circles” on the platform will allow you to target various marketing messages to specific groups of customers.
  • Instagram. We’ve written extensively about best practices to increase engagement and so you’ve heard us say that one of the best ways to get content shared on Facebook and beyond is to include great visuals. Instagram, the photo-sharing site, makes it super easy and fun. Lots of businesses were early Instagram adopters and you can see some of the innovative ways they use the app here. Some of them might inspire you. We recently did a Small Biz Social Friday that focused on Instagram. This one includes 14 ways businesses can use Instagram and this one offers tips for running a contest on Instagram. 

The key with all of these platforms — and with any social media you engage in — is to make your message integrated across all of them. On your Facebook Page you should have links to your website and make it easy for people to follow you on Twitter. On your Twitter profile you should have a link to your website or blog. On your blog you should have a sign-up for your newsletter. And so on….

Now we want to know: what social media platform(s) works best for your business? Have you invested time or money in one that ultimately didn’t pay off? Are there other social media networks that you’re curious about? Let us know!

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