By Susan Tucker, December 2011 (Updated December 2017)
Are you confused and overwhelmed by social media? Face-what? Twit-who? You-how? In this post, I’m going to lay out a few of the best social media sites for small business owners, and why.
First off, when considering your online marketing strategy, your website MUST come first. Think of it as sort of a “base camp” that you will connect to/from any number of external points. Your website is property owned by you, whereas social media pages are the property of someone else. Look at social media sites as merely a vehicle to get your message out there and drive traffic back to what you have control over. Still, getting “social” is an important component of any marketing plan.
Did you know… there are more than 100 thriving social media sites online right now and more popping up every single day. It’s enough to make a person’s head spin!
Where do you start when deciding what sites to include in your marketing strategy?
Here is my list. You don’t have to have a presence on every channel. Decide which ones (2 or more) will most benefit your business and go from there.
Ok, here goes:
Launched in February 2004 for college students, Facebook has come a long way in a short seven years. Now with an estimated 800 million active users, it is ranked as the most used social networking service in the world (by the number of active monthly users).
Lucky for you, starting a business page – and tapping into the power of Facebook – is pretty easy. Once your page is created, users ‘like’ it (opt-in to get your posts) and your news will be posted to their ‘wall.’
The Facebook interface makes it easy for your fans to ‘like’ or share your posts and when they do, their friends (the average user has 130 friends) will see this activity, therefore putting your brand in front of an audience you may not normally be able to access.
Created in 2010 as a photo sharing site, Instagram is the new darling of social media channels. In part due to its easy-going nature (photos are fun!) and in part because it was purchased by Facebook in 2012 and has been continually invested in ever since. Instagram is amazing for all sorts of businesses but does particularly well with visually driven organizations such as fashion, food, and travel.
Posts on Instagram tend to get better engagement than on other platforms, and the Live Story feature is a really fun way to show transparency … which is what consumers expect these days!
A micro-blogging social media site that has been around since 2004, Twitter has an estimated 300 million users world-wide. It has been described as SMS of the internet because posts are short, sweet and to-the-point.
Twitter is a tidal wave of information. Posts come in at 140 characters or less and can be organized via hashtags (#). Topics range from totally practical (I often search #Boulder) to the absolutely absurd (#gympetpeeve).
Twitter differs from Facebook in that users ‘follow’ each other. If someone follows you, you can follow them back. Therefore it is easier to gain a following, but the followers are not as targeted as they are on Facebook.
I have found that Twitter is an awesome way to connect with people and/or other businesses participating in the same event. Following a hashtag at a concert, live performance or webinar creates a richer experience. As a business owner, you can utilize this at events your company participates in – try it! – I’ll bet you’d be blown away by the response.
YouTube is a video-sharing social media site that is owned by Google. There are more than 48 hours of new video uploaded to the site every minute. Wow! As a small business owner, using video in your online marketing strategy – and the back-end keywords of your YouTube video -is just as important as your other online strategies.
YouTube recently announced YouTube for schools and I predict more ‘stations’ will be rolling out in the future. Will your specialty be included? Maybe!
Founded in 2002 and launched in 2003, LinkedIn is THE premier B2B social networking site. LI gets two new members every second, putting it at 135 million active users in more than 200 countries.
Traditionally viewed as the spot to put your resume and search for a job, LinkedIn has grown
into a robust networking site. From job listings to interest groups (there are more than 870K groups) there are great benefits to keeping your profile up-to- date. Look at it as a business after hours event…. put on your suit, add a smile to your face and be on your best behavior because you never know what kind of business leads you’re going to get.
I always recommend dedicating an hour or so a week maintaining your LI profile. Also, be sure add your company listing, and update it as well. Use your LI company profile page as a resume for your business.
If your products are visually appealing, then this social media site is for you. Pinterest is a vision board-styled social photo sharing site that was launched in 2009. The mission is to connect everyone in the world through shared taste and the things they find interesting. Users find and create theme-based boards, populating these ‘boards’ with a “Pin It” button. Pins may be divided into pictures, videos, discussions, and gifts.
Users may follow anyone or any brand; users can also ‘re-pin’ your pinned items. Companies with product photos can gain a huge following and quick.
7. Google+ (Google Plus).
Google is a powerhouse; this is no surprise. Initially launched as a search engine company in 1996, Google has continually added, updated and created new products that will appeal to it’s 1 billion unique visitors per month.
Google Plus was introduced in June 2011 for personal use and in November 2011 was opened to brands. Some of the features of Google+ include Circles, Hangouts, Messenger, Instant Upload,
Hashtags and more. These products are definitely designed with the user in mind. The downside – there is no way to create a vanity url for your brand page.
Even though this is Google’s fourth go at a social media site, you cannot deny the importance of adding your brand to there, if for search engine rankings alone.
Started in 2001, Ryze is a social networking site for professionals – particularly entrepreneurs.
It’s free to join, and there are paid memberships are available. There are currently over 500,000 members worldwide.
More than 1000 organizations host networks on Ryze. According to their website, networks on Ryze let existing organizations and communities plus new ones use Ryze’s technology to connect their members with each other.
As of this posting, Ryze is not accepting new members. How intriguing!
Talkbiznow is a web-based business community that provides business services for small businesses and professionals. In addition to the basic functionality of creating a profile and connecting with others, users can manage a calendar, store files (up to 50MG of free space!), host webinars, manage all other social media sites with Social One and lots more.
The company’s mission is to simplify the essential business services and seamlessly integrate and deliver them through the internet for Free. Making it possible for businesses of all sizes to network, collaborate and essentially expand their services in avenues they might not have explored before.
Talkbiznow could be a great site to help get the social media newbie moving in the right direction. Sign up is easy, and the profile build and management is user-friendly. I especially like the free collaboration and desktop services: file sharing, web conferencing and voice conferencing.
This is a social media site for the (you guessed it) affluent. In fact, you must prove your worth before you can even join, so I can’t tell you much about it, other than it’s intriguing.
Affluence is a private social network where accomplished individuals connect, share information, and engage in meaningful conversations. Members also enjoy exclusive, high-quality content and feature advice from industry experts on subjects such as art, technology, and travel.
So, if you fall in the income range of a “verifiable minimum household net worth of $1 million (US) or annual household income of $200,000,” then this most certainly could be the spot for you!
BONUS >> 11. Quora.
So, there you have it. My top 10 list of best social media sites for small businesses. You may also find this super informative infographic helpful – Social Media Cheat Sheet.