As a business owner I often find myself asking, “What’s the point of social media?” I have a distinct love/hate relationship with Instagram and I’m SO over all the unsolicited “hey girl” DMs that come from joining a new group on Facebook..
Remember when you first signed up for Facebook and you were only friends with people you knew and felt comfortable enough sharing about your life in the third person? Here’s one from my Facebook memory bank: “Christina is much too spiteful for her own good.” Like who even needed to hear that on June 28th, 2010???
Back then I was only friends with people I knew and felt comfortable sharing with what I was eating for dinner on a random night. I signed up for Facebook specifically to see the graduation photos of a close family friend. . Pretty soon after that we could tag people, like pages, which later became groups. Do the gen-zers even understand all the iterations we went through? Anyway, I digress..
Atsome point Facebook became a personalized field of ads and targeted posts. Something called “the algorithm” could spy on us and then show us posts we didn’t ask for. Or maybe we did?
Social media can feel really icky when people say rude, mean or hurtful things. Or when absolutely every other post on the scroll is a conflicting opinion meant to incite anger.. Or when it messes with our reality and we start to wonder if we are good enough. It is also a beautiful space of encouragement and support. We get to see photos from places we will never visit. Take a peek into cultures that we’ve never heard of before. And read uplifting stories from people on the other side of the world. We get to know our neighbors better and discover fun things to do in our own backyard. We get ideas for activities, meals and celebrations. And we never lose touch with family who live in other states.
But what does this all mean for businesses? We know that we need to stay connected with our audience. We need to reach them in more than just one place in order to create that connection and get them to notice us. And if our people are on social media, despite all the extra baggage that go along with IG and FB, it’s a great place to find them!
Social media can be used as a communication tool. As a new business you can use social media as a tool to keep a pulse on your business (yes we are still alive!) or as a way to deliver content of value to your audience. You can use certain features of social media to achieve your business goals: create a community, to inform, to create a movement, to sell a product, to inspire, etc.
The important thing to remember is that each business is different. And each platform serves a different purpose. And each different business can leverage each different platform in a different way. Whew! There’s a lot to know about social media and business!
The thing I want you to keep in mind is that social media is a business tool. It’s not your strategy. Your strategy is built around your business goals and your audience. Social media is one tool that your business uses to achieve those goals and reach your audience.
Choosing which and how many social media accounts to be on for your business can feel overwhelming. There are some key factors you need to consider when choosing which social media platforms to sign your business up for: your audience, yourself, your content and your goals.
Once you have your internal goals and vision mapped out you will need to consider the specific platforms themselves and what they are designed to do. And, finally, you can brush up on best practices for using social media in your business.
The 4 key factors to consider when choosing social media platforms for your business
1. Know your audience.
I’m not sure if you’ve picked up the pattern here, but all my branding advice starts with knowing your audience. If your audience isn’t on Facebook, don’t spend your time on Facebook! Don’t feel like you have to be on a certain platform because “that’s what businesses do”. If you can’t reach your audience there, it’s wasted time and energy. This is not a “if you build it, they will come” situation. Go where your people are! Do your market research. Find out where they are, what content they like to consume and how much time they spend there.
2. Know yourself.
If you’re a solo business owner, your time is a business asset. You can’t be everywhere all at the same time. Choose the platforms that will give you a return on your investment of time and energy. And have best practices and systems in place so you can utilize them efficiently and effectively.
Also know what kind of content you are good at putting out there. If making videos for YouTube or TikTok makes you uncomfortable, skip it. At least for now. The first step is to be yourself. This is your foundation. You can’t build a connection with your audience based on someone you are only pretending to be. Find the platforms your audience is on and pick the one that you feel the most comfortable with. Start there.
3. Know your content.
Just like when you built out your visual brand identity, your communication framework is built on strategy. What do you need your audience to know about your brand? How will you tell that story?
Remember that your core message is told in bite-sized pieces across your touchpoints. This includes social media. How will you use it to communicate with your audience? What do they need from you on social media? Ask yourself this: why are they following you?
Do they want to be a part of your active community of people? Do they want to stay informed on news from your business? Are you teaching them something? Are you sharing inspiration? Do they follow you as a thought leader? Do they just like your pretty pictures? Are you funny and they like to follow you because your posts brighten their day? Do you have time-sensitive actions they want to take advantage of? It might be a combination of these things or other reasons. The point is to know why they need you and to give them what they came here for.
Remember getting to know your audience? How do they like to consume content? A brief summary and then a link to a more in depth article? An easy, short caption that covers everything they need to know? An infographic or slideshow? Short videos? Long videos? Or would they rather just listen to you talk?
Combine how they like to consume content with what you are good at and then find a social media platform that can cater to that magic formula!
