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
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

 

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.

Eid-ul-Fitr-Sweets-2014-1

Which industries are most booming during “Ramadan” and “Eid Al-Fitr” in the Middle East?

Ramadan and EID

  1. Food:  it’s booming shortly before Ramadan & during and after Ramadan, celebrating Eid, performing “Zakat Al Fitr” (the equivalent of Thanksgiving in the US) and the end of fasting by buying all kinds of delicious foods and sweets enough to cater for collective social gatherings designed around “enjoyment of food” and often characterized by excess (thus excessive purchase) to convey generosity and avoid “shortcoming”. Ramadan food
  2. Cloths & apparel: Only towards the end of Ramadan: mostly the very last few days, because of a general “last-minute mentality” & to enjoy possible retail discounts.
  3. The advertisement industry: through a thriving TV industry tailored around advertisement, with all kinds of religious & entertaining programs including hosted shows by big brands and more frequent commercial-break interruptions. Advertisement during Ramadan in Middle east-OpenAnswer
  4. Transportation and airways: Ramadan & Eid are social events encouraging social togetherness by nature. You could also argue that people during day-time in Ramadan reduce their transportation time as a result of preferring to stay home and avoid heat and compensate for this greatly by having a longer (transportation-heavy) social night life.
  5. Electronics: especially smart-phones and smartphone gadgets. Sales of smart-phone may show rise only towards the end of Ramadan, as a way of “changing old with new”, following the very (religiously taught) tradition of Eid that underlies the habit of the massive buying of new cloths. Or as a result of traditional buying gifts to dear ones. Smartphone-usage-Middle East-openanswer
  6. Electrical appliances: these are said to be booming too shortly before & during Ramadan, especially refrigerators to provide cooling for saved-up-for-later food, by those who need a new better one and air conditioners to provide comfort in times of abstain from eating food and drinking water (cooling effect) in mostly warm regions.
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.