Which are the best Social Media channels for business? A question most of us have been asked or asked ourselves at some time or another but, to be honest i don’t think you could pull a definitive list together that will work for everyone and everything.

There’s a minefield of social media channels available, each and every one offering you the world at your feet – and reporting amazing, far-reaching, facts and figures to astound you. But remember they too are in it for the business and you need to be able to understand your customer before you buy into their promises.

Think back to the days of media buying by column inch – national press would also throw astonishing facts and figures at us a with several million daily print run – a figure that did not actually equate to readers, often huge quantities would be published and literally handed out to sit on reception desks, transport and various other uninterested locations.

So, don’t draw your conclusions solely upon how many members a channel has. Consider the active users, the messages that are being generated daily, the physical time you have to commit, as well as the limitations these channels may have that could hinder your promotions.

Take into account the following considerations before embarking upon your social media journey:

#1: Determine what channels to best INVEST your time in. Look into each one individually – whIch will work best for your business needs? Will there be limitations within their functionality that could hinder your ability to promote the products and services you offer?

#2: Don’t sign up for EVERY available social media channel in the hope it will make you look cool and on trend – yes it is free and tempting to do so but, consider the cost of your physical time required in keeping everything up-to-date. Using just two powerful channels can be so much more effective than 5 – 6 hit and miss channels.

#3: PLAN! All to often people get lost in the social and forget that business should be where they focus – take time to look at the competition and understand what the are doing well and not so well! Seek out events, trends and innovations within your industry to share and discuss insight.

#4: COMMUNICATE with others – simply responding to likes, comments and questions, and engaging on other’s pages and posts will attract a positive online reputation. It’s not just a case of pushing your message out to the wider community in the hope that it is landing on the screen of your potential customer – most social media channels will provide analytics for your post – use them to build your brand communications.

#5: Learn to LOVE your social media community – it can be so disheartening waiting for others to engage with you. Ensure that you have chosen channels that you are comfortable using. If you are struggling to find the right tone or content for a particular channel then it may just not be the right place for you. Don’t be afraid to walk away. It takes time to break through the noise, but with careful planning, time and energy over a sustained period you will see the results.

As I said, there are so many social media channels now and most of us could only name but a handful of them. We all have our favourites or ones we feel more comfortable using. For the purpose of this post lets take a look at a few of the more popular and effective ones:

Facebook
Without argument Facebook is by far the biggest social media channel. On average a user will spend 40 minutes a day visiting, with a reported 1.65 billion users each month, or an astonishing 936 million active users per day.
Facebook, the business, continually develops its offering to accommodate the trends and needs of the user, often leading the way in developing such social trends. It’s increasingly proving to be as popular with business as it is for family snaps – currently there are 50 million active small business pages.
The familiarity offers businesses the opportunity to engage with potential customers in the comfort of their own home, users enjoy the convenience of being able to leave a message, browse through business products and photos, or chat / discuss online.
Ensure that when setting up a Facebook business page you spend the time to provide accurate, detailed information. This will achieve a clear reaching target for your page and potential customers.
Update regularly, daily if you can, and avoid constantly using the information to ‘talk at’ or ‘sell at‘ customers. Plan your content – make it bright, informative, interesting or humorous but always engaging. You will need to commit physical time and effort to develop and generate business via this platform. They are probably the most advancing channel and, as such, you do need to keep up to date with improvements and how they affect how your message is working for you.

Twitter
Possibly the busiest microblogging platform with an estimated 310 million regular users, Twitter is a constant stream of comment – conversation – promotion, but with a limited 140 characters per post, users need to be savvy if you want to be listened to. Ensuring that messages are interesting and to the point. There is a constant stream of information being posted day and night that offers an opportunity to retweet content. Remember to change the link headline as this will generate new engagement.
The importance of Twitter is to encourage engagement through retweeting, so take the time to seek out influencers in your business area who will engage in your conversations. Content based sites such as BuzzFeed pick up the most interesting stories to share so offers a starting place to see what headlines are generating the most interest.
The style in which you compose a message is crucial as well as the 140 characters. Find keywords that are relevant to your business and Hashtags (#) will keep your newsfeed current and of interest. Other social media accounts can provide automated content to you twitter feed, but don’t just rely on this.
Always remember your message and, as with any social feed plan, don’t overload your media page with sales an links to your website. Keep your message human, users will on average spend just 17 minutes a day on Twitter with an estimated 360,000 messages per minute, you will need to be interested and dedicated to your Twitter account to really make it work!

LinkedIn
As the oldest and more established of the social media networks, LinkedIn – which has in recent time moved to develop the user experience – is historically a business-focused network that continues to hold its position as the largest social media network for business people and professionals, although smaller business owners don’t really adopted it within their marketing schedule.
They have a reported 433 million members, 13% of whom use it daily. The new style LinkedIn has adopted will allow for better engagement and visibility between users and their profile, increasing the value for those seeking to build relationships and sales leads.
The approach when posting on LinkedIn is a more serious style in comparison to Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn Groups open the greatest opportunities for engagement and increase visibility of your profile so it is worth the time to seek out groups relevant to your business needs.

Pinterest / Instagram
Both of these are relatively new kids on the block, established in 2010 and fast becoming a popular source of promotion for businesses, with 70 million and 400 million users respectively. Both channels provide photo sharing opportunities. Instagram has the pedigree between the two, being owned by Facebook.
The majority of the successful users take a blogger-style approach with users being predominantly female and aged between 18 an 35. Images posted can hold up to 500 words and direct links to your site. The key to engagement for these channels is using stunning quality and interesting images. If you don’t have these its not really worth investing time with them.

YouTube
With over a billion users, Youtube is now visited by 1/3 of all internet users daily, reaching more 18- 49 yr olds than cable does in the U.S.! That said 80% of users are visiting from outside the U.S. so it’s not that it is dominated by the states.
There is an incredible mountain of Youtube stats available, so use them to determine the requirements of your business when considering Youtube as the social media platform for you.
The variety of videos watched daily does make it viable option for business, with staggering 100 plus hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. The shear scale of content and users makes it the second largest search engine after Google, beating both Yahoo and Bing.
So, whilst i totally support the benefits of having content here that is optimised and, as such, so much more easily located via search, the benefits for services or niches may be massive. And of course not forgetting that Youtube are owned by Google. The boost to your SEO ranking, can be increased with easy video uploading making it up to 50 times more possible that they will appear on the first page of Google searches for your product.
Be aware that with the Youtube market being so competitive, without the skills and software required to produce quality content that will generate interest with the users and encourage their imagination, your efforts might be left out in the Youtube wasteland of fodder.

Google+
Google+, with a reported 359 million active users per month, positions itself as a hybred of Facebook and Twitter, It definitely has its importance within the marketplace, coming straight out of the Google Stables ,which means an increased position in the search engine results. Although there are divided opinion as to whether the platform itself drives actual traffic to sites.

Summary
This is literally the tip of the iceberg of the social media channels currently available to business and, as with all things online, our knowledge can become out of date the moment we learn something. The three main considerations for increasing your social media engagement would:
Interesting engaging content
Word of mouth – through encourageing comment and communication
Social Media Advertising ( i plan to talk about this in more depth in a forth coming Blog)
But remember that social media is the modern day conversion driver so engage with members on any communities. If you have too many accounts you will inevitably dilute the amount of time and resources you have available thus affecting the quality of your posts. Choose wisely!

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