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Idealog—in the ideas business

How to pick the right social media platform

Choose your social media channel - and messages - wisely.

Kaleb Francis Conventional wisdom would have us believe we can’t be everywhere at once. Even if we tried we would spread ourselves too thinly to a point where we would be completely ineffectual. 

But once again conventional wisdom has been proved wrong.

Sales and business development activities often relied on the dreaded cold call, followed by the proverbial cold shoulder.

But the internet and now social media means we can ‘self-duplicate’. Social channels have given us the ability to be everywhere at once; answering questions, providing responses, giving opinions and creating connections.

Now the starting point is a relatively easy-going online conversation: hunt them down, engage them and before you know it you’re best friends.

But before jumping in head-first, choose your channel – and messages – wisely. Would you walk up to a total stranger at a bar and immediately start talking to them about business or how amazing you are at what you do? (Please don’t say yes.)

 Blog

Blogging is seen as the ‘flour and eggs’ of any social media strategy and is a place to share your thoughts and opinions ... NOT to sell your products.

A company blog should act as a tool for communicating with customers and employees, to share knowledge, expertise, experiences that will ultimately build your reputation as an industry authority, while also driving traffic to your website. B2B companies that blog generate 67 percent more leads per month than those who do not. 

Benefits:
· Profile building
· Opportunity to establish yourself as a thought leader
· Total control over content
· Allows visitors to engage emotionally with your brand
· Improved brand searchability.

How to use it:
· Create relevant content
· Respond to topical events
· Feature interviews with experts from your area of interest
· Enable employees to express themselves
· Post new content frequently.

Take note of that last point. There is a tendency for many companies to start blogging with a hiss and roar and then to lose impetus very quickly. And nothing looks worse than a blog that features four posts, with the last one dated June 2010.

Facebook

In 2010, the most visited site on the internet was no longer Google, it was Facebook. No social media channel reaches a broader audience than Facebook.

The key word here is “broad”. Even though we know businesses are active on Facebook, and B2B companies are driving customer acquisition through Facebook, there are still huge personal, rather than business, reasons why people visit Facebook.

Facebook is the hub through which businesses can drive social interaction: get their messages out and receive customer feedback. And 97 percent of people who engaged with a brand on Facebook have bought that brand offline

Benefits:
· 800 million users
· Reconnect with people
· Share content easily with ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons
· Get referrals – friends trust other friends recommendations.

How to use it:
· Share recent news about your brand
· Ask questions, run competitions
· Reward loyal customers.

 Twitter

Twitter is the ultimate outbound messaging tool. Inbound customer communications are quick and to the point, allowing for simple monitoring and management of conversations.

It isn’t what you’re saying on Twitter that exposes your brand. It’s what you can get others to say about you that has the real impact. Driving retweets and interactions can do more for brand exposure than any other social site.

Benefits:
· Enables you to search for people of interest to follow
· Easy to use
· Limited to 140 characters per updates.
· Retweets extends your reach exponentially.

How to use it:
· Share recent news about brand and activity
· Tweet from live events
· Prompt feedback from customers
· Encourage customers to use as a support channel.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is great for personal branding and showing the professional prowess in your organisation. In a recent inbound marketing study 45 percent of B2B marketers acquired a customer directly from LinkedIn – higher than any other channel.

Benefits:
· Facebook for ‘grownups’
· Connecting with like-minded professionals
· Extending professional networks
· Building profile
· Advertising to targeted audiences.

How to use it:
· Make connections with key influencers and decisions makers
· Share business content
· Participate in professional groups and Q&A.

YouTube

A December 2010 Forbes Insight report revealed that 75 percent of senior executives view work-related videos on business websites at least once a week while 52 percent watch work-related videos on YouTube once a week. YouTube now sees 4 billion video views per day – a 25 percent increase over the past eight months.

What this means is that all businesses should develop a video content strategy, but they shouldn’t focus on YouTube as the only channel for that content.

Ideally, a good piece of video content would be deployed on your YouTube channel, on your website, syndicated on other business sites and, most importantly, be tracked and measured.

Benefits:
· Visual insight into your business, offers, activity
· Profile building
· Direct selling tool.

How to use it:
· Create ‘how to’ videos
· Share business news and updates
· Introduce members of the team
· Cover promotional events.

Pinterest

Pinterest is the newest in the lineup of social media platforms. It is a virtual pinboard where users collect photos and links of products they love and pin them to boards.

Why use it? Because it generates huge amounts of traffic – early stats show that it could create more referral traffic to your website than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn – combined. Daily users have increased by more than 145 percent this year.

Benefits
· Follow other brands, markets and sectors of interest
· Provides a visual expression of what your brand stands for.

How to use it:
· Pin content that you like to boards
· Create ‘boards’ across different genres and populate
· Link shared content to your site or partner sites
· Pin other people’s content
· Leave comments and respond to feedback.

Social media platforms

There are many other social media platforms you can use to gain awareness, increase your following or engage with your customers.

However, these are the big guns to focus on when developing your brand communication strategy.

And make no bones about it, if you fail to develop a strategy all you’ll be doing is walking up to someone in a bar who’s too busy listening to someone else’s story to even realise you’re in the room. 

Kaleb Francis is digital brand strategist at Marque - Brand Partners


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Comments

Good advice here… would like to know your thoughts on auto tweeting… personally I find that drives traffic to my website but then many social media people feel it a sin to actually engage when a stranger talks about a topic… but ironically think it is OK to step into a conversation you might be having with someone else on Twitter… strange how our brains work.

Hi Jon - thanks for your comments.

Social media is about two way conversation right? Well we all know we can't be everywhere at one time, so there are tools that allow us to always be 'on'. If you have something to say and it's important that your message gets to everyone regardless of where they are in the world then why not utilise auto-tweeting?

Looking at my analytics I know I received more traffic from places like the States or UK when I send a tweet at 2am NZ time. The danger is that if we auto-tweet our message may sound too generic and perhaps not personalised enough.

And ultimately the social media platforms should be used as a method of driving people to our website where we can engage with them even more so.

I'm probably like you though, and believe that if your content is crap then it doesn't matter how often or when you tweet!


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