Once upon a time, on a phone line far far away, it was enough for a business to set up a simple website and let that be that. As long as the site stayed functional, they didn’t have to worry much about it and could choose to focus on other aspects of their marketing and sales plans. Then Google and Facebook came along and messed everything up.
Having a website is now an essential part of running a business, right up there with having a business bank account, a phone line, and a social media presence.
That’s right: if your business hopes to be competitive in our digital age, it must establish a presence on social media.
That said, it is equally important to make sure that your business has a presence on the right social media. This is where most business owners get tripped up in their own good intentions. In spite of what you might have heard, your social media presence is not spaghetti—you can’t just throw everything at the wall and hope that some of it sticks. Or, if pop culture references are more your thing: you’ve been so busy trying everything because you could that you haven’t really stopped to consider whether or not you should.
So, what do you do now? Where do you put your time and energy? Let’s break it down.
Basic Establishment Stuff
At this point in building your business you should have at a bare-bones website with a unique domain name set up. You should also set up accounts in your business’s name on every social media platform you can think of.
It’s true. We just told you that you need to hone your social media focus to the right platforms. That’s still true and we will get to that soon. Right now, what we’re after is brand consistency. The last thing you want is to build, say, a fantastic twitter presence and then have someone else set up a YouTube account in your company’s name and publish a bunch of nonsense videos! That dilutes your brand and confuses potential customers.
Once you’ve established a basic premise everywhere, you can turn your focus to the platforms you think will best serve your business’s needs. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular platforms to help you figure out which one(s) you should focus on.
Everybody loves to hate on Facebook, but the truth is that you still need to have at least a basic presence on the platform. According to Pew Research, in 2019, Facebook was the most consistently used social media platform by a lot. Nearly 70% of adults in the United States reported using Facebook. The second most popular platform was Instagram, and that only clocked in at about 40%.
What makes Facebook tricky is its algorithm. As a business you could have a page that is liked and followed by thousands of people, but if you aren’t willing to cough up some cash to increase your reach, your posts will only get seen by a tiny fraction of your audience. It is currently the closest model to “traditional” advertising. If you want to be able to show the human side of your business and keep your customers up to date but don’t need to have instant and immediate access to your base, Facebook is a good place to start figuring out how social media works.
Twitter works best for businesses that want to have constant and immediate access to their customer base and who feel comfortable communicating in an informal way. This is because Twitter is all about conversation. Sure, you could just tweet out updates about your business once in a while, but you’ll see a better ROI when you interact with your customers.
Twitter also requires a little more monitoring than Facebook and the other social media platforms. Yes, it is possible to schedule tweets ahead of time. Even so, the last thing you want is to be the brand who allows their scheduled tweets to continue posting during a natural disaster or when something huge happens (like an election).
Believe it or not, in terms of demographics, YouTube beats Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. HootSuite reports that almost three quarters of American adults use YouTube. More than 80% of that coveted 18-25 demo regularly use YouTube. It is a place you want to be. In terms of your advertising budget, it’s your soundest social-media related investment.
In terms of engagement, however, YouTube can be a bit tricky. There is more to the platform than simply making and posting videos. It is important to interact with the people who comment on your videos. Most importantly, your videos have to be good. You want people to relate to them, to click that like button, and to share the videos with their own social media followings.
Instagram has been growing in popularity over the last few years as many people turn to it as a substitute for Twitter. In many ways, the requirements for success on Instagram are not that different than they are for Twitter or Facebook. You need to post regularly and respond to comments from followers. The advantage that Instagram offers over Twitter is that you can sell your products and services to your customers directly through the platform’s shoppable posts.
Because Instagram is primarily an image-based social platform, it is going to work best for businesses who have physical goods to sell or whose services are active in nature. For example, a personal trainer will have an easier time building an audience and selling their services on Instagram than, say, a law office.
TikTok is currently the youngest kid on the social media block. It’s audience demographic also skews the youngest. The majority of TikTok’s users (32.5%) are between 10-19 years old. That said, the user base is growing really fast and that specific demographic could change before too long.
TikTok is a great fit for businesses who like to embrace trends, whose audience is younger, and whose marketing team groks what “going viral” really means and how to do it. Though young, the TikTok community is active and the average user’s feed moves pretty fast. Videos that feature people dancing are also incredibly popular, so make sure your team is up for that challenge!
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are far from the only social media platforms out there. Businesses have also had good luck using Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. In our age of quarantine, the chatting social apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Slack have also been gaining in popularity. There really is something out there for everybody.
Of course, joining a social media platform and using it to your advantage are two separate things. Here are some quick tips for your business to make the most of its social media presence.
The Rule of Thirds
Regardless of which platform you choose to focus on, you need to remember that social media is about being social. This is not a traditional “shout into the void and hope for the best” advertising medium. You will get at least as much return from promoting someone else as you do promoting yourself. Perhaps even more!
The rule of thirds says that you should break your social media posts/content down into three categories, each of which should make up about a third of your posting volume:
- Creation: the sharing of information that you think your audience will find helpful or that will drive users to your site/products/services
- Curation: promoting others within your industry, on your follower list, etc. Think of it kind of like networking.
- Conversation: answering questions, talking to your followers, participating in conversations others are having, etc.
Basically? Your social media feed should not be about you and only you. It needs to be helpful and entertaining and engaging for all of your followers.
This is why, if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to individual interactions, spaces like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube are a good fit.
If you have the time (or the money to hire someone) for more interactivity, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram are going to be more your style.
When you are first starting out, you are going to be tempted to do everything yourself. That’s understandable! If the internet and, more specifically, social media are not your “thing”, however, it is vital that you hire someone to help you. In fact, as your company grows, you might find that social media takes up so much of your time that you need to hire someone or even a team of people to manage your online presence. This is not an extravagance!
Perhaps the hardest part of learning to navigate social media is figuring out how to keep up with it. It feels like every couple of weeks there is some new platform that promises to be all the rage. Even harder to keep up with are the more niche platforms like WattPad, DeviantArt, GoodReads, Ravelry, etc. etc. etc. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed!
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to know or be perfect at anything right away. This is another reason to sign up for everything. In addition to brand consistency, these accounts will give you the access you need to spend some time lurking and poking around to figure out if a platform is a good fit for your business. Take your time, explore, and when you’ve found a good fit, start posting!