Starting out with social media
The growth of social media has been phenomenal and it feels like hardly a week goes past when a new social media platform launches or an existing facility tries to add a ‘social’ element.
Facebook is the biggest and best known social media platform and this week Facebook announced it reached the 1 billion user level. It’s probably safe to assume that most large companies are on Facebook, but should small and medium companies be using Facebook or other social media?
Firstly you can’t be everywhere, you need your use of social media to be part of your wider marketing strategy and you need to be willing to experiment. But ignoring social media all together is probably not a wise move.
Facebook profiles versus Facebook pages
Many social media offer two products: a ‘profile’, which is aimed at individuals and a ‘page’ which is aimed at organisations (different names are sometimes used for these concepts but the principle is very similar). It’s important to know the difference.
Many schools, for example, avoid Facebook because they don’t appreciate the difference between a profile — which is generally very problematic for schools — and a page which can be a useful tool and would help to educate students into how to use social media responsibly. (Schools might like to read my professional blog post Schools can like Facebook, just don’t be friends).
A profile is the original Facebook where you collect ‘friends’, you or they post embarrassing pictures and … well you know the rest. An advantage with a profile is people can more easily connect and interact with you, though Facebook doesn’t really want organisations to have profiles.
A page is more like a one page website. At the simplest level you can have complete control over the content that is posted (not just editing, others can’t post), you have ‘likes’ not ‘friends’, you get statistics about the type of people looking at your page and you can link it to paid advertising. At a more advanced level you can add methods of interaction such as competitions and polls.
Both a profile and page are free and quick to set up and pages don’t have to take a lot of managing. How you use them and how effective they are really comes down to your business and your marketing strategy.
Facebook also offers facilities for groups and events and lots more. A word of warning: Facebook allows others to create pages about your business and the content may not be what you want! So you should be checking Facebook regularly and you can contact Facebook to claim a page if you can justify that you should be the rightful owner.
Google+ (‘Google Plus’) is Google’s answer to Facebook and was introduced in 2011. It’s not so well known and well used. But there are important reasons why you should consider being on there.
Firstly Google is by far the largest search engine: it’s reckoned that over 85% of searches are through Google. Google also owns YouTube which is described as the second largest search engine.
Google has put Google+ at the heart of its products including integrating it with Google Places. That means if you have a physical presence — such as a shop or restaurant where customers can visit — you’re in danger of not being found on Google Maps if you aren’t on Google+.
Features on Google+ that are not on Facebook include ‘circles’ and ‘hangouts’. These allow you to group your contacts in the way you know them: friends, family, professional contacts, prospective clients or whatever you choose. You can restrict the content each circle sees so that it is only relevant to them, and you can arrange hangouts with your circles where you exchange information including, if you want to, a free web video conferencing facility.
Google also appears to be rewarding people on Google+ plus with better search rankings and Google has also introduced a TripAdvisor type service to comment on shops and restaurants. It seems clear that Google+ is not going away. You may wonder what you’re getting out of Google+ at the moment, but now is the time to experiment, and not being there could be damaging your business.
Not many businesses in Leytonstone seem to use Twitter, but some who do use it very effectively, and a number of community groups, this site and your local councillors are on there. It’s good for short promotional messages though they need to be informative more than ‘sales’.
LinkedIn has been described as the ‘Facebook for professionals’. A LinkedIn profile is more like an online CV and you’re supposed to connect only with people you really know through work relationships. Most facilities are free but you can pay for some premium features if you choose. As well as being useful for professionals it’s a must for jobseekers.
You can also have a free company page, though you’ll need an email linked to a web address (eg .co.uk) — they don’t allow your email to be Hotmail, Gmail etc.
I haven’t got a Leytonstone LinkedIn page as it’s not a company, but you can see my professional company page LDH Marketing which I recently set up. Have a search too, to see what other companies are doing.
Pinterest is one of the newer social media sites and has grown enormously during 2011 and 2012. Pinterest is an ‘electronic pinboard’. Visually it’s very attractive and has a strong following amongst arts, craft, catering and other creative areas, but seems to be a mainly USA and female audience so far. Again it’s free, so for some businesses it may be worth experimenting.
YouTube and Vimeo
YouTube is well known as a free video hosting site and I’ve already mentioned YouTube under Google+ above. Vimeo is also a large and similar video hosting site, though less well known.
Making professional video content is still quite expensive, but a well-made amateur video can work on YouTube and I will also be talking in a later post about another easy way to get a quick YouTube presence that may suit some people.
There are a lot of videos about Leytonstone on YouTube, just go to www.youtube.com and search for ‘Leytonstone’.
Foursquare is both a social media site and a mobile phone application (app), which allows people to find out what is in their local area and where their friends recommend. It’s particularly relevant to cafés, restaurants and anybody organising drop-in events.
Take a look at Foursquare.com and try searching for Leytonstone.
… and more
This is a pick of some of the top social media sites but there are a huge number including numerous photo sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa and others. You can’t and shouldn’t try to be on everything and I will be posting some thoughts later on this week about strategy, but ignoring them all is not a good idea either!
Blog articles in this series
Look out for these blog articles which I will be producing during 15-21 October 2012.
See also these new pages: