If “Social Media” to you means watching the news with a group of friends, this article is definitely for you! If you own your own business, you’ll want to read on as well. The following is a guide on social media for beginners:
What is social media?
Any platform where users register an account and share content is considered a Social Media platform. There are some that are infinitely more popular than others, however certain smaller platform are better at reaching a very specific type of client.
Some of the most common social media platforms out there include:
- Facebook: One of the most popular & well-known social networks on the planet. Users share content with “friends”. Approx. 1.2 billion users worldwide.
- Twitter: Users connect with eachother and share short updates (or “tweets”). Messages limited to 140 characters at a time. Approx. 700 million users worldwide.
- Google+: Another general blogging-type network. Friends connect & share content.
- LinkedIn: Networking site aimed at businesses and business professionals. Users post their professional resumes, recommend employees & peers and rate others’ professional skills.
- Pinterest: Online inspiration boards where users organize & share photos & other content from other websites.
- Instagram: Users upload their personal photos & short videos & share them with followers.
- YouTube: Video sharing website
- StumbleUpon: Users “stumble” through websites that match their selected interests
- Flickr: Photography networking website. Users upload, share and comment on their photographs (usually on a professional or amateur professional level).
- The list goes on!
Why you should care
As the owner of a small business, it’s likely your job of ensuring your brand has a good online presence. A good business website is a start, but a social media presence is arguably just as important.
Just about 90% of people out there today have at least one social media account that they check regularly. Just think about how many of the above-mentioned platforms you yourself use! Now think about HOW you use them.
You probably keep in touch with friends and family, share useful content, comment on other people’s postings, look up products and services, post reviews on your favorite and least favorite brands…
Wait, what? You interact with brands on social media?
Most people do.
Now imagine if, say, you wanted to find a good nail salon in your area. You might start with a google search, find a few nearby, and then likely you’ll go check out their Facebook page for pictures posted by their regular customers. You might read a few customer reviews and you’ll definitely take note if this doesn’t exist or if you only see negatives on there.
The same is true for most service-based businesses. Your success relies on your online reputation.
You’ve convinced me: Social Media is important. Now what?
Well, your first step is to identify what social media platforms are right for your business. There are literally hundreds of different platforms out there, and you certainly can’t be on all of them. Here’s my advice:
Focus on the biggies
You can’t get away from at least having a presence on Facebook and Twitter. You might not like it, but it’s a reality. With a presence on these two networks, odds are you’ll be able to connect with 80-90% of your target market.
Find out where your clientele hangs out
While most people have a Facebook and Twitter account, you should endeavour to find out if there’s also a large portion of your target market that spends their time on another social channel.
If you find that 40-50% or more of your target are all active on another channel, you should be there, too. A few to consider are Pinterest and Instagram. These have been growing over the past few years and, especially if you have a visual-based business, they’re relatively easy to keep updated with minimal effort.
Which brings me to my next point…
Be where it makes sense!
If you constantly take many pictures of your work, it makes sense for you to have an Instagram presence. But YouTube? Maybe not so much.
While you should keep an eye out on where your target market hangs out, don’t have a presence on any platform unless you have a purpose for being there. If you don’t have any images you can share, stay off the photography sites like Flickr. If you don’t have any video content, you don’t belong on YouTube.
LinkedIn is a tricky one. It can be a good place to interact with other businesses, or to get job offers, but it’s not really the place to chat with your target market 1-on-1.
What should I post? How often?
This question has been around ever since businesses have jumped on the social media bandwagon.
There are no golden rules. You should experiment on what works best for you. However, here are a couple of best practices that I’ve found work well:
1. Keep it relevant, change it up, post often
Try not to post for the sake of posting. Whatever you post—on any channel—should be something that will be considered useful to your followers. This could be a status update from your business, images of a job well done, a poll for your clients, sharing an interesting article or image from another source, etc. The key is to stay on topic (a makeup artist suddenly sharing an article about their favorite horror novel is just weird… and you’d be surprised how often things like this happen), and also to post a variety of content to avoid becoming stale.
In terms of the frequency of posts, you want to be present without being annoying. This varies depending on the channel. As a minimum, try to post to sites like Facebook and Instagram every day or two. Twitter should be once a day or more, while other sites like LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube can be once every week or two.
If you post to a channel less than once a month… you probably shouldn’t be there.
2. Monitor your brand mentions, and respond quickly!
Now that you’re on social media, you’ll be able to keep tabs on what others are saying about you. Social isn’t about talking. A lot of it is about listening, too.
You should perform regular searches for your brand name, and see if any comments require your attention. Also monitor posts to your page by other people, as well as personal messages. These should be answered quickly: at least within 24 hours, excluding weekends.
How to respond
Think of social media as customer service that everyone can see. Whenever you respond to a post about your services, keep in mind that how you respond is seen by other potential clients. So even if there is a post from an irate customer—and especially if that customer is wrong or worse, derogatory or abusive—you need to remain calm and respond professionally.
Never, ever, get into an argument with someone over social media. Never tell people off, or respond in any way other than courteous and respectful. If you keep your cool, odds are other users will come to your defense.
What about my personal profiles?
Odds are you’ll have a personal profile on at least a few of the sites where you now have your business account. There’s nothing wrong with that. But be mindful that most users will be able to link your personal profile as the person who owns or runs that business.
With that in mind, be careful about what is visible on your personal account. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself on your personal account, but consider adopting the highest security and privacy settings available so that users who aren’t your friends won’t see the less-than-professional content.
Basically, make sure your personal brand doesn’t clash with your business. Don’t miss this advice on personal branding!
The key takeaways
I know we covered a lot in this article. You may be a little overwhelmed, and that’s okay. To sum up, here’s what you need to take away:
- Be present on social. Figure out the few sites that will give you the best exposure for the least amount of effort. Odds are these are Facebook and Twitter.
- Post stuff that matters to your followers. Tie it back to your business.
- Don’t be boring, and don’t be annoying. Post frequently enough to be heard, but don’t overdo it.
- Treat comments like ticking time bombs. Be professional, friendly and courteous. Never engage in a social media war with a commenter on social.
- Limit what others can see on your personal profiles.
This should be enough information to get you started on a good note. But you’ll of course have to experiment to see what works best for your target audience. Don’t be afraid to take chances and think outside the box!