What 7 social media websites are the best for SMB online presence?

Choosing the right social media outlet for your small business depends on many factors related, but not limited, to:

  1. Your business,
  2. Your customers and
  3. The existent in-house knowledge of the people in charge of executing your social media promotion campaigns.

This article assumes that you won’t be outsourcing your social media activities to external agencies, since in such case this article should be “old news” to a savvy social media manager. social-media-overwhelm2 The number of social media websites has grown substantially. Some big ones are expanding everyday, others are being born and are growing in popularity and old ones are losing their shine and are cast into oblivion. As such, making the right choice for a social media can be a tedious process. Not all social media populate the right audience for your marketing messages or have the features you are looking for.

It’s okay to be selective, as long as you have a clear social media motive & objective with high Return on Investment (ROI) expectations.

Before we move on to recommending the best social media websites for small businesses, there are some rules of thumb that need to be kept in mind before you even attempt making a choice for a perfect social media match.

1. Know what Social Media are in relation to Marketing

If you are new to social media, or if your knowledge of social media is limited to having a Facebook profile, browsing videos in YouTube or posting some pictures on Instagram, you need to get to know social media a little bit more first. Read articles about them, scroll down the homepage and read the “unexplored sections” of your favourite social media website like [advertisement], [about us], [FAQs, Frequently Asked Questions], [privacy statements] etc. There is business model behind every social media website and this business model relies heavily on people like you using it as a marketing platform, whether paid or free. The good thing about social media is that it allows for free and low-budget marketing. You can achieve a lot through posting excellent content & mastering the art of effective social engagement (attractive call to action messages). You can read more about the relation between social media and marketing in my other article with title: “How Long Will Social Media Marketing Stay Effective“. https://twitter.com/OpenAnswer/status/495607482300235776   Also, try to immerse yourself in the vast literature that has been written on social media behaviour and strategy. It will help you understand a number of important, though seemingly trivial, elements of social media interaction and engagement that are vital for your success. You may be able to answer questions like:

  1. Why do people click on some posts but ignore others?
  2. What is viral sharing and how can I transform it into “viral marketing” of my product page or blog post?
  3. Why are video’s, pictures and emotional headlines more likely to be liked, clicked on and shared than others?
  4. What causes people to not like my company’s Facebook page, dislike my YouTube video or unfollow me on Twitter?
  5.  How can social media success be measured? What tools can I use and what metrics should I set?

2. See how others, competitors, are doing it.

Yes, do it! We were all once beginners and there is a first time for everything. Take the opportunity to check how your competitors specifically are going about their social media exposure or read clear-cut case-studies about social media successes (and failures) for small business within your geography, customer demography or business sector. This is only another way of conducting the oh so vital market research before you draw up the even more vital Social Media Marketing Plan. (You are going to make a plan, aren’t you?)

3. Be social, creative, authentic, engaged, active and communicative.

social-media-signs As the name implies, social media is all about being social, socially active and sociable (= mostly likeable). You or the person(s) in charge of carrying out your social media campaigns should also have some creativity in compelling writing, attractive design or a reasonable mix of both. Some knowledge of HTML code (for embedding images, video’s, tweets etc.), web design, graphic design or image manipulation skills may come in handy. A successful blogger is mostly someone who has a sufficient dose of these skills to lead a small-scale social media campaign.

4. Know how social media performance is monitored and managed.

SocialMediaEngagement Putting all of your creative development and digital assets out there on social media is not enough. Plug yourself into the rich vein of social media analytics tools like Hootsuite, BufferApp, TweetDeck etc or more advanced ones like Sysomos. See whether such tools can deliver answers to questions, such as:

  1. How would you know that what you are doing is right or wrong?
  2. What kind of content seems to bring about more engagement through clicks, likes, shares or favourites?
  3. How would you know that your declining sales or increasing website hits are the result of your social media activity?
  4. How can you distinguish between the performance of your Twitter account, YouTube channel and Facebook company page?
  5. Why has your LinkedIn company page not been followed or liked for whole 3 months?

