A guide to social media, part 1

It seems the whole world is on social media, and as businesses we’re told we should be, too. But why? What should you post? Where should you be? With so many social networks to choose from, how do you know which is the most appropriate for your business? In this first of two articles, we break down some of facts about the biggest networks to help you decide.

Facebook

Facebook is far and away the biggest social network, with 1.65 billion monthly active users. 500,000 new users join every day. There are 40 million active small business pages, 2 million of which pay for advertising.

Facebook is largely used for personal purposes, and as such it’s a popular platform for B2C companies.

Businesses on Facebook must have a business page (it’s against Facebook’s rules to register a personal account in the name of your business, and doing so will eventually result in your account being removed, so it’s worth getting this right from the word go). Pages can have multiple admins, so you can share the responsibility of updating the page without having to give out access to your personal account.

Exposure

Once you’ve set up your business page, you can post updates and comments as that page. You can also ‘like’ other pages. You can’t, however, join or post in Facebook groups. As groups are an extremely good way to get exposure, this is a shame – but there is a workaround: simply share updates from your page to groups using your personal account. Don’t overdo it, though, because you don’t want to be flagged as a spammer.

Facebook’s algorithm favours updates from personal accounts over business pages. Even if someone follows your page, there’s no guarantee they’ll even see your updates. If you post consistently high quality stuff that gets a reasonable amount of interaction, you stand a much better chance of future content being seen by more people. Posting in groups, as mentioned above, allows you to expose your posts to people who don’t follow your page. Don’t spam, and be respectful of group rules.

Advertising

Facebook offers PPC (pay per click) and CPM (pay per thousand impressions) advertising. You can promote a post that you’ve already published, or create an ad from scratch linking to your website or app. There are lots of targeting options, meaning you can really focus on your target audience.

Tips for success

Facebook’s algorithm is extremely complicated and nobody is sure exactly how it works, but it seems to favour accounts which post high quality content and which see a lot of positive interaction. Posts with images perform significantly better than plain text, so include pictures where you can.

Facebook, like many other social networks, supports hashtags. These allow users to find posts on a particular topic just by clicking on the hashtag. It’s best to stick with quite specific hashtags – e.g. #business is far too broad to be much use. #businesschat might be more relevant, but #londonbusinesschat or #constructionchat would be far better.

Good for: B2C, bespoke products
Not so good for: B2B

Twitter

Twitter trails quite a distance behind Facebook with 320 million monthly active users, but that’s still a significant number. Most of its users fall in the 18-49 age group, and it sees a significant amount of business usage, though since there is no difference between a business account and a personal account in terms of setup, it’s difficult to say exactly what percentage of accounts are businesses. Despite this lack of distinction, it’s important to keep personal and business accounts separate – don’t send personal updates to your business followers. This will mean switching between accounts, which is a little more fiddly than on Facebook.

Although a business account can’t have multiple admins in the same way as on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn, you can share access using Twitter’s multi-account manager Tweetdeck, or a social platform such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social.

Exposure

Don’t expect to reach all of your followers with each tweet – in fact, you’ll usually only reach a very small percentage of them. Twitter is very fast-paced, and if your followers aren’t online at the time you post, it’s likely they won’t see it at all as it will be lost in the noise. It’s worth figuring out the times of day when most of your followers are online and scheduling accordingly.

You can expand your reach if your tweet is retweeted. Make sure it’s interesting, and use a relevant hashtag if possible – this will increase the chance of the tweet being seen and shared.

There are many regular networking hours on Twitter, allowing you to join in with a conversation using a hashtag to keep track, e.g. #worcesterbusinesshour. They’re usually organised by geographical area or industry, so they can be a good way to target and connect with other businesses.

Advertising

Twitter’s ads are great for exposure but tend to be pretty expensive when compared to other platforms. They do offer some nice formats, such as polls and newsletter signup forms, so depending on your goals (research? Newsletter signups?) this could be a good option.

Tips for success

Stay engaged with other users. Respond quickly – Twitter is very fast-paced, and if you don’t respond within a short time, you often may as well not respond at all as things will have moved on. Retweets and favourites often replace actual conversation. It can take a little getting used to!

Repetition is okay to an extent – if you sent something at 8am on a Monday you could conceivably post exactly the same thing at 4pm on a Saturday and reach a completely different audience.

Don’t send automated DMs (direct messages). It may seem efficient, but it’s just spam. Equally, don’t cross-post updates from Facebook. They’ll all include a link to Facebook, making it clear you’re not even bothering to be on Twitter itself. This is offputting to your followers and potential followers!

Good for: small businesses, B2C, awareness raising, keeping up with the news
Not so good for: long conversations, complicated explanations

Google+

Google+ has 300 million active users, which is impressive given that it’s only been around since December 2011. It has a high percentage of business users, and many users with personal profiles use them a bit more like LinkedIn (mostly professional) than Facebook (mostly personal).

Much like Facebook, Google+ has a proper structure for setting up a business page independently of your personal account. You can then easily switch between your business and personal accounts without needing to log in and out. However, if you want to allow someone who doesn’t have a Google+ account to adminster the page, there is an option you can select to allow you to log in directly to the business account.

Advertising

This may surprise you, but Google+ does not display any ads on its platform.

Tips for success

Google+ users like longer, more detailed posts. They don’t need to be blog-length, but a couple of hundred words of useful tips will be far more popular than a couple of sentences and a link. Join Communities (like Facebook’s Groups) to share with likeminded people and increase your reach.

Good for: business, particularly in tech fields
Not so good for: short posts

In Part 2, we will cover LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram and Pinterest.