Social media is a tool that everyone uses, but not all brands need a Twitter, Instagram or YouTube page. If you're a small business trying to get started in social media, here's what to consider before signing up.
YouTube: A Video Classroom
Despite having about one billion visits a month, YouTube is still seen as an entertainment and video blogging platform that happens to have brand and product promotion capabilities. While some marketers and advertisers choose to show their company’s products and services with in-stream commercial slots before a video plays, most of the time these ads are skipped by viewers.
The YouTube page for Modcloth, a clothing retailer
Brands shouldn't be discouraged; YouTube is also a video education tool. Brands and product developers can not only showcase new releases, but hold video seminars and tutorials, answer frequently asked questions and show customers different ways products can be used. Resulting from this, YouTube can be used in social media marketing for any kind of business from retail to software vendors such as Microsoft.
Instagram and Pinterest: A Retail Dream
Although a bit different, Instagram and Pinterest are networking tools that have one central focus: the photo. With Instagram, users can use it alone or alongside other sites like Twitter to show a new product, promote a contest or show scenes from a company event, while with Pinterest, users can browse a particular topic and connect with businesses whose products they enjoy.
Instagram and Pinterest should be used by retailers or businesses that have physical products as that's what users commonly look for on these sites. Popular items on both Pinterest and Instagram include food, clothing, crafts and do-it-yourself items and home décor.
Twitter: For the Frequently Updated
With 140 characters, Twitter is limited in what it can do for marketers even with promoted tweets, video and photo attachment capabilities.
Twitter is centered around the idea that information can be spread quickly and easily and is used to monitor particular topics and trends by its 200 million users. Those who use the microblogging service are looking for ‘current’ or new information about topics that is engaging, but quickly understood, as a person’s feed is constantly updated with new information.
While every business may think they need Twitter, this isn't the case. Twitter should be used by a business that has frequent company or product updates. Companies that spend a few months to a year creating new stock and can't update Twitter with new information shouldn't use it. If you don't frequently tweet, users may unfollow the account, which will hurt a brand’s social media presence and cause customers to miss important updates when they do happen.
LinkedIn: B2B Networking
LinkedIn isn't like the other social networks. Not all of its features are geared toward the the everyday consumer, but rather businesses and business professionals. As a network LinkedIn acts much like a business directory providing individuals and companies with a platform in which to network, seek out potential hires and let users have an online resume.
As a result, LinkedIn's usefulness is more focused on B2B marketing then B2C. LinkedIn would be an ideal platform for a new business trying to figure out if it would survive in its market and for companies that want to see what products its competitors are releasing. It's also a key social platform to keep professionals updated on products and services they might use (or want to use) in their organization.
Facebook and Google+: For Everyone
When looking to connect with customers across social media, many businesses find that Facebook is the usually the place to start, as it has over a billion users and many of these users don't use Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram. Therefore, marketers can reach a wider audience. Choosing Facebook is also a good decision as unlike the other networks, Facebook encompasses key parts of social networking, such as microblogging with its status update feature, while also having photo and video sharing capabilities.
With these and other features, Facebook is a tool that can be used by any kind of business, as long as they continually posting new and engaging content -- even if it's just answering customer questions and comments.
Although it's newer and only has 500 million users, Google+ acts much like Facebook with status updates and photo and content sharing, so it would also be useful to create a Google+ page to connect with fans and share product and service information.
A feature that sets Google+ a bit apart from Facebook and will prove useful to businesses is the Google Communities feature. As with Facebook groups, users can join communities and share photos and text comments in real-time, but unlike Facebook, users can have a real-time video sessions using Google Hangouts. Brands can use Hangouts to host webinars, have live product launches and live video question and answer sessions with its followers.
Be on the Social Network You Need To Be
Before a company opts to become part of social media community or expand beyond Facebook, they should look and see if the network will help it reach the audience it's trying to reach. Not all social networks are necessary to be on, the key is to use the ones where most of your customers/prospective customers are.
That being said, you never really know where your brand is being mentioned, so make sure you monitor all social networks for mentions of your brand or similar products/services.
If you have more examples of how to choose the right social network(s) share them here in the comments.