Welcome back. If you haven’t read part one of this little series on social networks for business then you should. It will give the contents of this post a little context. If you have read it, then you’ll know that I outlined four social networks that I think all small businesses should use for their business, mainly to drive traffic to the website, but also for raising your profile within your target market.
That sets the scene for the big questions, namely
- Which social networks should I use?
- How should I use them?
I can’t tell you the answers to those questions, only you can do that. But I do have a few pointers that I think can help you make the right decision.
OK, so the first decision is which of the networks to use. Part one outlined four that I think everyone should consider, namely Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Choosing which ones to expend time and effort on is important, and depends on a number of factors:
- What you are selling
Are you selling products and/or services?
- How much you need to sell
Does your business need to sell in bulk, or are your products/services high cost & value?
- Who you’re trying to reach
Is your business trying to sell to other businesses or to the general public?
- Your preferred style of communication
Are you happy bashing out lots on copy on a keyboard, or do you prefer short, sharp, pithy interactions. Are you more comfortable behind the scenes, or do you like to meet your potential customers face-to-face?
Once you’ve answered those questions then you will be in a much better position to decide which network(s) will suit you best.
Before we look at each network in turn, I must take one moment to emphasis the need for businesses using social media not to ignore the ‘social’ aspect of the medium. If you do not engage with people using one of your social media channels then you are bound to fail. People expect personalised responses, and if you can’t do that then it’s best not to use social media in the first place.
Taking each network in turn we can evaluate them against the criteria above:
- Consumer-oriented, with business pages
- Product/service agnostic
- Huge potential market
- Business people use it, but often for personal reasons
- Recently allowed long status updates, but they are still rare
Facebook is pretty agnostic as far as products v services goes. However, the sheer number of subscribers make it a better choice than other networks if your goal is to pull in lots of interested parties. They have also removed restrictions on status update size, although it remains difficult to introduce any serious formatting to aid readability.
Whilst making inroads into the B2B sphere, Facebook remains highly focussed on consumers and so is more suited to marketing to them. Of course you can argue that many Facebook subscribers are business people, but I remain to be convinced that they view Facebook as a business tool.
In short, Facebook is the go-to network for B2C, especially if you are looking to attract large numbers. Small independent high street shops are seeing Facebook as a viable alternative to their own website, for instance.
If you do want to give Facebook a go for B2B marketing, though, then here are some useful B2B tips.
- No particular orientation for business v consumer or service v product
- Good reach…particularly amongst celebrities etc.
- Short status updates, so mostly used for signposting and pithy comments
The one defining feature of twitter is the strict character limit for posts (or ‘tweets’). This means that anything longer needs to be created elsewhere and then a link to it in a tweet. Whilst this is accepted behaviour on twitter, it is usual for there to be a good mix between tweets containing links and those that don’t. So if you really prefer being verbose rather than pithy, then perhaps twitter is not the best tool for you.
Twitter is a funny beast in social networking terms, as at first glance it would not appear to have the tools to allow you to easily reach out to potential customers. This is certainly true if you look to grow your network organically and only target your ‘followers’. However, the use of the RT (retweet – where someone re-posts your tweet to their followers) can allow you to shortcut that process, if you can persuade someone with a big following to oblige.
Even if you don’t actively use twitter for marketing purposes, it is worth keeping an eye on it for mentions of your company. Twitter is very much an ‘of the moment’ tool, and can be a good way to catch dissatisfied customers and quickly address their concerns before they are lost for good.
- Very business oriented
- More suitable to services than products
- Good discussion areas with little ‘trolling’
LinkedIn is the definitive B2B tool, and seems happy to restrict itself to that arena. It’s a good way of connecting to individuals, if you can find a relatively natural way of persuading them to link to you (e.g. a common contact). They also use groups as a means of enabling conversations with link-minded individuals.
Whilst LinkedIn is fairly even in terms of promoting products or services, the importance placed on the linking process means that it is more suited to low volume/high value sales rather than the opposite.
- Relatively small but growing quickly
- Business/consumer agnostic
- Rich content and good engagement with topic groups
Google’s new social network is an interesting beast, and is still evolving. Connecting to others is as easy as on twitter, but the ability to share rich content is better than on Facebook. In addition, the video ‘Hangout’ feature adds a new twist, one that has yet to be fully exploited by businesses. My experience with G+ to date also suggests that it lends itself to more in depth discussions than Facebook or Twitter, given that there has been no size limit to posts or comments from day 1.
However, above all these, its the likely impact a Google+ presence will have on SEO that makes it difficult for me to advise companies to ignore it. Google is still the major player in the search engine world, and have been indexing G+ content from day 1 – and presumably ranking it higher than the same content on Facebook, Twitter, etc. More recently, they have also enhanced search results to show which of your G+ contacts have shared articles, thus suggesting that these results might be more pertinent to you.
The end result is that, perhaps more so than any other social network, a presence on Google+ can bring a significant benefit to your business even if none of your target market use G+!
Making the decision
To summarise, it’s difficult to say which networks will work best for your business. Certainly, if you’re targeting consumers, then LinkedIn isn’t appropriate. I would also argue that B2B shouldn’t put all their eggs in the Facebook basket, although it’s useful to have a presence of some sort there. Twitter is great for those whose personalities are suited to that platform, but again can also be used just to signpost people to richer content on your website. G+ is likely to raise your search engine visibility more than any of the others.
In short, you should probably try the two or three networks that suit your business and your personal style the best.
Now I know that sounds like a lot of hard work, but it needn’t be. In part 3 I will have a look at some strategies that you can employ to manage your social network activities more effectively.
In the meantime, let me know below which networks you have ended up using, and how they have boosted your business (or not as the case may be).