Last month, we started a conversation about social media (“What’s So Great About Social Media“). Understanding what social media means in a professional context is crucial for success these days, but navigating the waters of instant, online marketing can be tricky. We’re breaking down a few of the basics to help you get a jump on social media for your small business or organization so that you can make the most of being online with Love Small Town America.
You’re still reading, so that must mean that you’re curious. The first step after deciding that you’re going to poke your toe in the water of social media is to pick a platform. In the simplest terms possible, all these fancy names floating around (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. etc. etc.) are different places you could engage. Think of them as businesses on main street. The best ones aren’t necessarily the biggest, or the newest, or even the busiest. The best ones are the ones that are right for YOU. Think about it. If you sell fish food, you’re not going to reach many people by starting conversations about fish at the mechanic’s. You might catch someone’s interest – but it would be by chance, not design. Since most of us have limited time, we can’t be everywhere at once. We have to choose. Narrowing down your social media platforms is much the same – it’s about thinking through who uses those avenues and then finding the right fit for who you are and why you are online.
For small businesses, there are a few platforms that are too big too ignore, and are almost always going to start a few conversations.
Facebook: Facebook pages for businesses and groups are essential. Everyone is on Facebook, and you and your business need to be on there, too. Claiming your page isn’t just important for developing your online presence – it keeps imposters, spammers, or competitors from nabbing your spot! Facebook can take some time to learn – and requires more frequent updates than some social media platforms, but normally, if you can devote time to perfecting only one social media presence – this is the one you want.
LinkedIn: Think of LinkedIn as a resume for your business. It’s the ultimate professional networking site. The great thing about a presence on this platform is that it takes less time than some of the others. You can be more active (say, starting a group and posting discussions) but establishing a professional presence on this network helps legitimize what you’re doing – and may even pave the way toward future success. Have trouble finding qualified employees? Looking to develop a new market? This is a great spot to explore.
Pinterest: This one is up for debate – but retail businesses especially should take note of Pinterest. Its purpose is still hazy, but this virtual pinboard connects with the visual nature of human beings – and the internet. Share, organize, and repin images that link to their website source in this open platform. Get top traffic (and repins!) by mastering keywords to make it easy for the right people to find your images. It works like a charm for retailers, especially if you sell something that photographs well!You don’t have to sell something tangible to make Pinterest a part of your social media strategy, though. Small towns could become internet sensations by sharing tourist attractions. The local church could share photos of prize-winning recipes from their cookbook. Be creative, seek inspiration as much as you offer it, and challenge yourself to stay abreast of trends and the newest ways to communicate and advertise.
Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You may notice we’ve omitted Twitter, for instance, as well as some other heavyweights. That’s not to say that the other platforms aren’t influential or aren’t appropriate for *you*, but we feel for beginners, they can require a higher investment and offer more risks/fewer rewards than some of the other platforms, like Facebook.
Next time, we’ll delve into some dos and don’ts for your first profile on some of giants in the social media game.
What’s your favorite social media platform for small business?