The best way to promote your business online is through social media platforms. 78% of people trust peer recommendations, whereas only 14% trust ads. Just think about how often you’ve tried something based on someone else telling you that it’s worth checking out.
Having a great online presence on the right platforms not only makes your business more personable and approachable, helping you build great relationships with your current and potential customers, but more importantly it offers you the opportunity amplify your message to millions of others.
That being said, for small business owners, time and resources is something they cannot afford to waste. With new social media platforms popping up all over the place, the choices can get overwhelming, but jumping into the right one can be tremendously rewarding.
Here’s my breakdown of 7 social media websites, and why they could be worth your time.
1. Facebook - Most of you reading this probably have a personal profile on Facebook and possibly even a Facebook “fan page”
With over 850 million users, Facebook is the one platform that is pretty much a no-brainer.
As you may have noticed, Facebook recently updated the look of everyone’s profiles to display as timelines. Timeline is the Facebook’s new profile that helps tell your life story through photos, friendships and personal milestones like graduating or traveling to new places.
In the upcoming weeks, Facebook will be doing the same for brand pages. Timeline is a great chance to tell the stories that make your business unique. Also, Facebook ads have emerged as a popular and cost-effective way to promote your small business to targeted users online.
2. Twitter - Twitter is one of those platforms that has a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it can serve as a tremendous benefit to your small business.
It’s the perfect tool to directly engage with individual customers, and is an instant way to get feedback and learn from your customers to improve your product or service.
Twitter took me a while to learn, but I feel like it is the most personal of all the social platforms, and you can’t beat it for truly building relationships. If you’re looking to start somewhere, begin by reading Melinda’s post on how Twitter changed her life.
3. LinkedIn - LinkedIn works well if you are in one of the more professional fields. Along with yourself, you can create a company profile for your business.
Another useful feature is LinkedIn’s groups. Here you can connect with other like-minded folks as well as potential customers. In my opinion, this is the best part of LinkedIn. Groups allow you to gather and network with others in your industry.
4. YouTube – YouTube, which happens to be owned by Google, is the largest video platform and surprisingly enough, is the second largest search engine. You can create a branded YouTube channel, which is a positive addition to your social presence, especially if you’re committed to creating compelling and informational videos.
Video can be a very powerful tool to demonstrate your expertise. What’s great about YouTube is that it’s good for seo (search engine optimization), has a global audience, and has the potential for your videos to go viral.
5. Tumblr - Tumblr is a free micro-blogging platform and community where people set up blogs or “tumblelogs”. It allows you to post pretty much anything —videos, audio files, photos, links and text notes. In addition, people from Tumblr community can reblog your posts to share with their followers.
The best thing about Tumblr is that it’s dead simple. It’s easy to set up and customize, and you can start posting within minutes and it’s packed with great visually appealing themes.
If you want to start up a blog for your business, Tumblr is a good place to start.
6. Foursquare - Foursquare is different from the others mentioned here. It’s a smartphone based geo-location app that rewards users with points for every time they check in to various locations. The person, who checks into a place the most, claims mayorship of that particular location.
Registering your business on Foursquare, and then offering badges or special deals can be a compelling way of inducing people to check-in when they visit.
With over 10 million users, Foursquare is a nice platform to experiment with if you’re looking to set up a rewards based system with your loyal customers.
7. Pinterest - This platform is buzzing at the moment, and for good reason. In the past six months, visits to Pinterest grew by 4000%, receiving an amazing 11 million hits in just one week. One of the most interesting stats about Pinterest is the fact that over 80% of its users are women.
You can use Pinterest to host contests, inspire your customers, offer exclusive discounts to your followers and perhaps most importantly sell your products by adding a price to your pinned item and directing them to your online store.
I often hear Pinterest users saying, “I’m addicted!” For businesses, that can be a great thing.
Pinterest has also proved to be a great way to drive traffic to your site, and in some cases, has out-performed Facebook.
Choosing the right social media platform for your business comes down to where your users are, and which one you enjoy using.
I’ve enjoyed experimenting with all of these platforms. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Personally, Twitter has been really working well for my startup PressPass.
Getting yourself involved in the right emerging social media websites can really benefit your business as you ride the platform’s rapidly growing number of users to acquire new customers.
Over to you now. Have you tried out any of these platforms for your business? What methods have you used that worked, and what didn’t?
Valencio Cardoso is a product designer, and social media marketer. He is the co-founder of PressPass.me — an interactive directory of journalists and media organizations aimed at helping startups and small businesses find the right journalists for their newsworthy stories. Message him on twitter @ValencioCardoso