Social media is one of the most effective and affordable ways a brand can reach their audience. From very targeted ads that build customer relationships to getting leads that convert into sales, social media has become one of the tools for most businesses, big and small.
With the majority of online traffic taking place on social and the laser-focused, targeted messaging social media offers, it’s easy to see why modern brands that engage in the social space are able to reach more people, more often, for longer periods of time. You have to go where your audience lives, and online, that’s social media.
But with dozens and dozens of social media channels out there, which ones are right for your business and brand? Do you need to participate in every single one of them? Is that even possible time wise? In short, no, and the good news is you don’t need to.
Social media platforms definitely are not all the same, and the best way to consider which ones are right for your business is to first understand their audiences and why those audiences are there. Does your product align with the other common content on the channel? Is the age demographic relevant? Do your customers lean more male or female? Do you have the ability to create ongoing content (video, for example, on YouTube) in the space?
Answers will vary, but at a minimum, most brands should find an audience and success on three current platforms: LinkedIn, Google Plus (yes, Google Plus), and Facebook.
LinkedIn isn’t a flashy social channel. That’s because its audience is made up primarily of a) other businesses and b) people looking for a job. You won’t see too many pictures of kids’ soccer games or old high school friends organizing a reunion here, but that’s okay.
You’re a business. You likely do business with other businesses, and you certainly will need to recruit new employees from time to time. Having a LinkedIn profile for your business is a no-brainer in terms of putting your flag in the ground where businesses are expected to be. Don’t expect huge engagement or followers here (depending on your industry and business), but do expect to learn about future hires and new clients, as well as a place to post those press releases that seem way out of place on another platform (because they usually are). LinkedIn is the suit-and-tie of social channels, and it’s also one of the most trusted by members of the media and CEOs. Put on your Sunday best.
Google Plus takes a lot of grief over being a “ghost town” and that’s actually true. It is a ghost town. But the best reason for your business to be active on Google Plus isn’t the channel itself; it’s all the other Google properties that tie back to it. The biggest one? Google Search.
Posts you make on Google Plus tend to show up fairly high in Google Search. And Google likes to reward brands using their products (Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, etc.) by giving them some “favor” on their flagship, Google Search.
Even more so than LinkedIn, don’t expect much on the channel itself, but remember that the audience for this one isn’t really Google Plus; it’s Google Search, what many consider your true homepage on the Internet. Post as many links back to your website and keyword-rich pieces of content there as you can. This is actually more of a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) play than pure social media.
Over 90% of U.S. adults, and one-third of the entire world, is on Facebook. It’s basically the Internet: Part II. With 2 billion (with a “b”) users, it’s very likely whatever you sell or do has an audience on Facebook. Very. Likely. Facebook has excellent targeting options—think about how much we share with them: where we live, what movies and music we like, what website links we interact with the most, who our friends and family are, where we work, etc.—so the challenge here isn’t so much identifying your audience, it’s getting your posts in front of them.
Being overly “salesy” won’t work, because that’s not why people use Facebook. They don’t go there to be sold to; they check it over 14 times a day on average because they want to catch up with friends, zip through recent headlines in the news, follow a celebrity, etc. Definitely not the same reasons people are on LinkedIn, right? Understanding these reasons will help you craft the best content you can that naturally slides into their timelines next to photos of what’s for dinner and videos of cats doing crazy things.
In other words, don’t look like an ad. Look like a friend, and you’ll find your audience on Facebook.
Picking your social media channels is just the beginning. You’ll need to find the right voice and tone for your brand and be able to replicate it across all of your channels. Your followers should feel like you’re “you” whether they’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram. You’ll also need to organize your incoming content and plan who in your organization will provide you with the images and video necessary to feed your social channels.
And for the sake of SEO, you’ll want to make sure your website has relevant content you can share with your new social media audiences posted there as well. Activity (likes, comments, shares, etc.) around your social posts, particularly posts containing links back to your website, can help influence how your website shows up in search engines. Think of it as “implied endorsement” by those engaging with you on social media.
Once you know what channels are right for you, have a content game plan and someone to represent your business online, then dedicate a budget to push your posts and messages out to the right people. Social media is a very inexpensive media play, but it is pay to play. Without a budget to target your content and gather up your audiences (and future customers), you’ll be climbing uphill to find success in the social media landscape.
You want word of mouth to spread about your brand and product or service, right? The right social media channels paired with the right content and voice can make that happen.