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October 25, 2013

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Which Social Media Networks Should I Choose?

Social media is changing all the time and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s changing too quickly for businesses to keep up.

social-media-for-business

New platforms crop up all the time, as well as changes to how existing platforms operate. But businesses really needn’t worry because each social network has a well-defined demographic, or at least a purpose for existing.

It’s not always simple when you take geography into account though. China, for example, has its own network called ‘RenRen’, and doesn’t allow access to Facebook. If your business is going global, you need to consider each country’s individual laws.

Just because Facebook has 900+ million users, roughly 1/7th of the world’s population, doesn’t mean that they’re evenly spread across the world. As China’s population is in excess of a billion, you could assume that many millions of them are all on Facebook. You’d soon be wondering why nobody from China is contacting your business if you didn’t check what the situation was beforehand however.

The other issue is that it is quite impossible to truly determine which social network is the best, because each businessperson will have a different business and therefore a differing opinion on the best business methods. But if you follow this guide, you’ll hopefully have a reasonably clear insight into which social networks are at the very least conducive to a strong social media presence.

Facebook

While it’s primarily for people to chat to each other about how their day has gone, or how awful their hair looks in a photo from their weekend, Facebook’s a breeding ground for establishing and enhancing customer relationships. It’s got the largest amount of users out of all the social networks out there, so it’s good for business for that reason, if not for any other. Because of how many people are using it for casual use, it’s understandable if you’re worried that people may not want to be shopping or doing business with you over Facebook, but times are changing!

Facebook users appreciate being able to contact companies without having to pick up the phone or find an email address, and they’ve inadvertently turned Facebook into a great platform for instant contact between business and customer. As long as you keep the page up to date, share interesting, relevant content which users would find interesting, and you answer customer queries in under 24 hours (quickness is key), it should be impossible to fail on Facebook.

Twitter

While Twitter has less users than Facebook, it’s a much more simple, quick and flexible social network. Because every ‘tweet’ has to be fewer than 140 characters you can use them to direct people to your business website via a quick link, so they will simultaneously see your shared content and your website at the same time.

Like Facebook, it’s great as a business to customer contact method. Answering queries and posting relevant, interesting quotes and updates is inherent, but it’s all made simpler for you on Twitter because there’s no other option but to be concise. Don’t forget to use popular hashtags and the ‘Retweet’ feature, so that customers can share your business between other users and find tweets that belong to a particular user or topic.

LinkedIn

If you own a business, you will have heard of LinkedIn. It’s for businesses and professionals to communicate and network with one another. This can be great for establishing working relationships with suppliers, competition, and colleagues. But be prepared to pay a little money and spend some time establishing a profile, because many of the features you’ll want to use require an upgrade to their premium service.

Pinterest

This is a network that companies who sell things can use to share images of their products. ‘Pins’ always link back to the original web source, so you can direct Pinterest users by default back to your business page. The downfall is that while this is a strong driver of traffic, this is one of the only things that Pinterest can contribute to a business. There are also a comparatively small number of users, currently hovering around the 11 million mark.

Google+

This is one of the best platforms a business can have. Becoming increasingly popular, Google+ directly affects search engine results via the ‘+1’ feature, which is Google’s version of ‘share’ or ‘retweet’. The more people that +1 something, the higher it ranks in search results. This is a huge step up from what Facebook or Twitter can achieve. Also, more people and businesses are getting a Google+ profile because of how easy Google makes it to find company pages. Just search for the company name in Google and put the ‘+’ symbol in front of it and you’ll be directed to that company’s Google page if they have one.

‘Hangouts’ allow you to video-call customers or colleagues and ‘circles’ allow you to group connections into categories, so you can control who sees your content and you can keep things simply organised.

If you’re going to use multiple social networks for your business, the number one thing to avoid is posting the same content to all of them. There needs to be some variance or else people will solely use the platform they use the most, or decide that your company doesn’t care about them.

You may also want to consider building a Youtube presence, as Youtube videos are some of the most shared online content you’ll come across. They can diversify the online output of a business and attract new customers by giving them something informative or entertaining to watch which then leads them to gaining an interest in what your company does.

Just be prepared to spend a fair bit of time creating and uploading such content, and doing it regularly. In line with what’s mentioned above, don’t share the same videos to every platform or your customers will swiftly feel like numbers!

As well as the above, it’s worth doing a little research into niche social networks that are specific to your industry. These can be especially useful for B2B companies that need to connect with people in the same sector.

Social media has revolutionised the way that businesses and consumers communicate, with the power shifting very much in favour of the consumer. This means that companies have to approach social differently than they might with other advertising platforms. It’s vital to have a personalised ‘voice’, to respond to queries and complaints uber-quickly and above all, be completely transparent in all of their business dealings if they are to build and maintain a healthy brand.

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