If Facebook was a country, and its users its inhabitants, facebook would be the world’s third largest country after China and India. Twitter grows by 300,000 users a day with an average of 500 million tweets sent daily. This is just a measure of how social media has become ubiquitous in our everyday lives.

For businesses, these platforms, like facebook, twitter and linkedin have become an important means of not only connecting with customers on a personal level but also retrieve valuable market data on both existing and potential customers. Utilising social media in digital marketing campaigns is not a sure way to drive success and increase exposure of your business or product however, it is an opportunity. Like any opportunity, it requires careful consideration and planning to be done most effectively.

Each social networking channel is different however, with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Facebook

Facebook needs no introduction, with over 1,230 million active users and being the platform to bring social media into the mainstream. In terms of online marketing, facebook is perfect for B2C communication. It is a great way of selecting particular groups that may be affiliated by age, region, interest or institution.

Benefits

  • A large user base: Facebook has over one billion user accounts worldwide.

  • Grow your audience: starting off a page for your business is extremely easy to do and accessible to anyone. Every facebook profile page essentially functions the same, so most users will know how to get around it, to find out more about your company.

  • Track movement of competitors: Since Facebook has a universal approach to profiles, it makes it very easy to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and how they are approaching their audiences.

  • Discover your brand’s strength: Facebook essentially opens your business towards an open forum. Customers can provide good reviews or appraisals of your services. All of which can be highlighted on your wall for others to see, it is a more effective means of gaining testimonials from your clients.

Disadvantages

  • Negative reviews: The counterpoint to gaining good reviews is of course receiving bad ones.

  • May require staff to manage account: Though it is easy to start a facebook campaign for a low cost, if you want to build on your success, you will have to regularly update your profile and come up with new ways to target customers. This is a job in itself, and some small businesses may have to think about hiring more staff specifically for this.

Twitter

Twitter first came online in 2006, where it allowed users to set up profiles and post statuses of no more than 140 characters. Users can follow accounts and be followed themselves, all followed accounts culminate in a feed specific to that person. Whilst facebook is built to facilitate a more social arena, where friends and relatives can connect. Twitter is better for allowing users to actively engage with individuals and their interests, occupying a position in between LinkedIn and Facebook in terms of both B2B and B2C reach.

Advantages

  • Large user base: There are over 600 million active twitter users today, with over 58 million tweets being posted per day.

  • Its brief: Much has been made of twitter’s validity based on its shortness. The actor Robert Downey Jr recently setup a twitter profile and stated this very concern. Twitter’s strength however, is in its shortness and how quick its users can absorb these brief snippets of information. From the user’s perspective it is very quick and easy to post a tweet, so it can feel more immediate.

  • An increasingly mobile platform: Twitter is an increasingly mobile platform, its very nature of 140 character posts suits the medium perfectly.

Disadvantages

  • Busy: The average twitter user follows over 102 accounts. I, myself follow over 400 (@chazmaster2000) whilst Aaron (@aarondicks) follows 941! this means that our twitter home page is constantly being updated with each passing second, which can make it easy for posts from small businesses to get buried in the continuous onslaught. There are ways of managing your followed profiles into lists, but only the more twitter savvy users will be doing this.

  • A degree of understanding: Twitter is more popular amongst teenagers and young adults. Some more maturer audiences are likely to wonder what all the fuss is about.

  • Limited to 140 characters: Again, how much can someone truly say in 140 characters? Twitter is famous for sparking controversy and heated discussions based on off the cuff comments that spark outrage and knee jerk negative reactions. Arguably, it is difficult to have an informed discussion on twitter.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a channel that is primarily built to provide communication between a professional B2B network. Whilst facebook centres around your social life, linkedin provides a social networking platform for the working life. Individuals and companies can create profiles and connect with those they work with or do business with. Fellow colleagues and clients can provide appraisals of your skills and services, this is great for building new contacts, who will see that your work has gone appreciated by similarly minded professionals.

Advantages:

  • Boosts SEO contributions: By having a linkedin account either for yourself, or your company, you will improve your search rankings, since Google recognises it as a key authority to determine the validity of your own web presence.

  • Formal and professional: Think of linkedin as a continuous networking event, with most posts and messaging being business related.

  • Keeping Track of competition: Other companies will have linkedin profiles, so it provides a good means of keeping an eye on the competition and the movement of their staff. Based on their connections, you can also gain an idea of their client base, though you can configure the privacy settings to keep your profile private.

  • Exploring new markets: You will be amazed to see how LinkedIn can connect you to people within your industry. The site will advise you of people to connect with based on your industry and the people based currently in your network. This represents a good opportunity to further broadcast your business.

Disadvantages:

  • Prevalence of spam: Due to LinkedIn’s B2B alignment, this has led to the prevalence of spam, as some businesses have seen it as a valuable opportunity to for lead generation.

  • More effective the larger your network: It is not difficult to build a network on LinkedIn, but you will need to spend time building this up. Generally, you should be open to enlarging your network, a good starting point is to focus in your local area for example.

Google+

After a number of failed attempts, many had reason to doubt Google’s continued efforts to create a social media platform comparable to Facebook. With that said, Google+ has been making advances over the last three years since it’s release, carving its own niche as an alternative somewhere in between facebook and linkedIn. Google+ integrates easily with Google’s existing suite of software, including Gmail, google docs and blog spot.

Advantages

  • Contributes positively towards SEO: Being built into google, having a google+ account will support your SEO initiatives.

  • Supports Google hangouts: There seems to be no end to what applications Google makes, not to mention those from third parties that also allow for integration with Google+. Google hangouts for example allows video calling between Google accounts.

Disadvantages

  • Limited to Circle: Similar to LinkedIn, the strength of Google+ is measured by how many people you have in your circles.

  • Still Growing: Google+ has come along way since its inception, but there is still room to go before it equals the other three established social networking platforms.

Together, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are considered the big 4 social media sites that small businesses should be focusing on, to create some kind of presence upon. From there you can connect with your clients and potential customers, but keep in mind, by pursuing social media, you are opening up all sorts of channels for communication.

 

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/

Charlie

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