- Using social media for business can be a great way to engage with customers, view competition and develop a brand voice.
- Facebook alone has 2.7 billion active monthly users.
- The main social media platforms used for business include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
- This article is for small business owners who want to learn about the different types of social media platforms used for business and the benefits of using social media as a business.
If your small business isn't on social media, you could be missing out on significant value, including new customers, insights into your brand, and audience and engagement opportunities with customers and competitors alike. Plus, social media can be a highly cost-effective way of reaching your customers in a personalized way.
"Social media provides targeting capability, as well as reach and scale, at a lower cost than almost all other marketing channels," said Abdul Muhammad, chief digital officer and partner at rbb Communications, in a previous Business News Daily interview. "People are on social media all day, every day – brands must go where the people are."
If you're considering getting your business onto social media, however, it's important to consider which platforms are right for your business and will provide the most value.
Not every social media platform is a good fit for every business, so you should invest your time and skills in the platforms where you're most likely to reach and engage with your target audience. Each platform has a mission, purpose and unique audience. For example, Instagram is heavy on visuals, whereas Twitter allows you to inject some personality into your posts and engage with followers.
To help you learn more about the different platforms available, here are descriptions of the most popular social media platforms for businesses:
Facebook is a highly popular social media network with a varied audience, with over 2.7 billion active monthly users as of 2020. As such, every business should have a Facebook page. When used correctly, a Facebook page can be invaluable to a small business.
You can use Facebook to share everything from photos to important company updates. With a business account, you have access to powerful advertising tools and in-depth analytics. Business pages also have a lot of customization options. You can use Facebook to highlight information such as your contact information, hours of operation, and the products and services you offer. [Read this guide to learn more about Facebook for business.]
Instagram is also incredibly popular, with around 1 billion active users in 2020. From Instagram Live to Instagram Stories, there is no shortage of tools businesses can use to promote their services and products on the site. Instagram is a visual platform based entirely on photo and video posts, so it's best for businesses that have strong visual content to share.
It's important to note that this platform is almost entirely mobile: You can't take photos or create new posts on the desktop version (although some social media management tools, like Hootsuite and Buffer, do allow for direct Instagram scheduling on their desktop platforms). More artistic niches tend to excel on Instagram, and it may not be the best fit for your business, depending on your industry. Regardless, the person running your account must have a good eye for detail and at least basic photography skills, ensuring the photos and videos posted to your account are high-quality. [Read this guide to learn more about Instagram for business.]
While Twitter is great for short updates, engaging with followers and sharing links to blog posts, it isn't for every business. On Twitter, you can share short tweets (240 characters or fewer), videos, images, links, polls and more. It's also easy to interact with your audience on this platform by mentioning users in your posts along with liking and retweeting tweets.
If you're a highly visual business or you don't have a strong brand voice, you may want to skip this social media network. However, many companies excel on Twitter, such as Wendy's, because they have a unique, on-brand voice on the platform that they use to their advantage. Other companies use this platform to handle customer service because customers who are also active on the platform will seek out companies to express concerns or share praise.
If you have interesting content and can voice that content in an engaging way, Twitter is a great tool for quickly spreading the word. Hashtags help boost posts, and if a user with a lot of followers retweets you, your content could go viral. But with Twitter, it's important to find balance. Don't just share your links or media; make sure you are also sharing a lot of interesting, relevant content from other Twitter users. [Read this guide to learn more about Twitter for business.]
This visually oriented platform allows users to save and display content by "pinning" digital bulletin boards, which can be organized by category. 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 specific information to their pins, like product details and location maps. Every pin on Pinterest includes an image or video, making it a purely visual platform. As such, Pinterest is not the place for you to share information like your business hours
Pinterest is great for niche businesses, but it may not be for every company. 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. [Read this guide to learn more about Pinterest for business.]
Snapchat is another mobile-only, visual social media network that's known for its disappearing content. Users can send videos and photos to each other or post content to their public Stories, which disappear after 24 hours. The app has expanded to include chat, messaging, image storage, events and media content. Now, content posted on Snapchat can easily be saved and uploaded elsewhere.
Because posts are temporary, there is less pressure to create super-polished content. You can also see how many and which specific users viewed your story. A small business will most likely utilize the platform's Stories feature, but keep in mind that only users who have added you can view your Stories content. However, once you have an audience, Stories allows you to easily create story-driven and interactive content. [Learn more about using Snapchat for business.]
YouTube is a video-sharing platform where people can view, upload, rate, share and comment on content. Now owned by Google, the site is a huge hub for news and entertainment.
Many businesses on YouTube have a creative, visual or educational component. The platform is heavily creative in nature, so it's important for you to have a dedicated video editor producing content. However, your business doesn't need a channel to market on the platform – there's a subculture of YouTube influencers who publish frequent videos and often maintain large audiences. Often, businesses partner with YouTubers for product placement because these users already have engaged audiences. Using YouTube influencers can be an easier way of marketing your business on the platform, since you don't have to put in the time and effort of creating content and building a following, which can take years. [Learn more about using YouTube for business.]
LinkedIn has 260 million monthly users and is the best platform for professional networking. It's a great place to find top talent, position yourself as an industry leader and promote your business.
