With traditional marketing channels becoming less and less effective, businesses are turning to social media as a more effective way to reach their target market. According to a report from Nielsen, from 2007 to 2009, consumer trust in traditional forms of advertising declined across the board, while recommendations from friends and connections on social networks like Facebook and Twitter became the most trusted way a potential customer could hear about your company or product.
That’s great news for small businesses. In the past, businesses needed to be able to place ads on TV, on the radio, in magazines or in newspapers if they wanted to be able to let potential clients know about their products. These ads were effective, but the cost usually meant you needed to be a big player in your space if you wanted to take advantage.
Today, even though TV and print ads are still effective, there are other, less expensive options to generate buzz about your new, must-have item. But with so many options available, how do you know which is right for you?
Social Media: Know Your Options
Why Use It: Still the biggest and best option for most businesses. With over 1 billion active users logging in to their accounts in September, Facebook gives business owners an opportunity unlike any other.
How it Works: To get started, you’ll want to create a Facebook “Page” (not just a personal profile). Set up a Cover Photo and Profile Image that will help people recognize who you are and what you do. “The Cover Photo and Profile Image are the best ways to show off your company’s personality,” says Rob Elbaz, Interactive Marketing Strategist at Payza. “The brands that are winning in social media are the ones that can carve out a unique image for themselves. People don’t just want to know about your products, they want to know about the people and ideas that brought those products to life.” With that in mind, use the Facebook Status updates to maintain a unique, but consistent, voice that will help you stand out among your competition.
Pros and Cons: One of the biggest pros of Facebook is the sheer size of its network. With over a billion people logging in each month, your potential reach is massive. But there is a downside to using Facebook as well. Facebook has changed the way it displays status updates in the Timeline of their users. Now, for each post you put up, only a fraction of the people that have “Liked” your page will actually see the update. To expand your reach, you will need to spend some cash and “Boost” the posts you want to promote.
Why Use It: Twitter is a great platform for spreading your message in real time, but it’s also a great place to have public conversations with your audience. At Payza we use our Twitter Profiles, @Payzaofficial and @Payzasupport, to spread the word about product launches and blog posts, but we also use it to help our members when they need a little bit of extra support.
How it Works: Twitter lets you send status updates in 140-character doses. The network also popularized the Hashtag (#) as a way to tag your posts and easily find other people talking about the same topic. “Don’t underestimate the value of the hashtag,” warns Elbaz. “Growing branded conversations around a clever tag can help launch your company into the spotlight. But you don’t even need to create your own hashtag to cash in on this trend, keep an eye out for popular hashtags related to your industry and join the conversation. Just make sure your tweets are relevant and can spark a discussion.”
Pros and Cons: Twitter moves fast, sometimes too fast. In August, Twitter set a new record, its users sent out over 143 000 tweets in just 1 second! With that many people talking at once, it’s easy for your tweets to get lost in the flood. Rather than trying to reach everybody, it’s a better idea to develop a strategy that targets the people who are most likely to respond to your message.
While Twitter and Facebook are two of the most popular social networks, there are plenty of other great options that will help you spread your message as well.
Instagram: Now owned by Facebook, Instagram is a great network to use if you have amazing visual content to share. Most of Instagram’s users access the site through mobile devices so it’s great for connecting with young, sophisticated socialites that are constantly on the go.
Pinterest: Another great network for sharing visual content, Pinterest lets you “Pin” content from websites making it easy for their users to save the things they love and share it with friends. A recent survey found that moms are the most likely to visit Pinterest, so if your content is family friendly, Pinterest might be the network for you.
Tumblr: This microblogging platform resonates most with teenagers and has more users aged 13-25 than Facebook! If you’re product is aimed at a younger crowd, Tumblr is a network you need to know about.
Google Plus: The new kid on the block, Google Plus has rapidly grown its user-base by leveraging other Google properties like Gmail and Youtube. Google Plus “Communities,” which are similar to Facebook’s “Groups,” offer a great place to find and connect with people interested in your niche.
Reaching Your Goals
No matter which networks you focus on, remember the most important part of social media: being social. Some companies use the major social media platforms for “push marketing,” one way discussions that follow the model of TV and print ads, this approach misses the point of social media. The best way to take advantage of these platforms is with two-way communication, listen to what your target audience is saying and then find a way to add value to their conversations.
If you have a way to help people solve their problems or bring a bit of joy to their lives, let them know. They’ll be happy you did and probably help you spread your message as a reward.