Overview of Social Media Platforms for Local Businesses
With 129 million online Americans using social media, there's likely a conversation going on about your business on the social networks. You can ignore it -- or you can participate and help shape the message that's forming about your business.
Increasingly, social media is influencing buying decisions locally. According to Nielsen, 70% of active adult social network users shop online. Here's an overview of some of the most important social media platforms of 2012, along with what sort of businesses should use which platforms and in what capacity.
You can't ignore the dominance of Facebook -- 58% of all online adults visit Facebook monthly. Nearly all businesses should be on Facebook. It helps put a friendly face on your business and gives you an informal atmosphere to touch base with your clients or customers. You should post updates about your business, provide sale and giveaway information, and ask advice from your followers if you're considering carrying a new product or implementing a new aspect of your business. (Check out our posts on Facebook tips by industry!)
Google+ Despite its 90 million users, Google+ is still in its infancy. It remains to be seen whether the buying public will actively engage with it. The Google+ social network is connected to the Google search engine -- you may have already noticed that friends of yours who Google+ a piece of content or an item (the equivalent of a Facebook "like") will appear as recommending it when you Google something. This has the potential to really affect buying decisions. If your businesses has a techie slant, if it's important for your business to be ahead of the curve or if you have a primarily male audience -- who make up roughly 75% of Google+ users -- you should definitely be on Google+. You can treat it similar to Facebook, though expect less interaction at first.
Local Review Sites (Yelp, DexKnows, Citysearch)
Every small business owner needs to claim their business listings on local search and review sites -- not doing this is the fastest way to send consumers to your competitors. You need to be found -- whether it's online or on a phone. If you receive a negative review, respond quickly to curtail the issue. You can also offer deals through many local search sites. To easily keep up with information being written about your business without going to multiple platforms, check out our Reputation Management tool.
Like most social media, Twitter is free, so go ahead and claim a Twitter handle for starters to connect with the medium's 100 million active monthly users -- it's up to you how much you use it. Certain industries are more present on Twitter than others. For example, real estate agents have a strong presence on there, as well as food trucks. It's simply a quick way to get information out about your business. You may find that you interact more with other industry professionals and journalists on Twitter instead of consumers, but that can have benefits too.
Some people have called Pinterest "Twitter with photos," but really, it's so much more. It's a social bookmarking site that allows users to create boards to keep tabs on photos and information that interest them. At the time of writing this, it's the fastest-growing site for referral traffic, beating YouTube, Linked In and Google+, and it's on par with Twitter and YouTube. You should use Pinterest if your business is visual -- and your customers are primarily female, who comprise 80% of Pinterest users. For example, Pinterest is definitely worth devoting time to if you're a jeweler or a florist because it gives you an active platform to share your creations, but it may be less useful to a service-based industry.
As its name indicates, StumbleUpon is a service that allows readers to "stumble" onto content within categories that interest them, and it's a bigger force for traffic referrals than many realize. In August 2011, it drove more traffic than even Facebook, accounting for 50.27% of all referral traffic. To become a Stumbler, set up an account, indicate categories that interest you, click the Stumble button to take you to a random site within your interests, and click the thumbs up button if you like it. Occasionally, give your own content a thumbs up as well. Stumble Upon is only worthwhile if you're a blogger and have a little time that you can devote to it weekly -- the more you Stumble other content, the more likely yours will be Stumbled in return. Interesting visuals and quirky items are most likely to go viral on StumbleUpon, so like Pinterest, industries that have a visual aspect are most suited to it.
With its recent redesign, the video-sharing site YouTube is more social than ever. The site exceeds 2 billion views a day, according to Website Monitoring. YouTube is a good option if an aspect of your business is better served by video instead of photos or articles. It's also a good way to set yourself up as an expert or a personality. To use YouTube, create videos -- we recommend you keep them under three minutes -- then upload them to a YouTube channel you've created for your business. If you have time, interact with other content on YouTube because it increases the chances that users will see your interaction and look at what you have to offer.
Professional network LinkedIn has 131 million members and is a better medium for business-to-business interaction than it is business-to-consumer. If your business requires you to interact with other businesses on a regular basis, it's worth looking into. You can set up a business page on LinkedIn in addition to a personal page. To take full advantage of the service, join groups -- it's a great way to interact with a very specific set of people that relate to your business. You can also answer questions in the forum that are relevant to your business and share content through updates.
Location-based services, such as Foursquare, Facebook Check-ins and Google Places, focus on mobile clientele and are expected to grow to 468 millions users in 2012. If you have a business where customers would stop in just because they're in the neighborhood, like a boutique or a bakery, consider using these services. You can claim your venue (for instance, on Foursquare, click on “Do you manage this venue? Claim here”) and then offer specials to people who check in. With a little creativity, services can also benefit from location-based apps, such as a recent clever promotion by Complete EyeCare Center.
Certain industries boast websites specific to that industry's needs. TripAdvisor, for example, is essential for hotels to monitor. BizSugar, on the other hand, assists small business owners in general. Find out if there's a community that exists that caters to your specific needs.
Certainly, many other sites exist that can be especially useful to certain industries. Angie's List, Spotify, Instagram and Tumblr come to mind. We'd love to hear how you use any sites mentioned here -- or any sites that aren't, for that matter. Please share with us in the comments!
Sources: Experian Marketing, TechCrunch, Mashable, CNET, Web Pro News, Blur Group
About the Author
Leading business experts, marketing professionals and digital marketers offer their advice on latest industry trends and strategies to help you grow your business.
As the senior editor of DexKnows, DexKnows Weddings, Marketing Matters and ShopTalk: Social Media, Christine Landry blogs, Tweets, Facebooks and often turns nouns into verbs. She could be very, very Pinterested in you, too