LinkedIn is designed to be more professional than other social media platforms and is geared toward businesses and professionals. Users create profiles that are similar to resumes, and companies can create pages that showcase their business. Because LinkedIn is a professional platform, it's the best place to post job openings and information about your company culture.
You can join industry-specific LinkedIn Groups to ask and answer questions, which can help you establish brand recognition and bring users to your company page and website. Like on Twitter, it is best to have a mix of original and shared content on your page, so commit to creating polished, professional content related to your business. [Learn more about using LinkedIn for business.]
TikTok, the relatively new hit platform where users create and share short videos, can be a successful option for businesses, but only if used properly. Because TikTok is mostly popular with the infamously discerning Generation Z, it can be difficult to strike the right tone to be successful as a business. If you want to create a TikTok account, make sure you have a keen understanding of your brand and how that translates to TikTok specifically. Look at how other businesses are tackling it before you try it yourself.
Key takeaway: The major social media platforms for business are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok.
Benefits of using social media for business
There are several advantages to using social media for business, which increase as social media becomes more enmeshed in society. Here are eight benefits of using social media for your business.
Billions of people across the world use social media every day, and it makes sense to put your business where the customers are. Roughly 60% of Instagram users said they find new products using the platform, making it well worth your while.
It's becoming more important than ever for businesses to have a distinct voice and engage with customers on a human level. Social media provides an easy avenue for this, allowing you to develop an identity and a voice to showcase your brand values and engage with followers.
Social media provides an opportunity for businesses to both learn from and stand out from their competitors, establishing themselves as industry leaders through engaging and relevant content. You can do this by sharing creative content on Instagram, writing thoughtful blog posts for LinkedIn or showing a fresh perspective in tweets.
Increased website traffic
If your followers like your social media content, they become interested in you and go to your website to learn more about your business, which means higher website traffic and potentially more sales for you.
Reputation is everything, and social media gives you the perfect opportunity to communicate with customers and solve issues quickly. You can even create a special hashtag your followers can use if they have a question or complaint to ensure it is seen by the right people. You can also use social media to highlight positive reviews or comments.
Analytics and insights
Most social media platforms have their own analytics tools, which allow you to monitor things like your follower count, engagement rates and click-through rates. These numbers can help you figure out what kinds of content your followers respond to best and tweak your marketing strategy accordingly.
Social media isn't just good for engaging with your customers – you can also use it to stay on top of what your competitors are doing. Follow your competitors and take note of what seems to work well for them and what doesn't. Work those insights into your social media marketing strategy.
It's easy to create ads on social platforms, and the benefit is that you can target them to specifically suit your audience. Research has shown that users respond better when ads are tailored to them, and this often increases engagement.
Key takeaway: There are many benefits to using social media for business, including access to analytics, boosts in website traffic and the chance to develop a brand personality.
How to use social media for business
Here are some tips and best practices to help you be successful on social media.
1. Post consistently.
You want your followers to know what to expect from you, so follow a consistent posting schedule. This will also help you avoid posting too much, which can be off-putting for your followers.
2. Have fun with it.
Provide fun ways to generate more leads and engage with your customers, like running contests, linking to your website or special offers in your profile bio, and hosting live videos with exciting updates or news. You can also utilize Facebook or Instagram Shops to sell directly on social media platforms.
3. Know your audience.
Use your analytics tools to see demographic information, customer behavior and social media trends to inform your content. Knowing what your audience wants to see from you and responding accordingly can go a long way in boosting your engagement rates.
4. Craft a social media marketing strategy.
The best way to ensure success on social media is to go in with a plan. This means sitting down and coming up with a social media marketing strategy that includes each platform you plan to use.
Social media for business FAQs
What social media is best for business?
This largely depends on the type of business and its social media goals. Facebook has the largest audience and the most room to customize your social media marketing. Twitter is the best for receiving feedback from and directly engaging with customers. Pinterest is ideal for small and niche businesses that can market directly on the site. YouTube is arguably the best social media for driving traffic to other websites, such as a company webpage where customers can make purchases.
The best social media is the site you can leverage for your business's specific goals. With that in mind, though, a combination of social media usage on multiple sites will typically yield the best results.
What are the disadvantages of social media for business?
The disadvantages of social media largely depend on the platforms you use, but there are some universal drawbacks. The first is the investment. It takes a lot of time to manage a social media account, and if you are outsourcing the work, it will take a lot of money to pay for that time. While the initial outreach generated from those investments is usually worthwhile, social media investments generate smaller returns over time.
Another major drawback is the potential for bad publicity. Something as simple as a typo can send a very wrong message, and even after you make corrections, the consequences of bad publicity will persist. It is practically inevitable that a social media account will encounter political or otherwise controversial topics, and someone is guaranteed to dislike your business's discourse.
One of the hardest risks to manage is the influence of your social media followers. They will always represent a small portion of your total customers, but they will be the most vocal, and they could lead you to misread what the majority of your customers really want or think. Putting too much stock in social media can send a business down a bad track.
What budget should you set for social media marketing?
There is no magic number for social media marketing. While you should probably spend at least a little money on it, how much you get out of your spending will depend on the efficiency of your campaign. According to WebStrategies, companies typically spend 15 to 25 percent of their total digital marketing budget on social media. That marks a nice place to start, but you can and should adjust your spending according to your return on investment statistics, once those numbers are available.
Saige Driver contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.