What social networks should a business use, seems to be a question that a lot of owners I meet are confused about this. Have you ever thought:
“I’ve heard everyone is on Facebook so I should probably be on there?”, or
“LinkedIn is the business network so seeing as it’s for my business I should probably be on there too!”
“meh, I don’t like twitter…it’s just full of people talking about their cats and what they had for breakfast”
“I hear MySpace is *the* social network to be on now…”
Okay, probably not the last one any time recently! In this article I’ve asked three of Ireland’s leading experts in Social Media to answer the question and I will be sharing their advice and my own views in this article.
Our panel of experts
Today’s panel of experts are Niall Devitt, founder of The Ahain Group, a social business consultancy practice, the business blog TweakYourBiz.com and the extremely popular LinkedIn group: Social Media Ireland. Niall works with large and small business on how best, to utilise their digital and social channels to increase business efficiencies and improve their profitability. He also lectures and speaks about social media and about its impacts on doing business, peer to peer marketing and customer relationships.
My 2nd expert is Christina Giliberti, Founder of CG Online Marketing in Cork. CG Online Marketing is a business dedicated to helping companies sparkle online. Christina has considerable experience with online strategies, social media marketing, analytics and insights, advertising, PR, content marketing and copywriting.
Lastly I’m delighted to introduce you to Debbie McDonnell Owner of The Marketing Shop in Dublin, and Founder of the widely used #SMECommunity Community on Twitter. Debbie is a Professional Marketer with over 20 years business experience encompassing Marketing, Management, Sales, Team-Building, Customer Service, Copywriting (for print & web), Project Management, Training & more.
Which social networks should a business use?
The answer to this question will be different for every business owner because every business is different, but the questions each business owner should ask to figure out that answer are always the same.
Niall leads the charge with, “The short answer is wherever your customers are.”
According to Debbie, “There are no hard and fast rules but ultimately you must choose the network(s) based on where your customers are as you are going out to engage with them where they like to network”.
“Every social platform is a targeted marketing platform. The key to finding the platform that your business SHOULD be on, is to opt for the platform that appeals to the audience you are trying to reach. There’s little point in selecting a platform that fails to convert for you – and this is usually the biggest mistake I come across for businesses”, says Christina.
It’s important to note, that while all of the social networks are marketing platforms, each has it’s etiquette and rules. To get the greatest results from any social network you need to remember that Social Media Marketing is a conversational marketing channel where discussion and engagement are key. Broadcasting interruption marketing messages will not work.
Who uses it & how can you achieve your goals with it?
Christina elaborates by saying, “When scoping out the best platforms, consider how each platform is used, who uses it and how you can achieve your aims by using it. Facebook allows you to ‘own’ a page of dedicated content in a time-line layout. You can easily ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘comment’ in a way that is extremely visual. The additional ‘apps’ section under the cover image is a place to utilise for your objectives like contacting you (contact page link), a promotion/competition, etc.
Twitter allows only 140 characters and shortened links. New features do allow you to track discussion threads, however the emphasis is more on ‘conversations’ and quick conversations at that.
Social networking sites such as Small Business Can are business hangouts and this theme dominates. The idea is to support, network and elicit opportunities to sell. If you have a B2B service, then you will most likely convert on sites such as these. Here, you can really use the power of knowledge to gain trust. This in turn will provide give you credibility to ‘pitch’.
LinkedIn is the professional networkers platform and is a favourite among high profile businesses, professional networkers and recruiters. Central is a CV-style profile and this history of expertise dominates. For recruiters, it allows them to search and assess skill-matches for roles. For business people, it allows them to scope out potential partners and decision makers. The ‘Groups’ feature is particularly important as groups are small clusters of people with a shared interest – more targeted and less crowded to collaborate and interact.”
What you do in your business matters
So, each network has its own set of rules, etiquette and types of users but how do you align that with your business?
Debbie makes a hugely valid point by saying, “The nature of the product will be a factor e.g. shoes and handbags are wonderful on Facebook, building services not necessarily so. Take into account the content you will need to source or create and who within your business is assigned the task of managing the page.”
This is an area often overlooked or underestimated by business owners in my experience. To most business owners, having a Facebook page seems like something most business should have now-a-days but is your business able from a time and resources point of view to update it and manage fan engagement?
The same should be asked of any other social networks you might be thinking of setting up an account with. Every new network you join in order to be of benefit to your business will take a corresponding amount of time to work. Debbie cautions “[Social media] will take commitment and if you spread your business too thinly quality may be sacrificed.”
Have clear business goals & align with the right metrics
Niall says, “Before you decide to be on x platform, you need to decide exactly what you want to achieve. Fans or followers are not the answers you should be looking for here, whereas customers, sales, efficiencies etc. are. The reality is that metrics like fans or followers just help you to get to the result; they should never be an end in themselves.
Say you decide you want to grow your customers by 25 in the next six months. That’s a great start, because it gives you both a time frame and something real to measure your success against. As part of your planning, you will then need to go figure where these new customers will come from, one platform, two platforms or many platforms?”
WAIT! Are you even ready?
Niall offers these words of wisdom, “most businesses actually need to start before social networks, with their website, their SEO, messaging, content and its uniqueness. The internet is very competitive so ensure that your house is in order before you start inviting people in. The second advantage to your website is that you own it and set your own rules, unlike on social platforms like Facebook etc.”
It’s important to have a strategy in place. One that starts with having your website and brand messaging in place so you have a clear understanding of what your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is. You should remember that even though it’s your Facebook page or Twitter profile these companies are sleeping giants who could wake up and just shut it down without notification. Everything you do on Social Media should be designed to increase traffic back to your website/blog and email list. You own those. You don’t own your Social Media properties.
So with that as a broad goal, what do you want to achieve with your social media activities?
Who are your customers, what network do they hang out on and how do they like to communicate? What kind of resources can you 100% commit to giving over to the management of your social media accounts?
Once you know the answers to those questions you will have a clearer idea of which and how many social networks you should add your company to!
If you still aren’t clear as to which network you should be on tell us in the comments below what your business is and who your customers are and I will offer you some pointers.