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Grow Your Business Social Media

Social Media for Business: A Marketer's Guide

Social Media for Business: A Marketer's Guide
Credit: Gonzalo Aragon/Shutterstock

Social media networks are incredible resources for businesses looking to promote their brands online. The platforms themselves are free to use, but also have paid advertising options specifically for brands that want to reach even more new audiences. But just because your business should be on social media, that doesn't mean you should be on every network. It's important that you choose and nurture the social platforms that work best for your business, so that you don't spread yourself too thin.

If you want to create a successful social strategy, you should familiarize yourself with how each network runs, the kinds of audiences you can reach on that network and how your business can best use each platform. We profiled the most popular social media platforms to help you market your business better.

Facebook is the biggest social network on the web, both in terms of name recognition and total number of users. With nearly 1.8 billion active users, Facebook is a great medium for connecting people from all over the world with your business.

And the site is not only the biggest network, but it's also arguably the most versatile one. In the 13 years since it launched, Facebook grew from a simple website where college students could keep in touch into a multifaceted web and mobile social platform where anyone can connect with not just their friends and family, but also celebrities, organizations, businesses and more, thanks to the Pages feature.

Considering that Facebook has a wealth of options for any type of organization, it's a great starting point for your business, regardless of your industry. You can use Facebook to share photos, videos, important company updates and more. Additionally, the site can be more low-maintenance than other social networks. Whether you post several updates a day or only a few a week won't make much of a difference in what your fans think of you. To find out more about Facebook for business, check out our guide.

Editor's Note: Looking for information on social media marketing services for your business? Use the questionnaire below, and get quickly connected to our vendor partners to learn more about a customized strategy and pricing for your business:    

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With Twitter, you can share short text updates (of 140 characters or fewer), along with videos, images, links, polls and more. You can also easily interact with other users by mentioning their usernames in your posts, so Twitter is a great way to quickly connect with people all around the world. (The platform averages about 320 million active users worldwide and is one of the top 10 websites in the United States.)

Because of its wide reach, Twitter is not only a great way to market your business, but also an effective channel for handling customer service. For example, if you maintain an active Twitter presence, customers who are also active on the platform will seek you out to express concerns or share their praise.

If you have interesting content, Twitter is also a great tool for quickly spreading the word. Retweeting and sharing other users' content is incredibly simple. Hashtags help boost posts, and if a user with a lot of followers retweets you, your content has the potential to go viral. But with Twitter, it's important to remember to find balance. Don't simply share your own links or media; instead, make sure you are also sharing a lot of interesting, relevant content from other Twitter users and from around the web, so your audience doesn't think you care only about what your business is doing.

Check out our guide to learn more about using Twitter for business.

This platform allows users to save and display content by "pinning" digital bulletin boards, which can be organized by category. So, for example, a personal user might have a food board dedicated to pinning recipes, another board dedicated to photography and so on. The platform also has a series of special types of pins called Rich Pins, which brands can use to add special information to their pins, like product details and even location maps.

Pinterest is heavily visually oriented. Every post has to be an image or video, and like Facebook, it is also fairly low-maintenance in terms of post frequency. However, keeping your boards organized and search-friendly can be time-consuming. It's also more of a niche network than Facebook or Twitter, so it may not work for everyone. Pinterest's users are primarily women, and popular categories on the site are DIY projects, fashion, exercise, beauty, photography and food. That's not to say that businesses outside of these categories can't succeed on the platform, but it does make Pinterest an especially good marketing tool for businesses in those areas.

There are plenty of cool ways to use this platform to your advantage, and you can read more about them in our Pinterest for business guide.

Similar to Pinterest, Instagram is a visual social media platform based entirely on photo and video posts. The Facebook-owned network has more than 600 million active users, many of whom post about food, art, travel, fashion and similar subjects. Instagram is distinguished by its unique filters and photo- and video-editing options. This platform, unlike the others, is almost entirely mobile. Although there is a web version, you can't take photos or create new posts on it.

Instagram is another platform where more-artistic niches excel, and it may not be the best fit for your business, depending on your industry. If you want to succeed with Instagram, it's important that the person running your account have a good eye for detail and at least basic photography skills, so that the photos and videos posted to your account are high-quality.

And don't be discouraged if your industry is underrepresented on Instagram; if you can find the right hashtags to latch onto and can post intriguing photos, you will most likely make it work. To find out more about using Instagram for business, read our guide.

Snapchat is another visual social media network, but unlike with its competitors, content on Snapchat deletes itself. Users can send videos and photos, available for up to 10 seconds at a time, to one another, or post content to their public Stories, which disappears after 24 hours. Over the past five years, the app has expanded to include chat, messaging, image storage, events and media content. Now, content can easily be saved and uploaded elsewhere.

The Discover feature, for instance, compiles popular content from notable publications like BuzzFeed and The Wall Street Journal. With over 150 million users, this app is designed strictly for mobile devices and cannot be accessed on the web.

Because posts are so temporary, there is less pressure to create superpolished content. You can also see how many and which specific users viewed your story. A small business will mostly likely utilize the platform for its Stories, but keep in mind that only users who have added you can view the story content. However, once you have an audience, the story feature allows you to easily create story-driven and interactive content.

YouTube is video-sharing platform with over a billion users, where people can view, upload, rate, share, and comment on content. Users are automatically assigned a channel, in which other users can subscribe to be notified whenever a new video is uploaded. Now owned by Google, the site is a huge hub for news and entertainment.

Created over a decade ago, YouTube has gone through numerous changes. For instance, users can now make money from Google AdSense, with the revenue dependent on the number of views on a video.

Many businesses on YouTube have a creative, visual or educational component. The platform is heavily driven by creativity in nature, so it's important to have a tailored video editor producing content. However, your business doesn't need a channel to market on the platform. There's a subculture of vloggers, called YouTubers, who publish frequent videos and often maintain large audiences. Often, businesses partner with YouTubers for product placement, because these users already have engaged audiences.

Editor's Note: Looking for information on social media marketing services for your business? Use the questionnaire below, and get quickly connected to our vendor partners to learn more about a customized strategy and pricing for your business:    

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Danielle Corcione

Danielle Corcione is a freelance writer. Her work has recently appeared on Vice, Salon, Upworthy and more. Follow her on Twitter at @decorcione.