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December 10, 2015

Is Social Media All the Same?

So you’ve decided to take the leap and start working on building your social media presence. Congratulations! Now it’s time to get serious! There are many social media networks, and they’re not all the same. Ideally, it’s best to focus on just a few networks, but how do you know which ones to choose?

Facebook

Facebook these days is the granddaddy of social media platforms. The truth is that no matter how much we may complain, you can’t build your business without a Facebook page. The Facebook page allows you to do some basic advertisements, but it also lets you set up targeted Facebook ads. Despite the complaints that people have about Facebook’s “Pay to Play” system, you can’t get a better bang for your buck than with Facebook ads.

Users might actually be rather shocked to know how much data Facebook has on them, but advertisers should take full advantage of Facebook’s ads. You can target your ads for a specific region, age, gender, and interest, making it ideal for local companies who don’t want their ad dollars going toward an international web presence when they only sell to local customers. Facebook knows who has gotten engaged, who’s having a baby, and who’s getting divorced, and you can target your ads specifically for those people.

Your Facebook page allows customers to contact you directly and to leave reviews and testimonials for your company (something you should definitely encourage), but many businesses will want to build a Facebook group as well, especially if their business is in a niche area. The group tends to have more engagement and interaction, allowing businesses to get more targeted information about their consumers. You can use your group as a “focus group” for marketing testing, or to help build engagement or buzz around your niche or your business.

Twitter

Twitter is like Facebook’s younger, hyper little sister. Twitter moves FAST, so it requires a lot of care and tending to maintain a good Twitter page, although I definitely recommend using management tools like SocialBro or HootSuite to help you manage and maintain your Twitter page. Twitter forces you to get concise with your marketing messages, and it takes more work to build engagement on Twitter than Facebook, but because Twitter moves so rapidly, it’s easy to build a large following in a short amount of time on Twitter.

Twitter is useful for building a large audience FAST, but Twitter is also less likely to translate into actual sales, especially if you’re a local business. Because you can build a large Twitter following pretty easily, you may find that you get far more sales and signups from Twitter than from Facebook, but your percentages will be lower. For example, you may have 100 people “like” your Facebook page and that translates into 1 sale, but you may need 1,000 Twitter followers to get that same sale. However, it’s easier to get 1,000 Twitter followers than to get 100 Facebook page likes. Twitter’s low conversion rate makes many entrepreneurs wonder whether it’s even worth the effort, and I suppose it depends a lot on your business model. Twitter is great for creatives and entertainers, but not as good as Facebook for local businesses.

Google+

Google+ is the redheaded stepchild of the family. It’s under-utilized, and that’s actually kind of sad. Google+ has some amazing tools and features that you can’t find anywhere else, like the Google Hangouts feature and the direct link between Google+ accounts and YouTube. Google+ is less commercialized than Facebook, and while P2P ads are still available, they’re less widely used than on Facebook. But a G+ page is absolutely essential for SEO. One of the easiest “tricks” to boosting Google rankings is to connect your G+ account with your website. When an article on your website is attributed to your G+ profile, Google ranks that article more highly than if it’s not, so if you’re doing SEO, you MUST have a G+ page whether you like it or not.

And Google+ actually has a strong following in the tech industry. Local businesses may benefit from having a G+ presence in some markets, especially larger more tech-friendly urban markets like Seattle, Silicon Valley, and New York City. Active users on G+ tend to be younger but not too young – usually about 25-34 years old.

One MAJOR problem with G+ is that it does have a tendency to be less about social relationships and more about business. Google+ can be very spammy, as many of the users are using it as an SEO tool rather than a social media network. For all the hate that Facebook receives for their P2P technique, Google+ does far less P2P, which means that the items in your newsfeed are likely to be less relevant. Facebook will only show promotional posts that you’ve interacted with in the past or that are sponsored (paid), whereas Google+ shows just about everything, and 90% of it is spam from other users. 🙁

Tumblr

I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge fan of Tumblr. Tumblr is a microblogging platform (like Twitter) that’s much more visual. Pictures and images aren’t required on Tumblr, but they are pretty necessary if you want to get any traction or engagement with your post.

