Social Media is a great way to reach your target market and build relationships with your customers. Using social media for your business can be a fantastic tool for small businesses with limited resources and little or no technical expertise. Having s social media strategy is essential for all types of business, from franchises to freelancers and people working from home.
In addition to the ability to reach a large number of people, social networks offer an ability to research and understand your existing and potential customer base. Additionaly, credibility offered through social proof can be invaluable.
At Be Your Own Boss we’re a big believer in the power of social media and we have a profile in each of the major social media platforms including a Facebook page, Twitter profile, Google Plus Page and Linked-In. We also plan to launch a YouTube channel in the future.
Social doesn’t mean it’s not serious
Personally we prefer the term “connected media”. Social Media implies it’s not a serious medium for business. While these forms of media are still used for social activity they are essentially a micro version of the internet as a whole, where people are consuming and interacting with all forms of content.
You should seriously consider having a presence in at least one form of social media. The best ones to use will be determined, in part, by your industry and type of business. Your own comfort level and familiarity should be factored in though. The better you understand – and enjoy using – a network the more effective you’ll be. Below is a summary of the most popular platforms to help you decide which is right for you.
It’s important to note that, while each platform is typically free and reasonably simple to set up, they do require time to monitor and manage so you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. However, they are a great way to expand your reach, generate word of mouth and develop deep customer relationships.
It’s also important to realise there are ways to leverage each platform without having to set up and manage a profile. For instance, you can add social sharing buttons (like the Facebook Like, Google Plus One or Tweet this buttons) that allow people to share your content without their own networks. Multiple platform sharing buttons like the AddThis button (as used on this site) are an easy to install (and free) service that offers people the ability to share via almost every form of social media available.
Additionally many social media platform allow you to advertise your products or services.
The 5 Big Social Media Players
This is the big fish with the largest number of users. And those users spend longer on this platform that anywhere else online. In 2011 Facebook overtook Google as the most popular website and was the number one search term. It’s no longer the domain of teenagers; in fact the largest growth is in in the 50+ demographic and most serious businesses now have a presence of some form, typically a business page.
Because it’s used by so many people from most demographics you should leverage this network for your business. Adding the “like” button to your website is an easy way to help more people see your content. Setting up a Facebook page is quick, easy and free. (Simply go here for page tips and to set up your Facebook page now). The insights feature available to page owners offers powerful analysis of your fans that can assist in your business planning. It’s effectively free focus group research at your fingertips.
Facebook’s advertising platform is quite simple to use and has some fantastic targeting options to reach your best potential customers. You can target ads demographically, geographically and by numerous other factors including personal interests. You don’t need a Facebook page to run ads either – you can simply link to any external website or have any call to action including a phone number for customers to call.
One of the social media pioneers, Twitter is simple to set-up and use and requires less management than most social networks. It’s an easy way to post new website content. This platform is very popular with large brands, celebrities and technology business but can be a very effective tool for freelancers too. Advertising options are very limited.
Currently Google+ feels like a cool nightclub that nobody is sure they need in their life. While activity is low right now, because it’s Google it is worth having a foot in the water. Adding the +1 button and creating a G+ page will help your search engine optimization (seo) efforts. In plain English that means it will help your website content be more likely to be discovered. There’s no advertising right now, except via Google AdWords campaigns.
Historically this has been the more business centric social platform. To say it’s just a big online resume or C.V platform is a simplification but not entirely off the mark. Linked-In is a great channel for freelancers and networkers. You can set up your company profile and create groups around a particular theme or topic. Advertising is available but is currently very expensive on a cost per click basis.
Many people don’t consider YouTube to be a pure social platform but recent changes have made it increasingly social. It’s also the world’s second largest search engine (behind Google) so worth considering adding to your mix.
If you’re not comfortable writing this could be a great medium. Providing video content may be a great way for you to communicate your business message. Instructional “how to” style videos are very popular. They can help build a loyal following and boost your credibility.
It’s possible to advertise your own videos or simply place ads for your business on other people’s video content – either directly through YouTube advertising or via Google AdWords.
Further tips to leverage social media for your business
This very broad, simple overview should help give you a fundamental understanding of the major social networks but we recommend you spend time on each platform yourself to determine what works best for you and your business.
And for more tips on using social – ah, connected – media to help grow your business we highly recommend Social Media Examiner who are an excellent resource to help you leverage the most popular platforms for your business.
Hootsuite is an excellent free tool that can help you manage multiple social media platforms.
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