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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Business Books

Can we learn “sales” through books?

It depends on the type of books.


Business Books

Is it a book by “Prof. John Smith” (or any other scholar’s name) with 30 years experience in teaching business to undergraduates, or a book by Donald Trump, the successful American real estate tycoon or Steve Jobs the iconic marketing figure who transformed Apple into a technology giant or even Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist and philosopher who wrote “The Art of War”, the important, ancient made contemporary, guide to business men all over the world nowadays?

Because, it does make a difference.

Is it "peanuts" to sell peanuts to any and everybody?

Is it “peanuts” to sell peanuts to any and everybody?

Now, no one should intend or even attempt the belittling of scholarly and academic work on the scientific aspect of sales (whether mathematics, psychology or other disciplines), since their contribution to the field are of invaluable importance.

Business from the outset and in the end is concerned with selling things, ideas, values or needs to others. And scholarly work has contributed great insights to the business field that couldn’t have been conjured with the simple practise of it, in the absence of the devoted intervention of observation, in-depth research, analysis and publication.

But in my personal experience, books of the likes of Steve Jobs and Donald Trump carry more applicable value to the sales discipline than “philosophical sales literature”, since the lessons they teach are derived from real business life experience with all their truisms & contradictions, success and failures, moralities & immoralities.

Innovative Business Doing

And by “applicable value to the sales discipline”, I am not necessarily referring to the blind copying of previous strategies that have proven profitable or successful or to the obedient fellowship of remarkable businessmen whose results spoke authoritatively for them.

Some of us may try to go about business, selling and entrepreneurship differently, trying to invent new idea’s or innovate old ones, for having critical thoughts about present-time business conduct. But, having any moral or practical objections to how business is conducted in our world can only thrive in a useful way, if preceded by applicable knowledge of (& awareness about) what has been done already or what is being done, in order to do it it differently, more responsibly, more humane or less selfish.

learning by practice

I can also speak of own experience and say that about 75% of my sales skills (that are still in continuous development) were gained through practise and training and not exactly from books!

And no, I wasn’t “born a salesman at all”. Actually I always was more of an academic person and a book worm, whose relationship with business and sales was only limited to the demands of my choice of education and my drive to pass exams. This was so, until I started practical selling of my language services and later those of others around the world through my language services agency, from 2008 up and until 2013.

It didn’t stop me from reading. On the contrary, it ignited an even greater thirst for knowledge in me, seeking it in a different way that is defined by my own demands and those of my company, customers and freelance co-workers. It gave me more freedom to interpret and apply theoretical knowledge with more real-life “wisdom”, sound scrutiny and due creativity.

Doing things was more crucial to my grasp of sales than “knowing how it is done” was.

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!

Excellent communication is hearing “unsaid things”. Do you agree?

True, capturing “unsaid things” is the best complementation of verbal communication.

Sometimes “you say it best, when you say nothing at all”, like the words of the famous Notting Hill (1999) sound-track song, sung much more beautifully by Alison Krauss than BoyZone’s Ronan Keaton who performed the official sound-track.

(I will let you enjoy it first)

Some studies claim that non-verbal communication makes up 94% of all communication humans have with each other, while others claim that it’s just an exaggerated hoax, borrowed from a “showbizz” soap. Do your own research!

In any event, I believe that body language constitutes the bigger part of our communication. This is indicative of the importance of non-verbal language especially in informal contexts, where people tend to be more loose with their gestures, but certainly in formal context too (like in sales, negotiations or a job interview).

non-verbal communication

This means that abrupt or unexpected silence can be the same as verbally saying something. One can figure out what people are saying or intend to articulate but can’t, through their silence. And what they are saying can be captured through our eyes when in a face-to-face context or even through our ears. Say what?

job-interview-body-language

Yes, when noticing that a weird unexpected silent gap is dropped over the phone or in a face to face context, contrary to the most common expectation, based on our common-sense or close familiarity with that person in question, the chances of being accurate in figuring out what is been told and not voiced, are big. These chances grow substantially when our sharp observation is backed-up by an intelligent “processing & interpretation system”.

This interpretation system includes our mastery of social skills as a result of having a high EQ (Emotional Quotient), the scientific indicator of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, on its turn, is often interchangeably, but not necessarily mistakenly, confused with another important part of our “intelligent being” which is “social intelligence”. It denotes our extra-ordinary ability (compared to others) to identify, understand, relate to and act properly upon our own emotions and those of others in different situations, even when nothing is audibly said or explicitly shared.


 

TypesOfNonVerbalCommunication

Having put forward all of this, I also like the counter-input that denotes that non-verbal language, while being extremely accurate sometimes, is tricky by its complex nature, since it cannot be checked or controlled. Also, it is strongly culturally influenced. For example, the famous Indian head-shake to the right and left does not mean “No”; it actually is a sign of agreeing to something or liking something. It is a “Yes” in Indian, while everything about it should mean “No” in many other cultures. (although an accompanying smile may cause some corrective confusing)

Add to this the fact that the interpretation of non-verbal communication is mostly left to the judgement & analysis of the recipient and, here comes the best part, the scrutiny and refute of the sender: “I didn’t say that! How can you even catch something that I haven’t explicitly said?”. Does this sounds familiar?

professor-cuddy-studies-body-language-the-non-verbal-communication-that-can-tell-us-almost-everything-about-what-is-going-on-in-a-given-situation

Were Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy arguing about something in the right picture? Or were they insisting on the other person entering first as a positive social gesture?

In formal business related dealings, non-verbal language can be a tricky form of communication. It may come in handy to know how your Japanese, Saudi or Nigerian business counter-parts expect you to greet them or build a trustworthy relationship with them, but don’t improvise too much and stick to what you know about them and to what you can exchange comfortably within your shared communication-context, topic or language.

In legal dealings it is no wonder that the foundation of some of the most important pillars of our modern society, like Law & Justice, are functionally based on tangibly felt and presentable unambiguous proofs of deeds committed, words exchanged or idea’s plotted, and less on “hunch”, feelings or non-verbal communication, making it both rock strong and full of loopholes, at the same time.

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.