Running social media for small businesses can be time-consuming and costly. However, with a thoughtful and strategic approach, it’s a worthwhile investment. Those digital communities can help your business both attract new customers and make your current customers happier.
With 72% of adults on at least one platform, according to a Pew Research Center report, social media has become one of the primary ways to reach an audience.
That’s not to say that all small businesses should be on every social media platform, though. How you make the most of your limited time and resources on social media depends on your goals, your audience and what you offer. Not sure what really deserves your attention? Here’s what to consider.
Which Social Media Platforms Should Your Small Business Use?
Think about what you’d like to achieve through your company’s social media presence. Are you trying to recruit new team members? Do you need to raise brand awareness? Is your goal to drive product sales, or are you trying to market services instead?
Some social media platforms are better suited to certain objectives than others, so pick carefully.
LinkedIn has made a name for itself in the recruiting and business-to-business connection space. According to the Pew report, 27% of adults currently have a profile. It boasts that its 630 million users range from C-level executives (10 million) to influencers (90 million) to IT decision-makers (63 million). If your focus is recruiting people with a college degree to work for your company, LinkedIn is a great fit — 51% of college grads are on the platform.
Some companies also use LinkedIn to lend their brand an air of authority and raise their profile as an expert in a particular topic or service. This is particularly common in professional and business services. If you offer services that would be better explained through a white paper or longer format article, look at LinkedIn. Their users are accustomed to reading a short description and then clicking through to get details.
If your target audience is broader, try Facebook. The Pew report shows that Facebook has attracted more than 62% of people in nearly every core demographic studied — excluding, incidentally, people over the age of 65. Facebook also has the largest overall audience in the social media space, with 69% of adults on the platform.
That demographic sweet spot can be a huge help to brands looking to build consumer awareness. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, more than 90 million small businesses use it. The platform has a wide range of options for targeting ads that let you home in on very specific audiences within its expansive user base. You can post photos, run polls, livestream videos and more to catch your customers’ eyes.
Facebook has expanded options for businesses to connect with customers via private groups. Groups can give you an on-the-ground view of what your customers want and need. They’re also useful for building a sense of community. If your business offers products or programs that have the potential to bring people together — such as sharing craft ideas or recipes using your product — consider using the groups option.
Instagram has risen to the No. 2 spot in social media usage, with 37% of adults on the platform. Instagram is most popular with those 18-29, according to Pew, and is trendier with women than men. If your audience is closer to 50 or older — and especially if they are in rural areas — you can probably skip Instagram, since not even 25% of rural dwellers use it.
While it may have started out as a place to share photos and short captions, its scope and features have grown over the past few years to include longer captions, videos and temporary “stories.” This gives you more flexibility in how you showcase products.
Roughly 22% of U.S. adults tweet, the Pew report found. Although Tweets can now be 280 characters (double the original limit of 140), they still tend to be short. Their brief length lends itself well to breaking news and quick updates.
It’s also evolved into a channel for customer service — 85% of small and midsize business Twitter users said it’s important that businesses provide customer service support on Twitter. If you want to connect with your customers online, position yourself as a resource for them. Keep an eye out for their questions, and aim to reply quickly.
If your business is closely associated with current events and is suited to sharing short insights, such as financial services, leverage Twitter to get in front of potential customers with your unique perspective. You can also tap into Twitter’s retweet options to share what others tweet. Joining in a virtual conversation about a topic can raise your company’s visibility within an industry or consumer niche.
Finding Alignment in Your Social Media Strategy
As time goes on, you’ll notice more and more social media platforms coming on the scene. The ones listed above have the highest and broadest use among Americans, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg, and they probably won’t all stay popular forever.
So, don’t spread yourself too thin. Look for the platforms whose strengths align with your purpose, your audience and what you offer. That will narrow the field and help you focus on where you’ll get the most exposure for your time and resources.
Using social media for small businesses is here to stay. Your social media strategy will probably change over time, but it’s smart to set a strong foundation for it now. Growing your business and expanding your reach is that much easier when you use all the tools at your disposal.
Stay up to date on the latest health care regulations and trends for your small business: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.