A Beginner’s Guide to Using Social Media for Business
The four pillars of social media decoded - How to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ to grow your business.
Let’s Get Started
By this point, you know that your business needs to have a voice in the social sphere, but you’re not quite sure how to get started. The good news is that if you’re reading this, you’re already doing something right. The first step in growing your business using social media is taking the time to gain a basic understanding of the benefits that each social platform has to offer. In this blog post, we’ll decode the four pillars of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ by explaining the unique benefits each platform provides for business growth.
In order to develop a sound social marketing approach, you’ll first need to map out what you’re looking to accomplish in the social space. Here are a few things to consider:
- How will your brand communicate with consumers? In other words, what type of voice or personality would you like your brand to convey? Perhaps you’d like to communicate with consumers in a playful, humorous tone; or maybe having an authoritative, informational voice is more appropriate for your brand. The most important thing to keep in mind is to be consistent in your approach across all channels, meaning that the content from each of your social media channels should sound like it’s coming from one, well-defined voice.
- What are your goals? That is, what are you looking to accomplish by having a social media presence? Whether you’re looking to gain a competitive edge in the industry, aiming to drive sales, or hoping to build stronger relationships with your consumer base, it’s important to decide what you want to get out of your brand’s social media efforts. Setting general goals like these will help point you in the right direction, so make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want as well as a way to measure your progress.
- Understand your audience. You probably have a good idea of the type of people that make up your target audience. The social sphere is massive, filled with literally billions of users. In order to reach your most valuable consumers, it’s important that the messages you craft resonate with them. The best way to accomplish this is to research their interests; gain a solid understanding of what they want to hear, and more importantly, what they don’t.
Get to Know the Platforms
Now that you’ve developed a framework for your approach on using social media to grow your business, you need to determine which channels will bring you the most benefits based on your goals. Each social platform provides unique advantages, which we will break down for you in this next section.
Facebook is the go-to channel for consumers looking for your brand in the online social scene. While it’s pertinent that your business has representation in the realm of Facebook, it’s important to make sure that the information you’re pushing out on your business’ page is valuable and engaging to your consumer, as well as relevant to your brand. But beyond that, Facebook brings tremendous value to your business with these key unique benefits:
- Your business’ Facebook page is secondary to its website. A business’ Facebook page is often the preferred touch point (over its website) for consumers to access information about a brand, particularly in consumer-facing industries that require constant communication with the audience. Your page should contain accurate, up-to-date information about your business.
- Easy, two-way communication helps your business build loyalty through engagement. Not only is your company’s Facebook page a resource for key information about your business, it’s also a direct-connect between you and your consumers. That being said, it’s extremely important to engage with your fans. Post call-to-actions, ask them for their input, and respond to questions and comments that they have for you. Through being conversational, attentive and interesting to your audience, you’ll build trust, loyalty and positive sentiment toward your brand.
- Facebook’s news feed feature inherently nurtures word-of-mouth marketing. Basically, what this means is the more engagement your business has on Facebook (i.e. any time you or someone else likes, comments, or shares something on your page), the more often your business’ page will show up in your fan base’s newsfeed. Here’s an example: Sally leaves a comment on a picture that you posted on your business’ page and you write a comment back to her. That “activity” between your brand and Sally will show up in a number of her Facebook friends’ newsfeeds. At that point, they are already exposed to your business’ page, and if the content is interesting enough, Sally’s friends may also decide to like or share the post (at which point your brand shows up in their friends’ news feeds as well. By engaging with your fans, your brand is exposed to their friends (your prospects) – and so on and so forth.
- It’s the best platform for targeting consumers. For centuries, brands have struggled to reach their target market effectively. Luckily for you, Facebook has nailed down the consumer targeting process with their Facebook Ads tool, a service that allows you to target micro-segments of the more than one billion users based on pretty much any demographic and psychographic qualities you can imagine. The benefit here is that your ads are being shown to people who have in some way or another expressed an interest in what it is you’re trying to market. Facebook is smart – it can figure out what people’s interests are based on the posts and pages they like, the things they search for online, etc. Whether you decide to run a Facebook Ads campaign to drive sales, promote page likes, or increase traffic to your website, Facebook is extremely helpful in putting your brand in front of the right people.
While Twitter is also considered a staple social channel, it offers a completely different set of benefits than Facebook does. For example, Twitter only allows for 140 characters per post, so you’re extremely limited in what you can share with each message. Generally speaking, content that surfaces the twittersphere is timely, relevant, and informative, which means that it’s the perfect platform to show consumers that your brand is on top of things. These are some of the ways Twitter can help build your business:
- Sharing power – spreading news easily with short, succinct messages. People love this platform because they can quickly access information that is concise yet informative, and that comes directly to them via their news feed. The advantage to play off of with this platform is using it to keep your audience as up-to-date as possible with company-related news and other timely and relevant content.
- Twitter puts an emphasis on timely communication. The twittersphere is buzzing with real-time updates of news that is happening right now in the world around us. Be on top of it, show your audience that you’re paying attention to the things that are going on in your industry and in the world and they’ll see your brand as a credible and active user.
- Better understand your audience through keyword and hashtag research. What better way to get to know your audience than by listening to their conversations? Keyword and hashtag research make it possible for you to check in with your current and prospective audience to find out what their interests are, what kind of content and news they are engaging with, and from there, how to improve the way you communicate with them. This tactic provides great insight into what your target consumers think, share, like and don’t like.
Sharing, commenting and following on Google+ works similarly to how it does on Facebook and Twitter, but the impact is much more powerful in terms of online search value for your brand. Google+ places a strong emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO), so if one of your goals for using social media to grow your business is to rank on keyword searches, you should definitely take advantage of what this platform has to offer. Here’s some more information on how this can work to your benefit:
- Increase your PageRank by having a social presence on Google+. Google treats Google+ pages as regular websites, which basically means that building credibility on your business’ page through interaction will help your brand rank higher for keyword searches. Google+ posts can also retain ranking, which can ultimately help your company catch more real estate on search engine results pages. Facebook and Twitter block Google from being able to use your brand’s credibility to help you with these rankings, so it’s important that you leave a footprint on Google+ with a brand page that produces engaging content on a regular basis. The more you can connect and engage with others on this platform, the more likely Google is to rank your page higher.
Linkedin proposes a different kind of benefit to your business’ social portfolio. On this platform, the focus shifts from consumer-pleasing and sharing tactics to growing your business network and building your brand’s credibility as an industry expert. Linkedin users tend to be older, college-educated business professionals, so it can be extremely advantageous for your brand to create not only a sound company profile and nexus, but also educational, relevant content that can be shared among other businesses in your industry. Here are a couple ways Linkedin can help you grow your business:
- Growing connections in your business’ Linkedin network can help generate leads. Linkedin is a networking tool that can help you discover inside connections that you otherwise may have missed. Just as the platform’s name suggests, it links you with people who are in your extended network, making it easier for you to uncover potential leads and business opportunities.
- Establish your company’s credibility through producing and sharing educational, relevant content. By positioning your business as a thought leader in your industry, you establish credibility not only with current and prospective clients, but also with your competitors. You can accomplish this by creating and pushing along valuable content through your company page. Here, your focus is less selling and more marketing your business as a resource for expert knowledge.
Pulling It All Together
Now that you have a general understanding of how each of these platforms can help you grow your business, you’re on your way to generating a sound social strategy. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn each propose a unique set of benefits, so take this information into consideration as you develop your approach. When combined, these can work as an extremely powerful tool for growing your business both in terms of sales and consumer relationship building.