5. Draw up a water-proof Social Media Plan and follow it up with analysis and review.

Your business plan can contain any elements you deem important to your company’s social media success, but it should definitely include the following main elements:

  1. Your business goals and objectives: identify them and define them.
  2. Your social media objectives in relation to your business goals
  3. Define your parameters and metrics pertaining to these objectives: choose the right tools to manage your online performance.
  4. Identify and define your target group: is it your existing customers, potential customers or social media influencers (Brand PR)?
  5. Keep the competition’s online presence in mind: research & calculate their social media performance in terms of fellowship numbers AND engagement rates.

The 7 best social media websites for small business.

social-media-logos-100339762-orig I will let you do you own research on the specific feature of each of the social media websites I selected and move on to recommending them in order of preference or fitness to most small businesses’ marketing objectives. I would aim for the big 5: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ & YouTubeincluding photo and interest sharing platforms, Instagram & Pinterest in one category and some “new-comers”. The reasoning behind my selection is derived from their authority, functionality, market leadership, technological advancement, clear advertising models, being international (multilingual), ease of use and off course big number of members (= more exposure). If your business is a B2C small business, the best social media platforms I recommend in order of relevance & importance are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. Google+
  4. LinkedIn
  5. YouTube (becomes a top-3 if you can make engaging video, relevant to your business)
  6. Instagram or Pinterest (moves up to number two or three if it is a product, or a service, deriving value & marketability from design or packaging = fancy photo’s. Like cloths or shoes or beauty services or accessories)
  7. Ryze

If a B2B small business, the best social media I recommend  in order of relevance & importance are:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Google+
  3. Twitter
  4. Facebook
  5. YouTube (becomes a top-3 if you can make engaging video, relevant to your business)
  6. Instagram or Pinterest (become more important if it is a product, not a service, deriving value & marketability from design or packaging = fancy photo’s. Like office stationery, ornaments or furniture)
  7. Quora
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Top_Ten_Digital_Marketing_Trends_for_2012

What important “marketing trends” do you foresee in the near future?

  1. Marketing budgets and expenditure will gradually shift in growth towards more Digital Marketing & less Traditional Marketing.shift-toward-digital-BIA-Kelsey

  2. Digital Marketing will grow in importance corresponding to our growingly digitalized lives & will soon be the centre all marketing orbits around.Local-Media-Shift-Toward-Digital

  3. Smart-phone-friendly responsive web design & web development will become an established quality-norm, in relation to marketing.Smart-phone-friendly responsive web design web development

  4. Ad re-targeting using browsing history, internet behaviour & predictive search techniques will grow.Banner-Ad-Retargeting

  5. TV advertisements will still be important in combination with online TV video-sharing for quick brand awareness & exposure.TV-ads

  6. Content Marketing will become more important, whether text-based, image-cantered, interactive or dynamic.content-marketing-model-for-2013

  7. Social Media Marketing will become a more diverse new form of “traditional marketing”.Traditional-Marketing-vs-Social-Media-Marketing-Smaller

  8. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will continue to evolve around social media marketing & the so-called “quality content”.WP-Social-Media-Link

  9. Connectivity to internet through more devices, appliances, public machines & public services will cause simplification & amplification of marketing messages.microcontent

  10. Text-based content will be the norm in online marketing & visual Marketing will continue to compete with traditional text-based content (mainly blogs) using visual content like pictures, videos, inforgraphics, webcasts, podcasts, slides etc.popular content-types

 

worldtongue

What is the difference between a “dialect” and an “accent”?

Let’s test our knowledge first.

Is the funny secretary, “wanna-be interpreter”, in the video below imitating accents or dialects?

