In this three part series (this is Part 1) on social media we’ll look at how to choose the right applications for your business, tips on setting up your accounts and choosing names, and lastly strategies and resources for creating regular, timely content.
Social media is fun, engaging and gets results. Its purpose is to turn communication in to an interactive dialogue and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Many more applications than just Facebook and Twitter constitute social media; think: Blogger, WordPress, Foursquare, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Vimeo and Flickr to name some others.
For the purpose of this article we’ll look at the most popular social media applications and how to choose the right ones for your business. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of these major channels so you can decide where to invest your time and effort.
Application What is it? How popular is it? Who uses it? What sort of business is it suited to?
The most popular social networking tool for sharing information, photos and videos. Businesses can share company and product information and gauge feedback from subscribers (‘Likers’) by asking questions and running polls.
Facebook has 845 million users worldwide. In usage, Australia ranks highest, with over 9 million users spending almost 9 hours per month on Facebook.
Roughly as many men as women use Facebook. Facebook says that 26% of its users are aged between 25 and 35; 24% are between 18 and 24, and only 9% are older than 54.
Given the wide reach of Facebook, just about any business can create a successful Facebook profile. It’s particularly relevant to businesses who want to form a dialogue with their customers.
Often described as Facebook for business professionals, or “the de facto tool for professional networking”, LinkedIn connects professionals with each other and with businesses. Businesses can list job openings and company updates; and individuals can participate in networking groups, and raise their professional profile.
LinkedIn reports more than 135 million registered users worldwide. In March 2012, LinkedIn reached 3 million users in Australia; of these, it’s estimated that 2 million are active users.
LinkedIn is most popular with white collar professionals, and increasingly students and graduates. Men outnumber women on LinkedIn by 3 to 1.
If yours is a business-to-business offering, you and your business should definitely have a presence on LinkedIn. It’s an invaluable tool for making new associations and discovering shared contacts (called ‘connections’) who can make an introduction on your behalf.
Twitter is a micro blogging service that allows users to send and receive messages of up to 140 characters (called “tweets”) and has been described as the SMS of the Internet. For businesses it’s useful for providing customer service information, sharing company news, providing answers to specific questions, and for listening to what people are talking about (referred to as ‘trending’ topics).
In Australia there are 1.6 million registered users and 300 million users worldwide. Twitter claims that there are 50 million active users every day.
Twitter first gained popularity in business and news outlets and consequently attracted a primarily older audience (split fairly equally between men and women). These days Twitter has become more mainstream and is also popular with celebrities who like to express an opinion and control their profile.
Twitter’s popularity remains rooted in its news and instant update origins. If your business has a lot to say, share, and comment on, then Twitter is for you. It’s estimated that there are over 300 million tweets every day, so to get noticed by your Twitter followers you need to post regular, timely content (i.e. 3 – 4 times every day).
YouTube is a video-sharing website where users can upload, view and share videos. The content includes movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as short original videos. Anyone can watch videos, but only registered users can upload a video. Uploaded videos can also be embedded on a website outside of YouTube (i.e. business website or Facebook page).
YouTube says that roughly 60 hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute, and there are four billion videos streamed per day.
According to the YouTube Australia blog, users are made up of all age groups and dominated by 18–29 year olds (32%) and 30-39 (20%). More than half of all users are in full time work, and 61% of users describe themselves as “not tech savvy”. Almost half of all users share videos that they like.
User-generated content makes up 27% of all videos that are watched on YouTube. If you’re in the business of educating, demonstrating, making, or creating get your camera out and start filming. Your videos don’t need to be too sophisticated – just think about what your audience would want to see or hear from you and go for it.
One of the newer social media applications (initially launched 2 years ago), Pinterest allows you to ‘pin’ images to a virtual noticeboard and share them with your friends or followers. To get maximum value from your ‘pins’, link them back to your website or blog.
Currently there are 10 million users worldwide. From December 2011 to January 2012, unique visitors increased by 155%.
If you’re selling products or services for women, this is the application for your business. Women overwhelmingly dominate Pinterest.
Pinterest is perfect for businesses who sell products or services which are visually orientated – think interior design, fashion, photography, graphic design, wedding services, furniture, decor, catering, event decorating, food styling.
A note about Google+: This is essentially Google’s answer to Facebook. There have been 130 million accounts created, however monthly activity is decreasing. Offering very similar features to Facebook, Google+ can also work for most businesses. The question is: with its current market share and declining growth, is it worth investing your time?
In our next article we’ll look at setting up your chosen social media accounts: choosing a name, layout, images, determining your time commitment to social media, and creating usage guidelines.
About the Author: Alison Clinch is the Director and Owner of Equanimity Services, a boutique Marketing Communications consultancy. With more than 20 years experience in Marketing Communications, it’s fair to say that she’s found her niche and loves that what she does is described as ‘work’.