4. Know your goals.
Now you need to think about what you need social media to do for you. Remember, social media is a business tool. It serves a function in your strategy and should help you achieve your goals. How can social media help you there?
- Improve your customer service by creating more ways for customers to communicate with you. Social media is an easy way for your audience to reach out with messages or comments related to a purchase they’ve made or to get more information before they make a purchase.
- Identify new leads and expand your audience. Social media can help you find more people that match your target market. Through shares and tags, your followers will refer your business to those they see as a good fit. This is one form of social proof that social media facilitates and it can be very powerful!
- Build relationships. Are you a community based business? Are you meeting clients in person? Letting them get to know you before hiring you is an important step in the buyer’s journey, especially for service based businesses. People want to know a business’s story before investing. Let them know your why and purpose behind what you are selling so they can build a connection and relate to you on an emotional level. Relationships lead to trust.
- Learn more about the needs, wants and behaviors of your target audience. Social media is also a great place for you as the business to get feedback from your audience. Consider it mini market research! This can be achieved passively by tracking how well certain content performs or you can conduct active surveys, ask questions and offer compensation for their time if they participate in a larger way. It’s also a great point to get people into your funnels.
These functions of social media highlight the even greater importance of being where your target audience is.
6 big social media platforms to consider using for your business.
Now that you have a good handle on where your audience is and what they need, how you’re comfortable showing up, the content you create and the goals you are working to meet, let’s take a look at six social media platforms that you can use for your business.
IF YOU HAVE A PROFILE TO ANY OF THE PLATFORMS BELOW, ADD A SENTENCE AT THE END OF THE SECTION WITH A LINK FOR THEM TO FOLLOW YOU.
Instagram is one of the hottest social media platforms around today. Hubspot surveyed over 1000 marketers in 2022 and learned that they named Instagram as the most effective social media platform, performing higher than Facebook, TikTok and YouTube! More than 200 million businesses are on Instagram and at least 90% of users follow at least one brand. Instagram is worth looking into as a primary social media platform.
Instagram is primarily a visual platform. Posts must contain a photo, image or video of some kind. To attract an audience, you must deliver high-quality content. (This is a general rule for all content you put out. People aren’t interested in following garbage.)
To be successful on Instagram you will need to deliver content that attracts your ideal audience and encourages them to engage with your business. Consider ways to delight your audience and stay on brand.
You don’t need to necessarily post just photos of your products or services. Check out Hotpocket’s Instagram account. They can’t just post a pic of a Hotpocket everyday. And think about it, how much can you really even say about a Hotpocket? So what kind of content do they deliver? They stay on brand and appeal to their audience through humor. It’s not a perfectly curated feed, the images aren’t impressive. But the content delivers on-brand messaging to their target audience and keeps them engaged.
When deciding what to post to Instagram, you have to remember to add value. Whether it’s through humor, inspiration, knowledge or relationships. Know your brand values and brand personality to guide you.
It’s also important to remain consistent. Try to stay in a certain theme. Most users will see your posts as stand-alone “pages”. Remember when we talked about being consistent in your brand identity? This is one reason why. Create a unified aesthetic and tone for your brand on Instagram. The more consistent you are, the more likely you will be to attract the right people.
Product based businesses do well on Instagram due to their shoppable posts features. You can essentially use Instagram as a secondary storefront and sell your products straight from the app. Service based businesses do well on Instagram as well. It is a great tool for sharing more about your business and yourself to create a connection with your customers.
The inherent sharing features of Instagram also do well for social proof. Tagging, sharing and user generated content (aka posts about your business that someone else made) is free marketing. Leverage them in your business.
If you want an Instagram business account, you need a Facebook business account. #metaverse And don’t assume “your people” aren’t on Facebook based on their age Facebook has over 1 billion active users per day. It’s one of the best ways to find your target audience, build an email list and get new customers.
Facebook has lots of features from groups, ads, analytics, marketplaces and pages. It can get overwhelming fast and also require time you don’t have.
But it’s worth having a page and keeping it active. Notably one of the best features of a Facebook Business page is SEO. On your page you can have valuable information for someone searching for your business and wanting to learn more. You can post your business hours, contact information, website URL, reviews and your address. It is often a place people go to before heading to your store. If you’re a business without a physical location, potential customers will be checking our reviews and seeing just how “alive” your business is based on your engagement on the platform.
Facebook is also known for fostering community. If building relationships and community is one of your goals, a private Facebook group is a familiar place to send customers. In groups you can share exclusive content and offers. It’s also a great place for them to communicate with you and for you to gather information about them. It creates a personalized experience of your brand for your customers.
