What's the best social network for business?
We're often asked by our business clients which social network should they use. Certainly, most businesses should have a presence on almost all social media platforms in order to reach the broadest possible audience, but surely one is better than others for business, right? We'll review the top networks and how they can be used for business and perhaps we'll find an answer to that question.
Every business needs a Facebook Page, without a doubt. However, is Facebook the best platform for businesses to engage their clients and potential clients? While Facebook is the most popular social media platform currently, it's still a challenge for businesses to engage and interact with Facebook users. Facebook users will not see a business's content unless they've decided to Like that business's Facebook Page. Often, in order to attract more Likes, businesses need to hold contests or offline marketing or other gimmicks. Unless you're an already established brand, attracting Facebook users will take time.
Twitter, on the other hand, is a lot easier to grow as a brand in terms of followers. It's easier for a business to follow other users and most users will follow back in response. Perhaps more importantly, Twitter users who search on specific topics can potentially see your posts even if they're not following you. Businesses merely need to post good content and use hashtags appropriately and they'll begin to attract users from their posts. The drawback, of course, is that you're constantly limited to 140 characters. The message that you're able to push out must be finely honed and crafted, so while it may be easier to gain followers, it's more of a challenge to engage them.
The network for professionals, LinkedIn, may seem like an obvious candidate. Individuals create professional looking profiles and businesses can set up nice Company pages. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is still a business networking and hiring platform at its core, so if you're trying to sell a product or service, it will be a challenge to get your message heard in such a way that it will reach those interested. Companies can now post status updates which is an improvement, but it's even harder to gain company followers on LinkedIn than it is on Facebook. Participation in LinkedIn Groups is probably the best usage strategy for that platform.
Like tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube can be found by anyone performing a relevant search. And, if you attract subscribers, they can be notified as soon as you post new content just like Twitter followers or Facebook fans. However, the simple technical requirement of creating and posting video is often a daunting challenge for small business owners. While it's becoming easier and easier to create video and podcasts and video-quality presentations, it's still intimidating. Businesses that overcome that challenge however are able to take full advantage of the YouTube platform for social exchange.
The new kid on the block, Google+, deliberately tries to take the best of all worlds. Businesses can create a page and can choose to follow others. Those that you follow are prompted to add you to their own circles. Content that you post to your business page is immediately added to your followers streams, but it's also immediately available to any Google+ user who does a relevant search. Businesses are free to post text, links, pictures and video, and links automatically turn into teasers just like on Facebook. It would seem that the only challenge with Google+ is the sheer fact that it is new, so not everyone is using Google+ or frequenting their profiles daily. It's also one more platform that business owners need to learn, but the simplicity of Google+ and the new Business Pages should help mitigate the learning curve.
BONUS: Empire Avenue
One social platform we've discussed previously, but that often gets overlooked in mainstream media, is Empire Avenue. Empire Avenue allows members to create accounts, purchase "stock" in other members, and connect through shouts and discussion groups. The downside to Empire Avenue is that any blatant advertising is extremely discouraged, so it is a challenge for small businesses to find ways to engage other Empire Avenue users in such a way that they may become interested in what you have to offer. We've found that Empire Avenue is probably best served as a platform for growing your other social media connections, and as a sounding board for new blogs and articles that you may publish.
Most business owners do not have a lot of time to publish content to their website or to work every social networking platform. While steps can be taken to automate processes so that, for instance, links to new articles are pushed to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn automatically, it's clear that Google+ may represent the best platform for businesses to devote the most time to. Businesses should never ignore other networks since their potential customers may not be on a business's preferred network, but concentrating on those social networks that gain the most results is a good investment of time and social strategy.
If you've used any of the above social networks for your business, what kinds of results have you had? Perhaps you disagree that Google+ appears poised to be the best possible network for most businesses. Thanks in advance for your comments!
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton