Your small business needs to be on social media. If you aren’t, you’re missing out on cheap and effective marketing tools. With almost 70 percent of Americans on social media, your social media campaigns can reach a lot of people.
"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, said in a previous Business News Daily interview. "People are on social media all day, every day – brands must go where the people are."
However, not every social media platform is a good fit for every business. You should invest your time and skills in the platforms where you're most likely to reach and engage with your target audience.
To pick the best social media network for your business, learn about the top channels and how to use them for business. Here are the basics you should know about the most popular social media platforms.
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Even with recent leaks and negative press, Facebook is still the most popular social media network, and every business should have a Facebook page. When used correctly, a Facebook page can be invaluable to small businesses.
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, and you can highlight information such as your contact information, hours of operation, the products and services you offer, and much more. [Read this guide to learn more about Facebook for business.]
Instagram is becoming increasingly popular. From Instagram Live to Instagram Stories, there is no shortage of tools businesses can use to promote their services and products. Instagram is a visual platform that’s based entirely on photo and video posts.
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, it's important that the person running your account have a good eye for detail and at least basic photography skills, so 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 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 users on this platform by mentioning users in your posts along with liking and retweeting tweets.
If you’re a highly visual business or don’t have a blog, 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. Other companies use this platform to handle customer services because customers who are also active on the platform will seek out companies to express concerns or share praise.
If you have interesting content, 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 own 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 even location maps. Every pin includes an image or video.
Pinterest is great for niche businesses but 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. Its users can send videos and photos to each other, or post content to their public Stories, which disappears after 24 hours. The app has expanded to include chat, messaging, image storage, events and media content. Now, content 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 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 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. [Learn more about using YouTube for business.]
While LinkedIn might not be the most popular social media platform, it still has 260 million monthly users and is the best platform for professional networking. LinkedIn is a great platform for finding top talent, painting yourself as an industry leader and promoting your business.
LinkedIn is designed to be more professional than other social media platforms. 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 company culture. You can join industry-specific LinkedIn Groups to ask and answer questions. This helps your brand, paints you as an industry expert, and brings people to your company's page and website. [Learn more about using LinkedIn for business.]
Additional reporting by Jill Bowers, Danielle Corcione and Brittney Morgan.