Once you’ve decided to develop a social media presence for your company, choosing which platforms on which to open a profile can seem overwhelming; each platform has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. You certainly don’t want to miss out on being a part of a hot new social media trend, but you don’t want to waste precious time and resources on a profile that no one else is checking. In this issue and next, we’ll outline the major social media platforms in use today along with their strengths and weaknesses for business use, and make a few suggestions about how to make the most of your presence on them.
Facebook Facebook isn’t the oldest of the social media in use, but it’s far and away the most successful, with over 1.7 billion followers (as of June 2016). It’s the greatest all-purpose platform there is for announcements, commentary, stats, videos, and all kinds of customer interaction. If you’re going to have a social media presence, you really need to start here. It’s important to note that Facebook draws a very clear line between personal profiles, where you post pictures of your grandkids and share funny cat videos, and Facebook pages, which are reserved for business or promotional purposes. In fact, Facebook is quite strict about forbidding users to sell or actively promote products or services on personal profiles, and they monitor traffic quite closely to watch for violators. Think of a Facebook page as the business equivalent of a profile. Pages are different from profiles in that they contain useful tools such as analytics, custom tabs, and a range of advertising-friendly tools. It’s easy to set up a page: click “Create Page” on the home menu, and you’re in.
Pros: Excellent for reaching and maintaining communica- tions with large numbers of followers; great analytics capability, with tools for targeting feeds and organizing how and to whom you post; can be monetized through advertising.
Cons: Because it’s so ubiquitous, you could get lost in the crowd if you don’t promote your page to followers and update it regularly. Also, Facebook uses algorithms that manipulate its news feed that are not user-controllable, which can sometimes be unpredictable.
LinkedIn What Facebook is to personal connections, LinkedIn is to business connections. It’s especially useful for career changes or recruiting personnel, but it’s growing exponentially as a way of connecting and sharing with business peers, even if you’re not hiring or thinking of switching jobs. LinkedIn is very good as a kind of electronic billboard for your company, listing company vital statistics, mission statement, personnel, contact info, etc. One useful tool is its ability to create subpages, called Showcase Pages, which can highlight particular aspects of your company, such as product releases, testimonials, charity work, tutorial videos, or whatever you like. In this way, it’s almost like a streamlined version of a website. LinkedIn also has its own powerful analytics tools, allowing you to see at a glance how many users have visited your page, what fields they’re in, and other sorts of information. It’s also great for launching or joining open discussion forums and keeping in touch with colleagues.
Pros: With 450 million+ users, it’s the next most powerful business-oriented social network after Facebook, and a presence on LinkedIn is almost as crucial these days. It’s the closest thing there is to an electronic “water cooler” for business discussions on the Net.
Cons: Simply doesn’t have the same reach or dedicated users as Facebook; one survey found that while the 450-million-followers figure is impressive, fewer than 25% had visited in the past month.
Twitter With its 140-character limit for messaging, Twitter is hands-down the fastest way to spread a thought or an idea via the Internet. News outlets discovered its value early on for getting breaking news out immediately, even where other forms of communication could be hazardous or impossible. The Miracle on the Hudson and the Boston Marathon bombing were first revealed to the world through eyewitness tweets. You may not always need to get your message out to followers quite so urgently, but it’s still the easiest way to post content, photos, and even videos. It’s also great for keeping customers updated on the latest news from your business, such as new products and services, company news, and other useful info. But it’s equally good simply for livening up your brand and company “personality,” building rapport with customers, and strengthening customer connections, as well as reinforcing or redirecting messages in your other media such as Facebook and YouTube.
Pros: Perhaps the greatest strength of Twitter is the ease of its connection to the business community; by mixing self-promotional messages with an equal number of interesting or feel-good tweets, you’ll encourage people to follow and even retweet your messages. It’s a great tool for receiving instant feedback from followers as well. It’s also great for promoting and live-streaming events (using the “Periscope” tool).
Cons: Because it’s so instantaneous, there’s the danger of tweeting first, thinking second, which can lead to embarrassing incidents. Be careful what you tweet, especially to a business audience. The speed and ease of tweeting also means that it’s easy to disseminate unconfirmed or unreliable information. Be skeptical of outlandish Twitter claims, and don’t retweet unless you feel the information is reliable.
YouTube Many of us didn’t know that YouTube is also a form of social media, invented only one year after Facebook, in February 2005. Its statistics are mind-boggling: some five billion YouTube videos are watched every day, and 300,000 hours of video are uploaded to the site per minute. It’s a massive way to raise your company profile inexpensively, and unparalleled for uploading video content of every kind, from how-to videos to product demonstrations to company communiqués. And unlike some other platforms, content can be uploaded and maintained on the site for as long as you want, where viewers can find it through a basic search.
Pros: Since Google bought YouTube in 2006, the power of both platforms has been greater than the sum of their parts. By relating your YouTube videos to content on your website, through SEO or other tools, you can build traffic on both of them. And the analytics tools, revealing who has followed and viewed your videos, are very useful.
Cons: Without some way of directing traffic to them, YouTube videos can get lost in the noise; links or even just mentions in your other media will help solve this problem. Also, one of the biggest recent changes to YouTube is the addition of ads at the beginnings of some videos. This can be off-putting to viewers, especially casual ones. And since you have no control over what gets imbedded in your video, there’s always the danger it could be preceded by a competitor’s ad. nJN