Actually the talented English comedian, Caterine Tate, is imitating none of the two in this comic video. She’s just making fun of the sound of some languages that are literally foreign to her; she speaks none of them. As such, she cannot be speaking in an accent or a dialect belonging to these languages.

Accents and dialects are often used interchangeably to describe the non-native sound of a spoken language. But accents and dialects mean two different things, in fact. I speak three languages fluently and in different dialects and accents; Arabic, English & Dutch. I also used to run a language services business for 5 years. So, the subject does intrigue me as such to delve into in more details.

What accents and dialects do have in common is that they are the natural results of “language competition” in people’s verbal communication system. They are mostly linked to those who speak, hear, know or are exposed to more than one language or to a form of language different than the official one because of geography, ethnicity or both.

Anglophone World Map

Anglophone World Map

Accents and dialects are both “spoken-form distinctions” from what is usually referred to as a Modern Standard Language form, spoken by a larger or a dominant group with a well-developed written form. While spoken Modern Standard Languages are commonplace in many (multi-cultural) countries like the US, the UK , The Netherlands, France and Germany, or even less multi-cultural ones like China and Japan, in Arabic countries as a region language is a different story.

The modern standard form of Arabic is only official, academic, literary, educational, legal, media-centred or written but no longer spoken by the common man in the street. So, all Arabic people in fact only communicate in Arabic dialects.

Arabic Dialects Map

Arabic Dialects Map

Some dialects are derived from other older languages and have evolved to become official forms of another language and are no longer dialects but official languages, like Mexican Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese & Cantonese Chinese (Hong Kong).

Spanish Speaking World

Spanish Speaking World

Some may put “Indian English” in a separate category too as a dialect and not only an accent, although not globally acknowledged, for having different uses in its official form and for being used by a very large population. But the large population of India (1.237 billion per 2012) already has its fair share of national dialects, as you can see below, making a sub-categorisation of “Indian English” both possible & impossible.

Dialects of India

Dialects of India

Accents relate to pronunciation differences of the same words pertaining to same meanings while using the standard grammatical & spelling form of a given official language. Dialects also relate to pronunciation but often have totally different words for the same meaning or same words for totally different meanings. Dialects also distinguish themselves for having distinctive (new or forgotten) words and language uses of their own.

One Word, Different Pronounciation

One Word,  one Meaning, but 5 different Pronunciation!

Having an accent can be an individual label of a person or one related to a certain group of people, usually characterized by having a shared native tongue or a shared/similar cultural background. In Holland, the second  biggest minority of Moroccans is believed to have a certain “Moroccan accent” (but not exactly a dialect) while native Dutchmen in the Eastern part of Holland do have a distinctive dialect with its own words, uses and phrases.

People of Levant Countries (Palestine, Syria, Jordan & Lebanon) have different dialects among them, but a shared one when compared to the more similar dialects of the Arabic Gulf Countries. (see Arabic Dialects Map, above)

The French Speaking World

The French Speaking World

Having a dialect is mostly a collective characteristic of certain people of a shared ethnic (but mostly geographical) background while sharing a standard form of language that is taught in main-stream schools. People in Rotterdam, my number one home city, have a distinct dialect than those of Amsterdam, but can speak Modern Standard Dutch (ABN or Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands), any time.

How do you say "Razor Blades" in Australian?

How do you say “Razor Blades” in Australian?

The most famous example is probably the difference between British, American, Canadian and Australian accents, which, while differing in word use and vocabulary sometimes, are more often called accents than dialects, probably because the official forms of these language forms are still very similar in vocabulary, use and grammar for the major part and because they are direct derivatives of British English.

British Dialects

British Dialects

This, while the Irish, Welsh and Scottish, for example still have their own original and official languages (Gaelic, Welsh & Celtic, respectively) that have had more influence in their variant of English than in the case of the US, Canada, New Zealand & Australia.

social-media-search (1)

How long will “Social Media Marketing” stay effective?