Facebook also finds strengths in their analytics, ads and Pixel. These features require an investment in time and money. But they are powerful tools in growing your list and running target ads.
The new kid on the block is revolutionizing how we share content. Video is king. At least that’s what “they” are saying. And while it feels like it’s mostly teenagers and GenZ on TikTok, don’t overlook your target demographic and how they consume this platform. Do your research. Is your target audience on TikTok?
Making videos everyday can feel intimidating. First there is the pressure to be on camera and then there is the pressure to be creative. Videos can be great for sharing quick bites of information, featuring a new product or delivering a personal message. Don’t be put off by your inability to dance or change clothes quickly in a transition!
Take a look at how your competition is using TikTok. What kind of content are they putting out there? How often and how is the engagement? What’s working for them and what isn’t?
TikTok can be used to build brand awareness, engage with your community, sell your products and services and provide customer service and communication. Get to know the platform before building your business on it. Lok to see how trends evolve, how the editing tools work and how it’s being used in your niche.
My favorite part about Twitter is its limitations. Everyone gets a voice, but you only get 280 characters to say it. So make it good and get to the point quickly! Businesses with a strong brand voice can really shine on Twitter. But it probably requires the most interaction. Twitter isn’t a post and run platform. You’ll need to stick around to reply, retweet and post several times a day.
Twitter is good for time-sensitive updates, like when you need to announce an unexpected store closing or a different phone number for customers. A lot of businesses also use Twitter for customer service messaging and connecting with their customers. Twitter also sees more success with ads than Facebook. But keep in mind, like all platforms, Twitter will need its own strategy plan and you’ll need to plan for several tweets a day. If you don’t have the time to stay highly engaged all day, Twitter might not be for you.
LinkedIn is specifically designed for professional networking. People come to LInkedIn to learn more about their industry, meet other professionals in their field and learn about new job opportunities. They don’t come for entertainment or shopping. You’ll connect more with others in your industry that you will customers, unless you’re a B2B business.
LinkedIn is a place you can establish yourself as a leader in your industry. It’s a good platform to share articles related to your position and to share your expertise in your field. LinkedIn is also a great place to find new employees and hire new talent for your business. It’s a good idea to have a LinkedIn profile for your business. It doesn’t require as much engagement as the other social platforms and it’s positioned to help you boost your professional development.
YouTube is the platform for sharing information via video. It is the second most powerful search engine, second to Google which owns YouTube.
People use YouTube not to just be entertained, but to learn things. There’s a whole phenomenon called “YouTube University” or “YouTube-Taught”. It basically means you can go to YouTube and learn to do anything from how to tie your shoes to how to invest in the stock market.
Remember the Vlog movement? This is one of the ways you can connect with your audience on YouTube. Users can create a channel and share video versions of their blog for their audience to consume. You can create video tutorials to supplement a written how-to blog, visually show off your products, and share personalized messages with your customers.
The key is to optimize your videos for SEO (remember that search engine fact a few paragraphs ago?) This can take some time to learn but there’s a YouTube video for that!
Video is a great tool to show off your brand’s personality, express your brand voice and communicate to your audience in a way other platforms cannot.
Don’t know what to make a video about? Start with sharing your blog posts in a video form. Make your videos short, sweet and delightful versions of your blog post. Show off your personality and your expertise. You don’t need a Hollywood budget or fancy tech equipment. Most cell phones can make a great video and free editing tools can add a little extra professional touch to them. Use Canva to make your videos on brand.
Best practices for using social media in your business
The first thing you need to think about is what platforms you want to use. Consider the amount of time you have to give to social media and the type of content that your audience will respond to best. Do what feels right for you. You want to show up as your best self and forcing yourself to be somewhere you don’t want to be is a waste of time.
Next look at how they can link together. For example, Instagram has a feature to push posts over to Facebook. This capability can reduce the amount of time needed for each platform. Also look into scheduling software, like Planoly and Hootsuite, where you can draft posts in one place and push them out to different platforms.
When creating your content plan and what to write about each week, think back to your audience and positioning strategy. Use your brand’s core message framework as your foundation for building content. The goal is to post content that helps tell a piece of the story of your brand. What do you need your audience to know about your brand? Content should answer that question. Always! Otherwise it’s just a caption or a tweet and no one is going to give it their attention.
It always goes back to your audience. What do they need? What do they want? What do they expect? What will they get out of it?
Infuse your content with your personality for even more impact. Social media is about relationships. Give them an opportunity to fall in love with you!
“I love having more things to do!” – said no small business owner ever. Every task we do as business owners serves a purpose. The minute it becomes a waste of time, it should get scrapped from the to-do list. Use social media as a tool in your business. It needs to help you achieve a goal in your strategy, otherwise it’s a waste of time.
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