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Social media is definitely a very useful tool when it comes to marketing, not only are they free but they are extremely useful for businesses who wish to grow in the online market. Along with a website, your business should definitely be on social media to take full advantage of any online avenues available, the further your business can reach the better. Facebook has over 1.69 Billion users globally, while Instagram boasts over 1 billion monthly users, illustrating that these social media channels host a huge proportion of the available market and so as a business owner, they are definitely the place to be in terms of reach and visibility.
While it is free to sign up to these channels, if you want to use them successfully they can demand a lot of your time. Depending on your budget for ads or boosting your posts, or even if you are wanting to build an audience organically, you will definitely spend a large amount of time on this. So it is very important that you choose the right platforms that are going to truly showcase your business in the best possible light.
This may depend on quite a few different factors. So first ask yourself these few questions:
These considerations will help when deciding on which social media channel to focus on, as each have their own features and benefits when it comes to promoting a business. We have listed four major social media channels that we consider useful for a business.
Instagram is a great platform for businesses who have a creative flair. For example, photographers can truly showcase their photography skills on this platform. However, you don't need to be a photography genius to succeed, as it can be ideal for a variety of businesses. As long as you have a phone with a camera then you are good to go, and you won't even need any special photography apps, as it is very easy to edit and style photos in the Instagram app itself.
The platform is extremely popular, so you will be able to show off your brand to many like-minded individuals or businesses; it is a chance for you to build a community and to learn from each other, as many other businesses will also be showing off their ideas and skills. Following similar businesses to you and using specific and popular hashtags, will give you the opportunity to be found by your target audience, as many people will follow several different businesses that are in the same industry, take fashion and beauty for example. People are also able to follow specific hashtags, meaning that even if you are not being followed directly, by using popular hashtags on your posts, you can reach more of your target audience who may then follow your account. This is a great way to organically create a following, and of course this won’t cost you a penny. However, what it will cost you is time, as Instagram needs a fair amount of consistent time spent on it, to build up a genuine following.
There are many other features which are useful for businesses including their business style profile, which will allow you to add a business bio, a website and easy contact buttons, so you can add an email address and telephone number. You can also utilise the 'insights' within the app, where you can see the interactions your posts are having and learn a lot more about the people engaging with your content.
Instagram is now owned by Facebook, which makes life a little easier if you want to use both platforms. By linking up your Instagram with your Facebook page you can post a picture on Instagram and it will automatically post it to Facebook, this is a really nice feature as it can kill two birds with one stone, saving you a lot of time. This is also a feature with Instagram stories; you can now post your stories to both platforms, keeping things nice and quick.
However, there are some drawbacks with Instagram. The main one being that you are slightly restricted in terms of post types/ content. Instagram will only let you post square images and videos on your profile, and captions which have a word limit, and that is pretty much it. So if you were hoping to post content such as blogs, infographics, statements etc. then Instagram may not be the best place to share this content. With the introduction of Instagram stories however, this can allow you to be a bit more creative, but overall you are still fairly restricted. Instagram does not allow you to schedule your posts within the app, this can be a huge disadvantage for a busy business, as scheduling posts makes sure that you target your audience when they are most active, increasing your chances of engagement. External apps such as Buffer or Hootsuite are popular solutions to this problem, and will help you to schedule your posts on Instagram (and a range of other platforms!).
Facebook can be an excellent platform for pretty much any business as it has a range of different features, and the platform caters for a whole range of content types. Not only can you post any size images and videos, but you can also share blogs (it will even give a little preview of the link so that your audience are more likely to click on it), create slideshows, and design interesting ads within the business tools.
With a Facebook business page you can invite your entire 'friends list' to like your new page, and they in turn can also invite their friends to do the same. This is a fantastic way for local businesses to spread the word within their community, whilst also starting to build up an audience organically. On top of this, Facebook offers businesses so much in terms of tools and features as standard. You can use Facebook to schedule appointments; people can leave reviews about your products and services; and you can even use Facebook to sell products.
How your page is set up allows you to be very specific in terms of the business information that you want to include on your Facebook business page. Furthermore, if you want to manage your business page on the go, you can download a separate app called ‘Facebook Page’. This app will allow you to create and schedule your posts, so you can easily manage your content and ensure that it is being seen at the best possible time for your audience. With Facebook also being one of the most used platforms, it would be silly to not take full advantage of their features.
However, Facebook does have a few drawbacks. The interface for both desktop and phone are understandably different, but this can make life a little bit frustrating when some of the tools and features are completely different in the app compared to the desktop version, leaving you with no choice but to learn different methods to carry out the same task depending entirely upon the device you are using. While many users prefer the phone interface, there are more features on the desktop and so using both versions will give you the best of both worlds; however it may be slightly frustrating and time consuming to use multiple devices. Just like Instagram, you cannot schedule posts within the original Facebook app, it does require you to download their ‘Facebook Page’ app which can be a little bit annoying, but unlike Instagram this app is tailored specifically to Facebook and hosts a wealth of other features and tools for creating posts and ads.
