There was a time when social media was nothing more than a platform on which to share photos of your cat, last night’s dinner and the far-flung holiday from which you’ve just returned.
Now, it’s a vibrant marketplace for businesses. And it doesn’t matter which industry you reside in, the types of products you sell or the customer base to whom you market them; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn (to name the most prominent networks) are there to help you raise the profile of your brand and sell more stuff.
The problem lies in the sheer number of social networks that are now available and the many ways in which they can be used. That’s why we thought we’d take some time to note down our thoughts about how to decide on which social media platform is right for your business.
Will my business only suit certain networks?
It’s worth covering this off, first. Social media is a brilliant marketing tool for any type of business, but that doesn’t mean yours will suit every network available.
However, this has led to a bit of a misnomer that platforms such as Facebook only suit B2C businesses and that B2B firms are subsequently better off investing time in ‘professional’ social networks such as LinkedIn.
This isn’t strictly true. A manufacturing firm might be able to find a sizeable, profitable audience on Facebook, and a shoe shop could discover a super-engaged audience on LinkedIn when advertising their wares.
Finding the right social media platforms for your business all starts with a few simple considerations when you’re the marketing manager.
Is my business local?
If you’re a bricks-and-mortar retailer or service provider that focuses on finding customers immediately on your doorstep, it’s important to consider locality when choosing social media platforms.
Facebook, for instance, is brilliant at offering audience demographic data that will enable you to run ads and boosted posts that target people in specific locations.
If you’re less geographically sensitive, platforms like Twitter and Instagram focus less on demographics of that kind, thus more easily opening your business up to a larger audience.
What’s my audience persona(s)?
As social networks mature, they begin to develop very specific audiences. This is why it’s vital to take into your account your audience persona (whether you have one or many) when devising your social marketing strategy. For example, YouTube marketing won’t work for every audience.
If, for instance, your target market is millennials, think carefully about which platforms are most likely used by those people. Likewise, if you’re a B2C company, consider the networks on which the decisions makers within the industry are likely to reside.
What content can we produce?
Social media marketing strategies can only be successful if they have enough quality content behind them (although it should be noted that there’s no silver bullet when it comes to producing viral social media videos!).
For instance, a company Twitter account won’t be of much use if it doesn’t have a great blog or visual content it can call on to increase followers and direct people to the main business website.
If you’re running everything in-house, be realistic about what you can create. This might extend to a weekly blog post and daily social posting with a smattering of ads, but if, for instance, you’re using a video production agency, utilising those skills to create great video content will ensure you don’t waste time on social media.
Why you’re not in a ‘boring’ industry
When it comes to choosing social media platforms, some businesses assume their industry is too ‘business-like’ or ‘boring’ to make proper use of such services.
This isn’t the case. Take accountancy, for instance. While, on the surface, it might feel that such a business doesn’t have a huge amount to offer potential and existing clients on social, the opposite is true. You just need to get creative.
Thinking back to the last question above, it all comes down to the type of content you can potentially create in-house or externally.
It goes without saying that a traditional bed and breakfast business located within a beautiful part of the UK has ample opportunity to take amazing photos for Instagram every day, but what about our accountant friends? Why can’t they produce some equally engaging educational content for YouTube, for instance? As you can see, it is important to focus on the right platform.
A behind-the-scenes office tour will probably be very boring and would not attract many views. On the other hand, explaining end of year reports or VAT returns is exactly the type of content which will add value and can attract significant engagement on YouTube.
Taking into account your products and services
A big consideration for businesses looking to integrate social media into their marketing is the types of products and services they provide. (as mentioned above in the Bed & Breakfast vs Accountants scenario)
Are they provided locally – i.e. via bricks-and-mortar retail or delivery? Or do you sell products and services that are delivered digitally? If it’s the latter, the location of your customers probably isn’t as important as the former.
In either case, taking into account your wares is a brilliant way to fine-tune your social media selection, due to the inherent link with locality and the need (or absence of a need) for audience demographics of that kind.
A note on pay-per-click (PPC)
Nearly every social media platform worth its salt will offer some form of pay-per-click advertising.
Many experts will tell you that social media marketing is a ‘pay-to-play’ arena these days. Organic reach on platforms like Facebook is very limited.
It’s still possible to build a significant, engaged audience naturally and with organic posts on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
PPC offers the ability to grab leads, sales or additional followers quickly and in a way that you can measure the direct return on investment.
Experiment with PPC, by all means, but remember that it often pays to have some external assistance from an expert if you’re to avoid throwing money down the drain.
Which platforms should I focus on?
Here’s our current favourite social media platforms for marketing:
Owned by Facebook, Instagram is a huge social network and, if you take the time to create interesting, unique content, you can grow a sizeable audience organically – it’ll just require a fair bit of patience and focus!
Don’t think YouTube is a social media platform? Think again! It’s actually the second-largest internet search engine and gives businesses a ready-made audience that can be engaged both organically and via paid advertising.
Still arguably the largest social media platform available to UK businesses, Facebook continues to offer large audiences and brilliant PPC features. Unfortunately, it really is a pay-to-play arena these days; good content without an ad budget is unlikely to get you anywhere.
Originally Musical.ly, before it was acquired by a Chinese company in 2017, TikTok is fast becoming one of the most popular platforms on which to share short video content. Read our beginners guide to TikTok to find out why brands are jumping on it and how it could benefit your business.
It may be worth having a presence on Twitter as a small business, but only because it proves you still exist and have a voice. Don’t expect lots of leads or new followers on tap, but do keep it ticking over.
We hope today’s post has given you plenty of food for thought when it comes to social media marketing for your small business. Which networks are you opting for?