Social Media Marketing will remain effective as long as people/members on social media don’t lose their social engagement appetite on social networking sites (like Facebook), professional networking sites (like LinkedIn) and/or social sharing websites (like YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Digg, Reddit etc.).

I LikeThe sheer idea of people losing interest in such websites will cause advertisers to look for different territories to find target audiences, thereby influencing the development of the social media industry itself and its advertisement-based models, when investment money stops pouring in as it used to the last 15+ years

My own depiction of the dependency-relationship Social Media and Marketing have, is as follows:

  1. Social Media Companies need Investors
  2. Investors need Return on their Investment (ROI)
  3. Investor’s ROI needs Social Media Success
  4. Social Media Success for Investors needs Advertisement Money
  5. Advertisement Money needs High Marketing ROI Guarantees
  6. High Marketing ROI Guarantees need High On-site Engagement Statistics
  7. High On-site Engagement Stats need Big Members Bases & Advertisement Model Development
  8. Big Members Bases Growing & Advertisement Model Development need Investment to Achieve Fast Development & Exposure
  9. Investment to Achieve Fast Development & Exposure need the Marketing industry to promote Social Media massively
  10. The Marketing Industry builds a natural “livelihood alliance” with Social Media, and the circle is round again.

social-media-networks

This basically means that as long as member-bases, overall engagement rates and on-site browsing rates do not show alarming decline or become threatened by a new more popular entrant or a next-better-thing, like Skype or Whatsapp (social media Apps), typical social media websites will continue to thrive at exponential and hard to keep rates.

WhatsApp_Facebook_iOS

And if such “threats” appear to be eminent, the affluent giants (like Facebook & Twitter) will “annex” them through acquisition, exactly like Facebook did with it’s $19 billion acquisition of Whatsapp.

14.02.19-Facebook-WhatsApp


 

Birth of an alliance

Marketing through social media arose from the basic foundation which marketing has always thrived on, which is reaching target audiences with tailored marketing messages to achieve maximum exposure and high guarantee of marketing ROI (whether sales related or brand awareness related).

social media cartoon

Social Media created the ultimate “reality version” of what was viewed as a “fairy tale world” to the mighty marketing industry, where (potential) customer are no longer fragmented & difficult to reach or to define, but rather gathered, connected & organized happily & voluntarilyin one place (like Facebook, a specific Facebook group or a country-category) to receive the marketing initiatives of businesses and organizations, while members (again, voluntarily) share & contribute their own “user-generated content“, either providing insights for research analysts, facilitating profile-targeting advertising techniques OR spreading the word among their virtual social network members (who are often members of real-life social networks too).

Social-Media-Content-600x399


 

Viral Magic

The very nature of social media, allows for a strange effect never before experienced in the world of marketing, which is the so-called viral-spread of information, or Viral Marketing

viral-social-social-phoenix-az1

Viral Marketing means that if every five people who liked (not by smiling at it but by clicking on it) your Facebook updates or Twitter tweet shared this with all of their Facebook friends” or “Twitter followers”, and their friends did the same in a continuous domino-effect of sharing, the number of people who would read your text or click on the link initially posted by you 10 minutes ago, may suddenly be in thousands, in a “split of a second” (or at the click of a mouse).

And all of this is still done happily and voluntarily by the social media crowd. Plus, there is little to no annoyance any more from unwanted SPAM emails jamming your e-mail box or advertisement flyers and folders stuffed in your real home-mail box! How so happily and voluntarily?

Social-Media-Marketing Like

Well,

  • Happily, because membership is mostly free & it allows for convenient social interaction with dear ones or new others.
  • Voluntarily, because registration, content posting and content sharing are facilitated & encouraged by design AND protection of privacy is left to the control of the members themselves (to an acceptable but controversial extent), through the indispensable “privacy settings” option.

Both the marketing industry & the social media players will make sure such a massive marketing platform (better to say an ever expanding marketing universe) will not lose its shine that soon!