Tumblr is populated by younger users – many who are under 18 – so it’s often viewed as being a less profitable social platform than some of the others. Additionally, because of the very young demographic, some users may not care for the sort of things generally posted. For example, I worked with a client whose market was weight loss and fitness products. On Pinterest, the attitude toward fitness tends to be pretty well-rounded and balanced, but on Tumblr, there’s a strong population of users that are anorexic or work out to excess. My client eventually abandoned Tumblr, because she felt that in order to get engagement on the platform, she would’ve been forced to compromise her own ideals toward health and fitness.

But Tumblr is a fast-moving social network – not quite as fast as Twitter, but pretty fast. It’s easy to build a large following, even if that following isn’t quite as active or profitable on a per-person basis as your following on Facebook or Google+.

Pinterest

Ah, Pinterest! The darling older sister of our social media family! Pinterest is extremely visual, and Pinterest users love home decor, family stuff, shopping, and tech (but more the consumer gadget side than the programming or software side). Pinterest is unique in that their demographic is predominantly white, middle-class, American, middle-aged, and female. Pinterest can be very easy to build engagement, as people will “Pin” (kind of like sharing) posts they love from all over the Internet. It’s harder to have a conversation on Twitter, though, so the relationship-building often takes a backseat. But because of its demographic, Pinterest has a very high conversion rate.

Using Pinterest is largely determined by your market. If you’re selling antiques, gifts, weight loss/fitness products, household products, or consumer gadgets, Pinterest is great. If you’re selling other things, Pinterest may be a back-burner platform.

Pinterest takes a lot of work, but not in the way you might think. Because Pinterest is so intensely visual, graphic creation is key. Pinterest loves infographics and photographs, and to a lesser extent visually interesting quote graphics. Additionally, while there are a few Pinterest schedulers out there, none of them work quite right, so Pinterest really demands on-time management. The best time to post on Pinterest is on weekends, especially Friday night and Saturday morning, so it’s not as difficult to maintain as it might appear.

Instagram

As a social platform, Instagram is one of the more difficult to use because of its insistence on mobile uploads. Pictures work well on Instagram, making it a good platform for entertainers or celebrities to show “behind the scenes” pictures of themselves. There are platforms that will allow you to upload pictures to Instagram from your computer, although these can sometimes be a bit sketchy, and scheduling posts can be problematic. Instagram is predominantly home to a younger user, but it’s very easy to build buzz rapidly on Instagram, so we can’t count this network out entirely.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is kind of like the quiet, geeky little brother in the family. People often overlook him, but he’s actually pretty smart! LinkedIn is a professional network and it can be rather spammy, but it doesn’t have to be. Sharing good content on LinkedIn, producing useful content, and producing material with the right tone and atmosphere can get you some excellent conversions, especially if you’re working in a B2B industry. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to brand yourself as an expert in your industry, and a strong LinkedIn profile builds trust with potential customers. In some industries, not having a strong LI profile can actually hurt your credibility.

Certain industries tend to be better-represented on LinkedIn. Human resources and recruiting is prevalent, as are services and products that help with career advancement (schools, training, resume writing, etc.). Tech is prevalent, but from a back-end business perspective (web design, tech business, tech recruiting, etc.) rather than a front-end consumer perspective (gadgets and so forth). Health and wellness tends to be strongly represented, and nonprofits (especially non-religious nonprofits like charities) tend to be popular, but spiritual or metaphysical stuff (as well as churches) can often be ignored.

Best practices for LinkedIn include actively participating in groups and writing actual blog posts on LinkedIn. Links to other blog posts can be interesting, especially if you have a strong following that will engage in a good discussion, but whenever possible, it’s better to repost your blog post in its entirety on the LinkedIn platform – those posts are better promoted than links to your own personal blog. And while LinkedIn is often viewed as a way to network your way into a better job or a better clientele, it can also be very useful for personal career development, so go ahead and take some time to really explore LinkedIn to use it most effectively.

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