December 18, 2017 09:34 PM
Depending on your goals and your audience, the right social networking sites for your business may differ from other businesses'. (Photo: Gurza/Shutterstock)
by Jenn Virskus
Whether you’re a small business owner or a solopreneur, in today’s world it’s a given that you’ll need to be on social media. But with so many social sites to choose from, it can be incredibly overwhelming to figure out which ones are worth your while.
Natascha Thomson, founder and CEO of boutique social media marketing agency MarketingXLerator, said a small business’ social networking strategy should start with defining who you want to connect with and setting goals for what you hope to accomplish.
“I ask my clients, ‘Who’s your target audience and what’s your objective’ and then we prioritize different online opportunities depending on where the audience is and what the goal is,” she said.
If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all recommendation on the “best” social networking sites for small businesses, Thomson will disappoint you.
“It depends entirely on what your business is and what your goals are,” she said.
However, Thomson suggested a few key sites that are good for any small business to explore as options.
With more than more than 1.3 billion daily active users worldwide, Facebook is bound to get mentioned when discussing social media platforms.
While it’s more and more difficult for businesses to get organic traffic from Facebook, the company is constantly refining and improving its advertising options for businesses. Facebook advertising campaigns come in all shapes and sizes and can be adapted to fit any budget — no matter how small.
“I don’t see a way around Facebook for most companies, if they want to put their money where the majority of their audience is,” said Thomson. “If you are a small business and especially if you’re B2C, there’s no doubt you should be on Facebook.”
According to Thomson, LinkedIn is the premiere B2B networking site for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
“If you want to reach professionals with money then LinkedIn is a good place to start,” she said.
LinkedIn has recently grown beyond the traditional online resume to include a huge variety of professional tools for businesses and individuals including company pages, sales tools for prospecting and a way to find freelancers to help you out.
They’ve also launched a dedicated site to help small businesses establish a brand presence and connect with their target audience. There’s also an opportunity to advertise through ads or sponsored content.
Even if you don’t manage it, your business may already have a Yelp or TripAdvisor page. Contact the site to claim your page and respond to reviews. (Photo: ArthurStock/Shutterstock)
Restaurants, retailers and other local small businesses with brick-and-mortar locations are likely already aware of consumer review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. While these aren’t traditionally thought of as social media websites, online review sites can be great for knowing how your brand is perceived and staying in touch with customers.
“It gives you a way to communicate with your clients. People write reviews for you, and you have an opportunity to respond — the part of social networking that’s so important,” said Thomson.
Be aware: your business may have a Yelp or TripAdvisor listing even if you don’t manage it. Information on these two websites is user-generated, so anyone who wants to write a review for your business can. The good news is both sites allow businesses to claim and manage their listing (to a certain extent), which is how you’ll be able to respond to reviews and also add additional information about your business to make your listing stand out.
Nextdoor is an online community watch group for neighbors to share information about crime, area events and recommending local businesses. The site is only five years old, but already covers 75 percent of all U.S. neighborhoods, CEO Nirav Tolia told TechCrunch in June.
Similarly to other online review sites, businesses can claim their business page on Nextdoor, explained Thomson. Once claimed, you can check your business’s page for accuracy, explore its reputation with the locals and respond to comments and recommendations from other users.
Beyond the major players, there are probably a couple of niche social sites that would be a great fit for you and your business, said Thomson.
“It’s amazing how many sites are out there that you might not even think of,” she said.
For instance, there are a hundreds of sites out there similar to Yelp but specific to restaurants and bars. Or, if you own a pet shop, you may find a website like Catster or Dogster (for cat and dog lovers, respectively) where you can have a presence and provide expert advice or suggest products — and boost brand awareness for your store.
There are thousands of niche websites that can be leveraged to promote your small business, but with only so many hours in the day for sales, marketing, networking and business development — not to mention a little personal downtime — you can’t do it all, said Thomson.
Her advice? “Pick one, market the heck out of it. Of course, there are more channels you can be successful on, but it would be a poor strategy to try to do it all right away.”