How to Choose the Right Social Media Networks for your Business

Every business owner will have heard at some point that traditional marketing is out, and social media is in. As the internet becomes more integrated in our lives than ever, having a social media presence is necessary to tap into a world-wide client base.

Social media networks

The type of social media you choose for your business will depend on the type of business you have, and what you’re hoping to achieve by marketing your products or services through social media networks. New social media sites are springing up all the time, and it can be difficult to know which ones you should be part of, and how much time you should spend maintaining them.

Ultimately, social media networks are useful for marketing, but maintaining a presence on one or more of these networks isn’t a money-making activity that will bring in immediate profit. It can take a long time to build up a significant following on a social network, and although you might be tempted to spend several hours a day working on this, doing so could take you away from more valuable work.

To minimize the amount of time you spend on social media marketing, and to focus your energy on building a fan base, you should limit the number of networks you participate in at any one time to a maximum of three. Once you’re all set up on a network, the most important thing is to stay active and maintain a regular and valuable presence.

But how do you decide which networks to use? Here are some questions to consider when choosing the right social network for you business:

  • What are you hoping to use social media for?

    Do you want to increase your readership or your fan numbers? Or are you hoping to use your social media presence to make direct sales?

  • What kind of content do you want to post?

    Different social networks suit different mediums better, as we’ll discuss below. Some networks are better for posting videos, while others work well with short quotes and soundbites. The type of of content you want to post will influence your choice of social network.

  • Who is your audience?

    Different social networks have different demographics. According to an infographic published by Mashable, most Pinterest users are female, while most Google+ users are male and under 25 years old. Think carefully about the kind of customers you’re trying to attract, and research which networks they’re most likely using.

  • What business are you running?

    If you are running an online business, you will have different social media needs than if you’re running a local physical bricks-and-mortar business. Location-based networks, such as FourSquare, which is described below, might be more relevant than other networks that cater solely for an online audience.

  • What networks do you existing customers or competitors use?

    It can be useful to look at what social networks your existing customers, or other competitor organizations use, and how they use them. While you don’t necessarily have to copy them, this gives you an idea of what other people in your marketplace are doing, which is a useful starting point!

The Big Six Social Media Networks

Here is a rundown of the biggest social media networks and how they can be useful.

  1. Facebook

    With over 500 million active users, Facebook is the most popular social network, and offers an essential marketing platform for most businesses that work with the general public. The network offers businesses a platform to interact with customers through its “Pages” and “Groups” features. Current and potential customers can subscribe to your business’ page, and the site supports material in a variety of formats, including links, videos, and images.

    Facebook is a useful tool for community building, and the network encourages engagement between clients, your business, and potential collaborators or peers.

    Useful for:
    b2c businesses targeting a range of demographics.

  2. Pinterest

    Pinterest promotes itself as an online pinboard and is the only major visual-based social network. It enables you to create “pinboards” of products and images you like, and share them with others. The social sharing features are similar to those you find on Facebook and Twitter, including repinning, likes and comments, however instead of being text-heavy, the website focuses on users’ graphics and photos.

    Useful for:
    Businesses that deal in design, such as jewelry, clothing, art and photography.

  3. Twitter

    Twitter is a microblogging site, that allows users to post updates up to 140 characters in length. The network has become more image-friendly recently, however it is still more suited to users who want to post bite-sized pieces of informational text and links. Twitter is useful for attracting high numbers of followers, but it can be difficult to communicate a lot of information about your business due to the 140-character restriction.

    Useful for:
    Businesses that want an easy way to offer customer service, or to share their latest products and links.

  4. LinkedIn

    The only network on this list that’s solely for professionals, LinkedIn is a way to connect with and promote your business to competitors, peers, collaborators and colleagues, rather than customers. It’s a great way of conducting professional networking online, finding work, and sharing your skills and credentials.

    Useful for:
    B2b businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.

  5. Google+

    A recent addition to the social media world, Google+ has quickly established itself as a leading social network. Like Facebook, you can post longer updates, photos, videos, and links. Like Twitter, you can group your contacts into “Circles” (similar to Twitter’s lists), and therefore tailor your marketing efforts to the most relevant segment of your fan base.

    Useful for:
    Businesses targeting a young audience, and interacting with customers on an individual level.

  6. YouTube

    YouTube is a video-based website that enables users to like, comment on and share your videos with others. With 48 hours worth of video uploaded every minute, there is a lot of competition for users’ attention, however YouTube can be helpful for exposing your business to a different kind of audience.

    The video format allows you to have full creative control over the content and style of your online presence, and you can upload clips up to 15 minutes long.

    Useful for:
    Businesses that want to create video advertising, and demonstrate their products through videos.

The Best of the Rest Social Media Sites

Digg vs StumbleUpon

Digg and StumbleUpon are news aggregation services, where users can share content from all over the web with other site members, and vote for their favorite submissions.

FourSquare is a location-based social network that runs from mobile devices. Users can “check in” to physical locations, and share their visit with friends and other social networks. You should definitely consider FourSquare if you run a bricks-and-mortar business, such as a cafe or a fashion store.

Yammer and Huddle are corporate social networks that can provide you with a secure and private digital space within your company. Suitable if your colleagues work remotely, or if you want an easy way to communicate with employees and clients from one place, Yammer and Huddle put a twist on the traditional social network and transform it into a collaborative tool.

Flickr is a photo-sharing network that allows you to store and share pictures. Compatible with most major social networks, Flickr could be useful if you share a lot of content with fans through pictures and videos.

Vimeo is similar to YouTube and allows you to upload and share video clips. Like YouTube, you can set up your own channel, and embed your videos in other websites. As well as a variety of sharing options, Vimeo has a thriving community of filmmakers, animators and artists.

Choosing the right social media networks for your business can be challenging. You might find that as new networks are created, and your business grows, your social networking needs change. You don’t have to stick with your original social networking accounts forever. If you haven’t gained traction on a particular social network and find another that is more suited to your business, you can always switch – just remember the keep your number of active networks at three or less so you can focus on your business too!