The internet provides a lot of networking and marketing opportunities for businesses of all shapes and sizes and in all niches, including and especially, very small or new companies that don’t have the marketing budgets of their larger competitors’.
By using popular social media channels it is possible to quickly build brand awareness and turn prospects into clients.
The secret to this is knowing which areas of social media your potential clients or customers use most, and for you to move in and build a presence there too. Making the wrong choice could cost a lot of time and wasted effort.
Facebook is currently the most popular social networking site and you should certainly have at least a personal account and a “fan page” for your business. If you need convincing, take a look at some of the numbers (from 2012):
- 845 million monthly active users
- 223,376,640 European users
- 250 million photos uploaded daily
- 2.7 billion likes every day
- 425 million mobile users
- Users by gender – 57% female/43% male
- $1 billion income in 2011
Creating a page for your business (this is ours) is quite straight-forward, and once it exists, you ask friends to ‘Like’ it by sending out invitations through Facebook. You can also place some code on your website which allows visitors to your site to ‘Like’ your Facebook page.
Not all of your friends will accept the offer, but those who do, see your status updates on their Facebook feed. In the status update is a ‘share’ link, when your friend clicks this and shares it on their Facebook page, then their friends see your status update too. This helps spread the word about your services and developments in your business.
However, as is the case in most social media scenarios, people don’t like too much self-promotion, so share stories, links and images that relate to your industry and not just your business.
This infographic contains some amazing data about Facebook in 2012.
Twitter is for conversations. You get 140 characters to say what you want to say or share want you want to share.
Mostly, people share links to interesting stories and articles they have found online, or to their own content they want to promote or tell their followers about.
Generally, people understand that Twitter is mostly used as a marketing tool and don’t mind quite a high level of self-promotion, but those that take self-promotion too far typically lose followers fairly quickly or suffer from low follower engagement. A good balance of self-promotional tweets is one or two in every ten.
If you don’t like the idea of sitting at Twitter all day you’ll be pleased to know that apps like Hootsuite allow you to create tweets in advance and schedule them to publish at different times of the day.
Google+ is the search giants latest attempt at hacking into the social networking market.
To some degree it’s been a success, there are 100 million users and the numbers increase daily. However, the majority of the users still come from the technology and online marketing sectors.
Recent changes in the way Google ranks web pages makes it even more important for anyone ignoring Google+ to stop doing so. Social signals, such as Likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter and Plus Ones on Google+ all help boost search rankings and increase social engagement and brand awareness.
Google+ works in a similar way to Facebook in that users connect with each other and share content. The big plus to Google+ is that businesses are encouraged to share and promote their own content and products.
LinkedIn is a different kettle of fish altogether. It’s a professional network used by professionals looking for employment and/or business opportunities. Many recruiters used LinkedIn to fill vacancies in sectors such as IT, marketing, sales, finance. It’s a digital CV with networking groups attached.
Basic membership is free. Paid accounts allow further interaction and connections.
A real plus point for LinkedIn is the groups. There is one (or more) for almost every topic. A negative point is that the LinkedIn interface is sometimes confusing, as information is drawn from lots of places to make up the page.
Pinterest is a social networking site with a difference.
In 2012 it’s the one making most of the headlines due to its rapid growth and a new $100 million investment.
For small business owners, Pinterest is the one to watch because it has the power to drive sales. More than any other social network, Pinterest is proving to be the one that tempts customers to part with their cash. Others build brand awareness and encourage engagement. Pinterest does this and closes the deal as well.
How does it work?
Users pin images from web pages to boards they create and categorise, much like bookmarking. Boards are visible to other users who can repin any image to one of their own boards, they can also leave comments. Like other social networking sites, users can follow other users, or can they follow specific boards.
Boards cover lots of topics, but aspirational boards are very popular, as are collections of shoes, watches, clothing. It’s these that drive the sale as people like what they see, visit the site by clicking on the photo and buy the product.
Flickr is a photo sharing website, so it’s a great place for photographers to showcase their work.
It’s also a great place for amateur photographers to get some exposure for their site(s) too.
There are two ways to do this:
- Add photos to your account and in the comment section include a link to your website, blog, Facebook page or whatever locations you feel appropriate. The links won’t directly increase your search rankings, but Flickr is a very popular site (as I write this is the 48th most visited site in the world, according to Alexa) and good photos will drive traffic to your site.
- There is something called a Creative Commons License. It allows people to use digital content such as photos and software as long as they follow the rules of the license, which is typically attribution (in the case of the Flickr, this is usually via a link from the page using the image). The promotional aspect for the small business owner using the image is in what you should do after you publish your post; and that is leave a comment thanking the person for using a CC license and link back to the page where it’s used.
Again, the link won’t boost search rankings, but it could drive some traffic to your site.