An Introduction to Social Media and Using It for Business

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Social media has become a virtually unavoidable part of our everyday lives. When someone asks, “Are you on Facebook?” they usually find it bizarre if the person they’re asking replies that they aren’t. Platforms like Facebook have made themselves central to the way in which we communicate, not just with the people we know but also the people we don’t know… and that includes potential customers.

This article is going to explore some of the main social media channels, how to choose the best ones for your business and how to use them in the right way to get leads.

If you find it all a bit intimidating, you aren’t alone.

While many of us use platforms like Facebook in a personal capacity, with relative ease, I speak to a lot of small business owners who find the concept of using them for business daunting or frustrating. The dilemma they often grapple with is that they feel their business “needs to be on social media” but they aren’t entirely sure why, let alone how. The answer isn’t that you should be doing it because everyone else is; it’s that those who are doing it reasonably well will almost certainly be getting business from it.

Your time is precious so don’t spread yourself thin. Focus your efforts.

A common mistake I see businesses make is that they try to be active across too many channels. Below is a list of the main channels businesses can utilise but it is really important you take some time to work out the best fit for your business and your goals. The three main questions you want to start by asking yourself is:

  1. Who you are trying to reach
  2. What you are selling
  3. How you want potential customers to engage with you.

I’ve labelled each channel with either B2C (Business to Consumer) or B2B (Business to Business). If you are selling products or services to the public, for example, a shop or a restaurant, then you will want to focus your efforts on consumer channels (B2C). If your customers tend to be other businesses, such as product suppliers or business services, then the business-focused channels are better. If you provide a service to both, say you work in the trades, then there are channels for both but the B2C channels will also work better for you.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that not all channels have their content indexed by Google and that some rank better than others in Google’s search results.

  • Facebook (B2C)The world’s largest, also owns and uses data from Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp with some direct integration with the first two giving you more ways to reach people. Facebook pages and posts are indexed by Google if this is allowed in privacy settings.
  • Google My Business (B2C & B2B)Though not strictly a social media channel, it is a channel where people can find and discuss your business and, to some degree, it has replaced Google+ that was a similar channel to Facebook. Content created here has prominent rankings in Google which can be very effective for people doing business locally. It is crucial for local businesses to use this.
  • LinkedIN (B2B)Contrary to what some people may think, this is a social media channel but under the guise of being focused around business. It is similar to Facebook in a number of ways and can be a goldmine for some types of business. Articles posted are indexed by Google.
  • Instagram (B2C)A channel focused around imagery and short videos. It was originally created for stylising and sharing photographs. While Instagram pages can be found through Google, none of their content can. It has become the most famous for “influencers” who have lots of fans and are paid to promote products to their audiences.
  • Twitter (B2C & B2B)Relatively short and punchy, mainly text-based “Tweets”. Bitesize, faster-paced snippets of content. Tweets are indexed and ranked by Google, generally receiving good ranking positions based on how many people like, comment or share them.
  • YouTube (B2C & B2B)A purely video-based platform also owned by Google. Requires much more effort to create content but this can be ranked in Google fairly quickly and capture people searching for specific things, typically advice on something.
  • Pinterest (B2C) Ideal for businesses that make products as this is a scrapbook style website that people use for collecting pictures of things and ideas. Images posted are indexed and ranks very well in Google Image Search. For example, typing “hand-made white vase” will bring up plenty of Pinterest search results.
  • Quora (B2C) A question and answer site where consumers can ask questions and have them answered by people from the community.

You either work for it, or you pay for it.

There are three ways you can use social media channels to get people interested in what you offer: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and sponsored content posts, influencer referrals and organic reach. I will briefly cover how each works:

  • PPCAll of the above channels have advertising platforms that enable you to target people by a set of criteria and spend a set amount of money per day pushing your messages in front of them. Generally speaking, they charge you a varying amount each time someone clicks/taps your ad or content and engages with you e.g. they go to your company page, your website or direct message you. PPC is not cheap, typically starting at £5-£10 budget per day and your Cost-Per-Click (CPC) can vary enormously from one platform to the next based on a number of factors. It can be anything from £0.10 – £10+ per click and this is where I have seen companies waste a great deal of money for little return. If you intend to pay for it, and you don’t know what you’re doing, speak to some marketing experts like my team at TFA, click here.
  • InfluencersAn influencer is anyone that can mention or recommend what you do. You know what that means? Anyone and everyone on Facebook. You don’t need to pay influencers – simply doing a great job and having friends or past customers recommend you can be worth its weight in gold. In fact, recent studies have shown these types of referrals can be more powerful than any advertising and cost you absolutely nothing.
  • Organic ReachMost pages have audiences or fans that have subscribed to the page. To get results for free, you have to build your audience or people will not see what you are posting. A good way to build your audience is by using hashtags, but these do not work on all channels (e.g. #plumbers #leakytapfix #miltonkeynes). For a limited time, this will add your content to those ‘groups’ if people use the search bar within each platform and it will help you to get more fans and likes. I have put a # next to the channels above that use this; give it a try! When you create content on a channel, it will be pushed in front of some or all of your audience (this differs from one platform to the next). The golden rule is quality over quantity – create good posts and never post too much or you directly degrade your audience exposure. My advice is no more than once a week, no less than once a month. If you are creating your own content e.g. a post on the Facebook newsfeed, a LinkedIN article or a YouTube video, you can upload it for free. If you are a local business then simply setting up a page, sharing some examples of your work and asking people to like your page will push your posts into the feeds of people who don’t know you. How many people is down to how popular your content is; the more people who like and comment, the more people will see it. Do good work, share it on your page and ask people you know to share your content too. Being front of mind is the key so make yourself visible to as many people as possible!

This month’s article barely scratches the surface of social media or how to use it. As with most means of marketing, you can have varying degrees of success depending on what you do with it. Any successes will come down to your proficiency and your time; two commodities that a lot of business people just don’t have.

Many companies still prefer to outsource it to a professional marketing company and, starting from a few hundred pounds per month, you can employ the services of a marketing agency like TFA to do it all for you and get you the most bang for your buck. Speak to us today.
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine