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Your Social Media Presence: Which Platforms Are Right for You?

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Social media done right can be an excellent asset to your business marketing efforts. But How can you choose the right social media platform(s) for your small business? Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter — the list goes on and on.

And once you’ve chosen your social media outlet(s), how can you ensure that your efforts, and perhaps your money, are being spent wisely? As it turns out, there is no magic wand. While it’s wise to stick with one or two platforms at first, as your business expands, your social media presence can (and likely should) expand to more specialized services.

Choosing the Right Platform(s)

A basic aspect of properly utilizing social media for your business is understanding how different social media platforms work. There are three basic categories that are generally recognized as social media platforms: microblogging (Twitter, Tumblr), video and photo sharing (Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo) and peer sharing (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn). Facebook and Twitter are especially good starting points for small businesses, according to according to Brenda Harjala, Head of Community at Rabbit. Rabbit, a video sharing service, is based in Redwood City, California, but has many employees, like Harjala, working remotely.

“Most businesses would be hard-pressed to find a client not on either Facebook or Twitter already, or willing to like or follow their page. And with both platforms, an extra element of customer support is already included, without any additional tools. Both Facebook and Twitter come with built-in analytics and insights so you can see, at a glance, how your pages are doing. You can see your fans and followers, schedule posts, and see details about each post’s reach and interaction, without the need for additional management tools. With Facebook in particular, promoting a post is as simple as clicking an icon on it,” Harjala stated.

Mary Cochran, director of marketing for Sleep Easily, a medication-free sleep solution based in Boulder, Colorado, agreed that Facebook was a good social media starting point.

“For a small to medium sized business, if you can only do one thing I’d put the effort there. Facebook in the beginning will be based on friends and clients; you can build a great referral base. There are many easy to do promotions to promote the website, the company and posts which will help build your client base,” Cochran explained.

Administration of Social Media Accounts

Depending on the size of your business, you may or may not have a dedicated social media team or individual expert on staff. If you don’t, utilizing social media means becomes an additional task. As a business owner, you may decide to add social media to your own to-do list. But it can also be desirable to recruit one or more of your employees as well. However, the key is to persuade, not coerce participation, according to Harjala.

“Everyone isn’t cut out to be a brand advocate, or someone willing to actively share your business with their peers,” Harjala stated.

Harjala also emphasized that company social media accounts should be established by and remain the property of the company from the very beginning. Doing so minimizes the potential disruptive effect of departing employees.

“As a business owner, you should be the admin on your social media accounts, while your employees are managers or contributors. If someone departs, remove their account access. (There’s) no need to close the accounts entirely. If someone’s managing your social media but decides to move on, definitely retain the accounts. This way you can take them over, or easily hand them off to a new hire, and not need to start from scratch,” Harjala explained.

On the other hand, Individual employees using social media on their own time should do so with their personal accounts. These accounts must remain off-limits to company interference, according to Cochran.

The main account should be the company account so on Facebook, (that means) a Facebook page, on Twitter, the company Twitter handle. Individual accounts tend to go with the employee when they move on. Don’t try to hijack an employee’s Facebook page,” Cochran warned.

Proper Social Media Engagement

The best-imagined social media efforts inevitably fall flat without proper engagement. However, this varies from platform to platform, according to The Next Web. With Facebook and Instagram, posting once per day is plenty. Posting on LinkedIn just two to four times per week is fine. On the other hand, you should be prepared to post on Twitter and Pinterest multiple times per day. You or your designated social media point person must be willing to maintain the necessary posting frequency for your chosen platform, according to Cochran.

“Only be involved in whatever social you can handle and monitor. Don’t have a Facebook page if you don’t intend to use it,” Cochran insisted.

Indeed, effectively dealing with criticism and complaints is also a necessary aspect of social media engagement, according to Harjala.

“Responding quickly, and not leaving negative tweets or posts on your wall without a response, is the best way keep everything in check. If someone writes that your product doesn’t work, reply with assistance or contact info to work it out together. If a user leaves a bad review of service they received from your business, follow up with an apology and an offer to help make it right. If someone blasts your wall with spam, be there to clean it up right away. Instead of potential customers seeing only the negative, they’re seeing a company dedicated to good service,” Harjala explained.

Paid or Free?

One major advantage of social media platforms is that it’s possible to establish and maintain at least a basic profile for no cost. However, many social media platforms follow a “freemium” model that reserves certain features, such as sponsored posts and advertising, for paying customers. As a small business owner, you may wonder if it’s actually worthwhile to spend your hard-earned dollars on social media advertising or “soft” promotional strategies such as promoted posts. Once again, there is no hard and fast answer. While Cochran noted that sponsored posts can help your business gain visibility (and potential new customers and clients), Harjala recommended saving your money, at least at first.

“Unless you’re overflowing with real, supportive, active followers, stick to free social media for a while. This may seem counterintuitive; how do I get followers and more sales if no one sees my posts? The experience spent building a genuine audience, and learning from your audience, is worth more than a few extra views on your posts by people you don’t even know are interested. You’ll not only get a better feel for your niche, but you’ll get the chance to see what your fans respond to. And if you build your community right, in a way that’s valuable to your followers, “ Harjala explained.

Audrey Henderson

Posted In: ACCA Now, Technology

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