Compared to other platforms, it can be a little bit more difficult building an audience organically using Facebook. Hashtags are not widely used on Facebook and so users may not be searching for hashtags in the same way as Instagram or Twitter. This can make getting your business out there a little bit difficult. As mentioned previously, you can invite friends to like your business page and while they may want to support your business by liking the page and spreading the word of your business locally, you will not necessarily target your specific audience. Meaning that when you are looking at your insights, you may get a false indication of who your target audience is; not only that, your audience are not really going to engage with your posts as well as people genuinely interested in what your business is about.
Twitter is a platform that is ideal for conversationalists, businesses with big opinions who love to start conversations and fully interact with their audience. Similarly to the other platforms Twitter has a huge amount of users, there are 330 million monthly active users on Twitter so there is a huge amount of people that can be targeted through this platform. This platform is ideal for a business that doesn’t want to spend the time taking photographs but wants to show off their knowledge and wisdom for their industry. Twitter mainly focuses on written content and has a word limit of 240 words per tweet .
Twitter also offers a range of business tools, however not as extensive as Facebook, this platform is far more similar to Instagram in a sense. Hashtags are widely used on Twitter like they are on Instagram but in a slightly different way. When you are writing a tweet you can use hashtags to engage with other people searching for the topic you are talking about, meaning like-minded individuals are able to discuss a topic in depth together. If your tweet is interesting enough other people may even re-tweet it so that it will show up to their own followers. When you click on a hashtag in someone’s tweet, it will bring up a list of other tweets using the same hashtag, with the most relevant ones appearing first. You can use this to your advantage, by starting business/ industry related tweets to spark conversations with your target audience. These tweets could be news stories or anything that has a controversial view point; you can really show off what your business knows about its industry. If you are willing to spend the money, you can also create ads on Twitter and they too have a range of different tools to create interesting and engaging ads.
Out of all of the platforms that we have spoken about, Twitter could be considered the most time consuming, as it will take a lot of time to truly engage with your followers and start to build up that valuable connection with your audience. As this platform leans more towards written content, it could take up more of your time compared to just snapping a picture with your phone and posting it; while you can do that with Twitter, the level of engagement that you receive may not be as good as some of the other platforms mentioned previously. Not only that, you are also confined to 240 words per tweet, unless you have a chain/thread which is not only quite restricting but also a little bit confusing.
LinkedIn is widely used for social networking and connecting with other businesses, this platform could be considered more B2B, if you like. While this platform may not have the same creative aspect to the others mentioned above, we still feel like this is quite an interesting social media platform that can definitely benefit your business. LinkedIn hosts 690+ million users in more than 200 countries and while it may not be as widely used as Facebook or Instagram, it provides many different features and benefits than the other platforms; LinkedIn is known as the “professional social networking site” and so is used in a slightly different way.
However, LinkedIn will still allow you to post content which is a really nice feature, as you will still be able to fully establish your expertise in your industry, you can also list books that you or your business has authored, as well as blogs and website links, so everything you have accomplished is fully accessible for your audience; which will show your business in a positive light with the added bonus of driving traffic to any external websites you have linked.
If your target audience happens to be more B2B than B2C, then LinkedIn may be the perfect social channel for your business. You will be able to build professional relationships and utilise all of the business related features that LinkedIn has to offer. LinkedIn also lets you know who has visited your profile, which can be hugely beneficial if you are trying to target specific businesses. If you would like to work with a specific business that has visited your profile, you can reach out to them and start those important conversations and build up a connection straightaway. LinkedIn is also ideal for finding new employees; you can set up job listings on your own profile and also easily search for potential candidates with the specific skills that you are looking for. A persons LinkedIn profile can provide a lot more than just a CV, and so if you are interested in someone for a potential position in your company, you will get a much deeper insight into whether or not they would be suitable just by looking at their LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is used by a lot of people however, the platform is used sparingly so you may not have very long to make an impact if you are posting content. On average people spend around 17 minutes on LinkedIn per month. This is mainly because of the nature of this platform; it is not used in the same way Facebook or Twitter is for example. So if you are looking for a lot of engagement on the content that you are providing, then LinkedIn may not be the platform for your business.
LinkedIn has varying degrees of connections; on the other platforms mentioned the majority of them use the term followers to describe their community members, while LinkedIn use connections . There are varying degrees of connections on LinkedIn which limits how you can interact with another account for example; you are not able to send a private message to someone on LinkedIn unless you have a 1st- degree connection. Not only that, you may not have access to some of the features LinkedIn provides unless you have a certain amount of connections with other accounts, this may cause a little bit of frustration if you are trying to connect with other businesses and starting that initial contact. Unless they connect with you back, you may not get the chance to interact with them fully.
There are a huge amount of social media channels available for your business not just the ones mentioned above such as Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube and even TikTok, so it is completely up to you which ones you think will really suit your business and promote it in the best possible light. Of course, there are going to be many other factors that also contribute to the platform you choose such as money, time and creativity, but don’t let that put you off getting your business out there, as there are such an abundance of platforms that cater for all businesses. At the end of the day, don’t forget you can be on multiple platforms; as each one offers their own benefits.