Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

From the dawn of social media networks to the advent of consumer engagement “how-to” books, small businesses everywhere have been asked the same question: “What’s your Facebook page?” Gone are the days when good customer traffic was generated only from a storefront or website. If you aren’t joining the conversation on Twitter or sharing photos on Instagram, chances are your business is suffering.

In today’s conversation-savvy world, consumers love to engage directly with the brands and products they buy. Tweeting at DiGiorno during the 2014 Super Bowl resulted in one of the most legendary brand moments of the year. The #DiGiorNOYOUDIDNT was met with fans eagerly awaiting the next tweet rather than yardage. Successful moments like this one are not just haphazard. They are strategically planned and executed communication plans that, with the right mix of wit and brand magic, can result in promotional gold.

One of the things that DiGiorno, Nike, and Coca Cola have in common is exceptionally monitored and managed social media platforms. Small businesses typically don’t have the budgets to pull off real-time marketing like these companies. Nevertheless, that does not mean that social media cannot do wonders for your business and marketing budgets. The first step is to choose the right platforms for your company.

How do you know if you should be on Twitter or Instagram? What about Pinterest? Here’s a list of benefits each platform offers and recommended users:

Facebook:

By far one of the user-friendliest platforms around, Facebook is an obvious choice as top social media platform. This all-inclusive site is great for catching up with old friends or sharing company updates. Widely adapted by an array of consumer segments, Facebook offers business owners’ versatile business profiles and consumer engagement tools.

Recommended User: Everyone. If your small business doesn’t have an account already, go create one now!

Twitter:

This platform took away the fluff of traditional social networking sites and focused on one core feature; the Status Update. With 140 characters, people around the world share news, ideas, and promotions daily. Though this platform has significantly less users than Facebook, it is regarded as one of the best consumer engagement platforms because: 1. Hashtags are king 2. The vast diversity of users 3. Its connectivity to other platforms.

Tweet by DiGiorno during the 2014 Super Bowl

Recommended User: Everyone. With its high growth rate and consumer reach, get your small business on Twitter as soon as possible!

 Instagram:

A picture says 1000 words and can generate great buzz. Sharing pictures has become second nature for a large chunk of the population. Now, major brands like Kate Spade and Columbia are using the #1 photo-sharing platform to build brand loyalty and promote new products. As a small business, Instagram is a great platform to build your brand’s story and share goodwill. Also, few marketers are taking advantage of the platform right now, meaning less branded clutter on consumer feeds.

Recommended User: Instagram, unlike Facebook and Twitter, is not the right choice for every small business. If you are creative firm or restaurant, sharing photos of new events or foods is a great idea. If you are in a more conservative field, Instagram may not be the right avenue to share content. Do research and consider what type of business you are to find out if it is right for you!

 Pinterest:

This platform is all about sharing style ideas and products. Primarily used by a female demographic, it does not have the same reach as Facebook or Twitter, but it makes up for it in other areas. Essentially, Pinterest allows users to post photos or products they like with links to content. If you are a retailer, online or otherwise, this platform can help drive traffic and build your brand story.

Recommended User: Online retailers and creative firms can do wonders using Pinterest to build brand awareness and promote products!

 LinkedIn:

LinkedIn started as a sophisticated networking site for professionals. Today, it is one of the leading talent acquisition sites with recruiters driving the majority of traffic. It is essential as a business professional to have your own profile, let alone as a B2B business. If you are in the business of B2B, this platform is, definitely, for you.

Recommended User: Business to business professionals and everyone in between within the business world. LinkedIn is great for finding professional connections and building following for your business.

 Google+:

Google’s answer to the content sharing trend, Google+ offers users the ability to strategically share content with specific circles. It is essentially a blank canvas that allows users extensive creative freedom to connect with people all around the world. The beauty of Google+ for small businesses is that it levels the playing field. Smaller firms and larger firms alike share content in the same way, meaning marketing budgets do not matter as much on this platform. Sharing relevant content on this site can also do wonders for your SEO, increasing your search result rankings!

Google+ - Plan Promote Prosper

Recommended User: Whether large or small, it doesn’t matter. Google+ is a smart choice to help increase the visibility of your firm’s website and build awareness with your target audience. Start using the platform today!

Obviously there are a lot of platforms to choose from – but there’s no need to stretch too far. Choose a top 2-3 platforms to focus on for your business. Use the majority of your energy on one of them with minimal or no engagement on others. This strategy keeps your social media communication uncomplicated and straightforward.

As a small business, use social media to grow awareness, build your brand voice, and connect with customers. Starting small keeps it manageable and ensures that you don’t spread your efforts too thin. Go out and create your accounts today or spruce up your social media plan! Remember: Quality over quantity.

–       Mackenzie Priest

(Featured image credit: TheBuzzBin)

(Content image credit: FlexibleSystems.com)