Social media continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate and more and more industries and companies are tempted by the idea of ‘going online’ and building their social media presence. For many, this is certainly a worthwhile endeavour, but one not without pitfalls. This isn’t just something you should dabble with until you get bored, but an avenue to help your business. Care needs to be taken!
Many people just think of social media as something you use to keep up with family and friends, laughing at pictures on Facebook, for example, or following your favourite celebrity or business contemporaries on Twitter. Whilst this is true, and there is nothing wrong with using social media for social purposes, there is a huge untapped resource online and many more social networks waiting to be invested in that could benefit your business.
So what use is social media?
There is more to social media than just posting pictures of your lunch. Ultimately, you have to make sure you are doing the right thing for your brand. Here’s a quick guide to how you can make the more popular networks work for you.
Twitter: If you want to really interact with clients, both potential and existing, then Twitter is the best place for you. Described previously as a ‘micro-blogging’ site, it has become a great source for businesses with every kind of industry talking to their community.
Facebook: By far the most popular network with more than one billion users, and you’d therefore think the one you have to be on. Facebook is a good platform to build an online community, but may not be the best place to talk about your services and it isn’t very easy to interact with your community.
LinkedIn: The best business social network; users create a digital online CV with which to show off their achievements or tout potential employers. Although it is primarily thought of as a recruitment tool, it does also allow you to list your business online, which users can then follow, and you can share business updates and industry news on a more professional platform than, say, Facebook or Twitter. It also helps if you are looking for new team members!
YouTube: You would be right in thinking it’s mostly for movie trailers, music videos and funny animal clips, but hidden away and becoming a growing part of YouTube are business videos. If you have a message about your business you want to share, or if you’ve created a testimonial video from some happy clients, then YouTube is for you. You don’t even need a community; you can share it via other social media networks like Twitter and LinkedIn.
Google+: Google’s answer to Facebook; this social sharing network has been very popular since it began with the digital marketing community as well as bloggers. You can build a page for your business, as with LinkedIn, and use this to promote any news about your business and your industry, as well as building a more professional community. Google+ is also a great tool to get in touch remotely with clients, allowing you to share activities online through Google Hangouts.
There are lots of other networks out there, such as Vine, Pinterest and Stumbleupon, though they may not suit your particular industry. At the end of the day, if you sample what they have to offer, you’ll find the ones that suit your business the best.
Making social media a success
If you carefully pick which networks you want to use and plan your output, you can make a success of social media.
First of all, you need to think about your community demographic. You may think your client base and potential clients do not use Facebook or Twitter, but bear in mind all ages are breaching the social media barrier. Twitter’s fastest growing age group in 2013 was 55–64 year olds, whilst on Facebook it was 45–54 year olds. The average ages for the two are 33.8 and 37.5 respectively. It’s important to speak to your clients to see what they already use and see what they’d find useful.
Refrain from being too serious – it is called ‘social’ media after all! Make sure your posts are friendly and an insight into your services, but bear in mind the number of updates you publish will depend on the network. LinkedIn is for when you have updates to provide so is organic; on Facebook you wouldn’t want to publish more than two or three a day at most; whereas with Twitter you can be communicating with your community pretty much constantly, even giving updates at a rate of two or three an hour, depending on time constraints and content.
Although you need to be friendly, don’t make it personal; you are a brand, with a message, a service and guidelines, so try to keep your updates along these lines. Professional updates can be light-hearted and friendly but still be on a business level. You need to be more than aware as well of not becoming involved in a social media ‘debate’ in any form. It’s a perfect platform for clients to ask questions, but then take it down to a private line of communication.
If interaction isn’t your thing, then you can still ‘listen’ to your social networks for people talking about your brand, your industry, or anything else you’d be interested in. Have a look at services such as Meltwater and socialmention which are tools you can use to watch any mix of social media networks to see if your brand name or any keyword terms are mentioned. You can then follow these up as you see fit and it’s a great way to see how people are reacting to you online.
If you’re interested in finding out more, there are plenty of great infographics on platforms such as Pinterest for tips and guidance for social media. You can find out how to keep your messages short and to the point on Twitter and what times of day and even which days of the week are best to tweet in order to maximise the engagement with your community.
Take the leap
So, if you decide to get your business involved in social media, what can you expect and how can you get it right?
Some firms use Twitter as a source of real-time information, following industry peers and keeping up to date with news and changes to their industry as they are spread socially. Social media is presently a better news service than television or news websites, so utilising it this way makes total sense.
LinkedIn is a great source of discussion groups, sharing industry ideas and news online. Some companies have even built the use of LinkedIn into their training; building a good profile, interacting with peers and ‘selling the company’ via their interactions.
In this day and age, social media is something that is avoided at your peril. If you’re not looking to fully immerse and interact with a community you can still take the leap gradually and slowly move online.
To summarise, I would suggest finding the one right network for you to begin with, then start to interact with your community, keeping it short and sweet. Importantly, social media should be looked upon as a potential sales and customer service tool, making a difference to your business. It is there to be utilised and positively built upon, so don’t be afraid of it and you may learn to love it!