According to SMB Group’s 2013 Top 10 SMB Technology Market Predictions, this is the year that small to midsize businesses get serious about their social media efforts. The group’s study shows that 58 percent of SMBs used social media in 2012, but only 28 percent of them were putting a strategic plan into place. Although social media is a fairly new concept, its use requires just as much planning and attention as any other marketing campaign in order for it to be deemed successful.
All the posts and tweets and pins may seem foreign to those who are used to traditional marketing lingo, so learning which social media platforms to use and how to use them is key to an effective social media campaign.
According to a report from the Content Marketing Institute and Outbrain, business-to-business social marketing is most often conducted via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Business intelligence vendor, SDL/SM2, lists those same three as top sites for SMBs, and adds these sites to its list:
- Google +
LinkedIn is considered the top site for all business-to-business social networking. It allows people and companies to link up through shared Connections. Company Pages help you get your name in front of LinkedIn users. Networking can be done via Groups, which members can join according to common interests, or by sharing of content via links and Blogs—posting engaging content here can create opportunities for further Connections if articles are shared to other Groups and Connections. Although it can be a useful tool for finding and interfacing with businesses and business-minded people, it would be difficult to market a product or service to average consumers using this social media tool.
Facebook is a more popular and easily recognized vehicle for businesses and consumers alike. People connect with Friends and Like posts, pages, and companies with profiles. Users get a feed list of posts from those in their network, so it’s important to post something engaging and geared toward the crowd for which you are writing in order to keep consumers’ interest. Posting interesting videos, images or content may also spur users to Share this with friends, which can bring in more users to your page and more exposure for your product or service. So keep it creative. At additional cost, businesses can run ads and promote special posts to a wider audience and track page views and usage, too.
Twitter allows a marketer to quickly relay information to its Followers via short posts called Tweets. Providing a hashtag (#) before a particular topic in your Tweet helps users search and find information that they need. Particularly engaging Tweets are Retweeted by users to their Followers and is good for business. You can also place ads and track your marketing with business tools. Relaying sale information, helpful tips and other solid content is perfect for a Twitter marketing post. Listing special deals only available to Followers makes users likely to remain loyal and helps you track your readers.
Pinterest is an online pinboard where users save collections of images that link back to websites. Members follow each other’s Pins and Boards (online bulletin boards, of sorts, where each saved pin can be categorized by type specified by the user). Pinterest works great for companies with products on a website—a company can have a Pin It button added next to images on its site and users can select products they like and Pin them to their own boards. Friends and followers can Re-Pin (share) images and each one provides exposure to your product and company site. This works great to market products, but doesn’t really work to sell much else.
YouTube provides a forum for users to share their created videos with others and a place where users can watch other users’ videos. Businesses can market on YouTube via creative, original videos that are shared and viewed by up to millions of viewers (marketers often hope their videos “go viral,” which means they are viewed and shared over and over by millions because of entertainment value). Companies can also pay to place ads on YouTube that can be played or displayed prior to videos that are watched.
Google + allows users to post photos, articles, blog posts and short thoughts to be shared with other users. Members Follow each other’s posts and can +1 (the equivalent of a Facebook Like) a post and even re-share posts with their own followers. A business can create its own Google + experience for users and customers that might include videos, posts about sales or product information and factoids or information about company goings-on. Marketers can create a Hangout where followers can talk live with a member of the company and even share video. And, of course, page views can be counted and reports can be reviewed to measure your company page’s effectiveness.
Foursquare is an application that users download for free onto their mobile devices. It helps track the places a user goes and allows users to connect with friends. Foursquare also provides help for businesses via its website and business tools. When a user Checks In to your business, they can leave Tips to their friends and other users about products or services they enjoyed at your establishment. It’s a great way to enjoy viral marketing techniques. Foursquare also offers free tools so that businesses can more easily connect with customers and provide information on sales, specials and products just for Foursquare users.
Obviously, many other social media platforms unite businesses with consumers, but the ones listed here are among the top networking sites. Once you’ve mastered the lingo and know which platforms fit the way you do business, you are on your way to creating a solid social media strategy for your SMB.