It’s a strong & hard to break alliance!

Quailty assurance

What is the different between “quality control” & “quality assurance”?

Quality Assurance is a managerial concept aimed at assuring high quality of processes, permeating the whole (or essential parts) of business conduct, while involving all professionals in the process.

Quality Control is a corrective concept aimed at evaluating a product (or service provision) in its final result, carried out by some specialized professionals.

Quality-Assurance-vs-Quality-Control

Example:

Editing of text in writing and validation of software in software engineering are forms of Quality Assurance. Proofreading of texts in writing and testing of final software are forms of Quality Control.

Acquisition vs Retention

What is more important “acquisition” or “retention”?

None of the two yet, as the definitive answer depends mainly on the phase of business life cycle the company finds itself in and as a derivative thereof, the customer life cycle. In any event, it is a rule of thumb, that you should not be a business that loses clients “carelessly”. 


customer-lifecycle-online

Determining whether “acquisition” or “retention” is better at any given phase, depends on many factors that need to be calculated carefully, like:

  1. The phase of business life cycle the company is in. A start-up will have a different strategy than a mature business geared towards more acquisition.
  2. Is it B2C or B2B?
  3. Are you selling products or services?
  4. Service or product life time: once per month or once per 5 years?
  5. Market competition: how fiercely do you have to fight for customers?
  6. Necessity of acquisition; do you actually have to acquire customers intensively or do they choose you willingly?
  7. Necessity of retention; Do you have to retain customers or do they come back every time “voluntarily”?
  8. The type of product or service you’re selling in terms of high-loyalty products, luxury products, basic products, FMCG etc.
  9. Market micro-economics: like purchase-power & competition.
  10. Business sector: a B2C translation agency for only certified translations of official papers (diploma’s and ID’s) may choose to concentrate on acquisition and word-of-mouth marketing, since repeat purchase is unchangeably low for this specific service.

Most experts would put retention higher on the importance-list than acquisition, taking all pro’s and con’s into consideration, for reasons related to the researched fact that the cost of acquisition is 2,5 times the cost of client retention in relation to ROI. Although this percentage fluctuates regularly, sometimes claiming that retention’s ROI is 3 times that of acquisition, it has always had a non-variable & consistent advantage in favour of retention.

ROI Marketing

It basically means that it costs much more to attract new customers (without necessarily converting them into buyers) than to actually invest in current customers who already performed a first purchase. Furthermore, your existent client base is the livelihood of your business at less cost, while acquisition is like taking a wild guess in terms of expected ROI, but a certain loss in terms expenditure.

retention-versus-acquisition

Others would argue that no retention is possible without acquisition preceding it, in the first place. How could you retain a “client” that you haven’t acquired yet? That client is non-existent and you should acquire him/her first.

It’s your say based on a more detailed and subjective approach, that leaved little space to philosophy and more to factual data and market research findings.

Social-Media-Equals-Modern-Day-Customer-Service

Does social media customer service have any effect on sales?

Yes, not only “any”, but “many” effects, good ones and bad ones.

You go smartly & carefully about providing customer service through social media, and your overall customer satisfaction will rise substantially in a transparent, easily accessible way to potential customer, brand influencers & other brand promoters. Customer satisfaction, naturally, will eventually lead to increased sales.

social-media-customer-service

Approval rates of social media customer service.

To achieve this, don’t move your whole customer service activities to social media! Dedicate your Facebook page and Twitter account to general inquiries, the type of which you want the given answers to go online, stay online and go viral to promote your brand.

impactofsocialcustomerservice

Impact of Social Customer Service, according to businesses. 

Don’t discuss customer-specific or order-specific info online (respect the privacy of your customers and you own company). Also, don’t solve a dispute online to avoid reputation damage predators from “smelling blood”! Use positive customer feedback on social media to frequently unleash direct sales messages (links, coupons, special offers, discounts, free delivery). Be patient.