Which is the best social network for a small business?

Nowadays there are several social networks to choose from and it can be hard to know where to begin. With more social networks appearing every year, knowing where to put your time and effort can be a bit of a daunting task.  While it is not entirely necessary to be on every single social network that comes along, I do recommend concentrating on more than one to yield the best results.

Currently there are three main social networks in terms of the size of their user base: Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and you can almost guarantee that most of your customers will be a member of at least one of these. Then there is LinkedIn which while only 8th in the size of it’s user base it is the single largest social network for people with business cards and any B2B provider should have a focused presence there. Lastly there is Pintrest while a new comer to the game it is already becoming a strong contender. It goes without saying that any business serious about competing in the world of social media should have a presence on all of these social networks at the very minimum. However, merely just having just a social presence isn’t enough: it’s all about engagement and interaction. It is important to strike the right balance when posting to social networks – just sharing links advertising your products is not going to cut it. Whilst advertising should be a part of your social media activities, you need to engage and interact with your customers as well.

There are three main types of activities that you should be concentrating on when posting to social networks:

  1. The first is sharing content your customers and followers might be interested in – so if you have read an article on a website that you thought was great and might benefit your social followers then share it with them.
  2. Secondly we have interaction. These days customers will often use social networks to reach out to companies when they have an issue or complaint. Don’t be afraid of providing support and help to your customers via social platforms, the customer will appreciate the personal level of interaction and your other followers will notice your level of support and commitment. How a company deals with complaints in the public eye of social networking sites can make or break a business so always remember to be polite and professional, never lose your cool no matter how difficult a customer might be,. Remember the world is watching and people remember a bad experience more than they do a positive one. You may also want to set clear guidelines for this level of customer interaction as many people have lost their jobs do to a regretful post.
  3. Third and Lastly there is advertising: try and be as creative as possible when advertising your products or services. Posting the same tweet each day promoting your business will get lost in the vast noise of a social network, try to find unique and interesting ways to promote your product.

Now you have a strategy on how to present your business on social networking sites it’s important to find the best way of interacting with each of these networks. Posting to each individual social network and trying to monitor interactions can be prove to be very time consuming; fortunately there are a few solutions to help you become more productive with your social media. There are a number of applications available that allow you to post to and monitor all three of the social networks that we have discussed.

Hootsuite is a social media management platform that enables you to take control of your social presence all from a single dashboard and allowing for multiple users to interact with your social profiles. Hootsuite is available for free but if you require more advanced features you will need to invest a small amount of money to get the best out of this application. There are also other alternatives – such as SproutSocial which, although quite costly at $39+ per month, does have some extremely powerful features such as reports and analytics for those wanting to go even deeper with social media management.

However you choose to manage your social profiles the key thing to remember is to stay relevant and interact regularly with your friends and followers. It often takes a while to reap the benefits of social media but with perseverance and creating quality content the results will benefit your business greatly.

So finally to answer the question which I think is best, well the answer depends on what type of business you have. I think it’s a combination of the large networks as well as your niche. You should have a presence on: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin regardless of what type of business you have. Then pay special attention to your niche. For B2B providers Linkedin is a must. You’re focused on the female demographic then Pintrest seems to be making good headway here. You’re into media production then put extra effort into your YouTube account. Just remember Facebook may have 1 Billion registered users but how many of them actually want to buy your product or even want to hear about your product while playing Farmville? It’s up to you to choose the right mix.