From Tom and Myspace in 2003 to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2004, social media has become part of the fabric of society. Almost a decade and a half later, the list of social media networks continues to grow, making it harder to compete through the noise. According to Statista, only 24 percent of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2008. The current social landscape makes it feel like every family member has a social media account, and that’s because most of them do. In 2017, 81 percent of the population has a social media profile.
There are different use cases for social media. It can be used to communicate with friends and family, track news events in real time, further careers, or discover new music and movies. But for small businesses, the different networks serve as avenues to interact with consumers on a personal level and can convert casual consumers into brand loyalists.
Despite the plethora of social media offerings, only one in four business owners has a social media profile and less than half post consistently, according to the Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey. This largely remains an untapped and misunderstood market for small businesses, but there are five networks that small businesses should look to leverage first.
Today, consumers have a very clear expectation of businesses on social media, regardless of if the business is big or small. They expect businesses to be on multiple social networks, and they expect a quick response. This is where Twitter provides value to small businesses. It can be used for user engagement, but it can also be used for customer support, allowing businesses to respond to consumers’ questions and concerns in a timely manner.
Twitter also provides actionable insights – for free. Through Twitter, search monitoring and tracking mentions, small businesses can get a real-time snapshot of what consumers are saying about their business and the industry as a whole. By proactively monitoring Twitter, small businesses can see what’s popular and stay ahead of the competition.
Everyone is on Facebook. Well, maybe not everyone, but it is the most popular social media network in the world. Facebook is where consumers go to have in-depth conversations, since they aren’t limited to 140 characters to make their point. Small businesses can either make a brand page or a personal page through Facebook, each offering has different benefits such as the ability to interact with a different array of users.
Facebook also allows businesses to create events that users can join, giving them the ability to invite customers to in-person store visits. Similar to Twitter, Facebook can be used for customer support. In terms of advertising, Facebook allows small businesses to make very targeted ads to a specific demographic, and track their success.
LinkedIn is the de facto social media network for career-oriented users and is known as the largest social platform for professionals. This ability to network makes it the top choice for B2B companies. When selling a product to another business, networking and finding potential clients is one of the best ways to improve the sales pipeline, especially for small businesses that don’t have the resources or reach of larger, more well established companies.
Another way small business owners can take advantage of LinkedIn is through writing content for the Thought Leadership section on relevant trends in their specific industry. LinkedIn groups are also a good way to connect with other small business owners to share stories and best practices, and build relationships with members of your target audience.
Owned by Facebook, Instagram now has more than 600 million users globally and over a million monthly advertisers. Small businesses account for the majority of those advertisers, but that wasn’t always the case. Last year, Instagram introduced new features tailored towards businesses. The company also added Instagram Stories where users – and businesses – could share everyday moments with customers, similar to Snapchat. Now, 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one business.
Outside of sharing products, moments and business photos with users, Instagram can be used to share user-generated content. For example, by holding a giveaway with a hashtag for the best use of a product, small businesses can see the different use cases from their consumers and share the best photos on their Instagram channel to improve engagement. Instagram plans to further its small business offering in 2017 by adding an integrated booking function to allow users to book a service with a business, such as a haircut, directly through the app.
Pinterest connects users together through shared interests including photography, fashion, cooking, crafting, parenting, wedding planning, and more. Users save pins, which are photos and content, in visual collections called boards. According to Sprout Social, Pinterest’s users are primarily female, with 45 percent of women online using the social platform compared to only 17 percent of men.
While it has been considered a specialized social media platform for consumer facing brands, that perception is starting to change. Recently, Pinterest unveiled its new advertising platform that is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. Pinterest Propel is tailored to the small business segment of advertisers on Pinterest, which could eventually make up one quarter of the company’s revenue.
Each social media platform offers a different set of demographics you can reach based on your small business, whether you’re a B2B company (LinkedIn) or one that offers visual content (Instagram and Pinterest). Not every social platform is going to make sense or work for every business, so it’s important realize which ones will be the best fit for you, and offer a great customer experience on those social platforms.