Your new business is opening, and its time to attract customers. What do you do? Gone are the days of shining spotlights into the night sky; people these days are looking down—at their cell phones; they’re communicating through social media. Just look around you at all the people typing away on their phones while they walk, eat, travel, and even relax. Social media is king, and successful entrepreneurs will take time to consider their social media strategy.
But what is social media, and which sites are businesses using successfully to interact with their customers? How can you best use social media to build your brand? Let’s go over some basic social media 101 facts in this primer for business men and women who didn’t grow up with cell phones in their hands:
Here are the top five social media platforms businesses are using with links to examples of their best practices:
What is it? Facebook is a site for people to share text-based information, photos, videos, and internet links with family and friend groups. Businesses can create Facebook pages for interacting with the public.
Fast Facts: Facebook is the dominant social media platform on the internet with over 1.3 billion monthly users. Fifty-seven percent of all American adults and 73 percent of children ages 12-17 use Facebook. It is international in scope with more than 86 percent of its daily active users logging in from outside the United States and Canada.
Best Uses: Facebook is a good social media platform for building relationships with your customers. Think of your business as a “friend” to those who “like” your page. Use your page to build customer loyalty by interacting with your friends, especially if they leave comments, and be sure to share useful information with them about your products and services, as well as related news and ideas they might find interesting.
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What is it? YouTube is a social media platform for hosting and sharing video content.
Fast Facts: YouTube has become the world’s second largest search engine with over one billion monthly users.
Best Uses: Use YouTube if people will get excited about seeing your product or service in action, as opposed to just having it explained to them. How-to videos, product demos, interviews, and customer testimonials are all good candidates for YouTube. Many people on YouTube search for entertaining videos and spread the ones they like quickly around the internet, so if you have a great idea for a fun or amazing video to highlight your business, it is a good platform for creating social media buzz. YouTube videos can also be embedded in your company website and linked to from your other social media platforms.
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What is it? LinkedIn is a social media platform for business networking and is often used for B2B purposes.
Fast Facts: LinkedIn has over 300 million registered users and one-third of them are from the United States.
Best Uses: Members often use LinkedIn business pages to keep up-to-date on industry trends and thought leader inspirations as well as to promote events and garner business-customer leads. LinkedIn can help your company gain notice within the business community. By sharing pertinent industry information on your business page, members will learn to view your company page as a trusted resource and return to it often enough to become familiar with your products and services. As a LinkedIn member, you can join groups and comment in forums with others who share your interests and point potential customers back to you business page.
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What is it? Twitter is a social media platform that allows its users to communicate via text messages of up to 140 characters, known as tweets.
Fast Facts: More than 255 million active monthly users are currently tweeting out 500 million messages a day. More than 77 percent of Twitter accounts come from outside of the United States.
Best Uses: Twitter is reliant on short burst of text, although users can post links back to visual material and longer articles on the internet. It is very in-the-moment with breaking news and updates being highly tweeted and re-tweeted, making it a useful social media platform for spreading messages quickly in real-time. It is also useful for people to follow industry experts and thought leaders, and potentially, to pose questions to those people with whom they might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact. You can also use Twitter to interact directly with your customers when you want an immediate response. The more twitter accounts a user follows, the more tweets stream by them 24/7, so you should repeat your tweet a few times a day to have it noticed by a large number of your followers.
What is it? Pinterest is a visually-based social media platform which allows its users to curate content from around the web and organize it into collections by “pinning” it to personal bulletin boards. A person can create as many boards for as many categories as they wish. Things like recipes, project ideas, potential vacation spots, and inspirational quotes all make great boards for pinning items to.
Fast Facts: Pinterest boasts over 70 million users of which 80 percent are women. Sixty percent are from the United States.
Best Uses: As a business, you can create a page of your own boards and pins that your followers can search and add to their collections. They can share your pins with their friends and followers on their other social media accounts as well. Home Depot, for instance, makes good use of Pinterest by maintaining do-it-yourself project boards with links back to Home Depot for purchasing the supplies.
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Each of these social media platforms requires tending to—posting fresh content, answering comments, and sharing information—and each requires a different time commitment from you (check out this social media comparison chart from IBM for more information). If you don’t think you have the time to tend to your accounts, consider hiring a social media service to do it for you. An extra benefit of hiring an outside social media expert is that they will also handle the metrics end of the social media equation to help you determine how successfully your social media strategy is performing. If you prefer to go over the numbers yourself, there are a variety of social media tools that will help you gather and interpret the data, and most of the top social media platforms offer “insights” buttons which allow you to view your followers’ activities in easy-to-read charts.
Coming up with a successful social media strategy for your business will be an ongoing project that will change over time as social media habits continue to change and morph. Although the world of social media can look intimidating to beginners, there is no shortage of resources on the internet to help educate you. How To Choose The Right Social Media Networks For Your B2B Business from Search Engine Land or The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media from Moz.com are both full of great tips and resources to help you come up with the best social media strategy for your business ideas.
What do you wish you knew about social media that our readers could help you with?