You most likely know how social media works for personal use, but social media for small businesses functions a little differently.

Currently, there are over 50 million business pages active on Facebook, and nearly 60% of Americans with social media pages believe that customer service has been improved by social media, allowing them to more easily register complaints or have questions answered.

There are any number of reasons why consumers would use social media to engage with businesses (especially local, smaller businesses) but there are a few basic trends that shed some insight.

First, people are already on Facebook, or using the dedicated app, so it’s a more natural part of their flow to just search within the current network for a business than to step outside that network and search from zero.

Second, and this is particularly true of smaller businesses, the convenience of Messenger for quick interactions is a major factor. It hasn’t got the formality of email or the restriction of a text message. Its conversational tone strikes a very particular balance.

Third, while services like Yelp or Google My Business often provide maps, hours, and reviews, it’s generally more likely that one will find a small business on Facebook than other, larger sites, and all the same information will be presented.

Put all these together, and the plain fact is that most people expect that a business will have a lively and inviting social media presence.

Good Business Is Meeting Expectations

The corollary of the last statement, that people expect a business to be on social media, is that it can seem uncomfortable (or even downright shady) if a business can’t be found on social platforms. How many times have you searched for the hours for that new store around the corner, and found nothing but an opaque reference to their opening day in the local paper? Or worse, you’ve found a Facebook page with no pictures, and a half-finished description?

It’s happened to me more than once, and in each of those cases I’ve had the impression that the businesses in question weren’t up to par. Maybe the impression wasn’t justified – maybe that new store would have been exceptional – but the impression is real, all the same.

No small business should let that kind of a bad first impression taint a customer interaction, and certainly not if it’s so easily preventable. This is the main reason why social media for small businesses is an important part of your digital marketing toolkit.

Which Social Media Platform Is Best for Small Businesses?

A better question would be “which social media platform is best for you?” Not every business needs to be on every platform. When figuring out which platforms you should be targeting, your first step is to develop some Personas to characterize your customer base, so you can figure out what kinds of social media platforms you’ll want to use for your business pages.

Facebook is a good place to start. Indeed, Facebook is used by more than 20% of the world’s population, overall, but more like 80% (on average) of the internet-using population.

Next on our list is Twitter. As a San Francisco digital marketing agency, most of our clients are active on Twitter. Nearly a third of adults with college degrees use Twitter (compared to less than a fifth of those with high school diplomas or less) and a recent survey found that a full 81% of Millennials (if the reader will forgive the term) check Twitter more than daily.

Your ideal customer may eschew those networks in favor of others. For instance, a full third of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network. For adults, Instagram tends to be used more by women than men (38% to 26% respectively), but, if your business generally caters to women, then you’ll want to make yourself known on Pinterest.

This is hardly an exhaustive list. You may find some success on Linkedin (with around 100 million active monthly users, almost two thirds male, and mostly in the business world.)

Your ideal customers might be on Tumblr, with 555 million active monthly users, or QZone, with 640 million. Maybe you’ll get the best bang for your buck on Badoo (20 million active monthly users, in over 200 countries).

How to Get Started with Social Media for Small Business

We mentioned above how uncomfortable it can be to find a vacant social media profile and how detrimental that first impression can be. The first thing you should do before taking a social media profile live is to front-load it with content. Photo albums, posts, shares, or other content will dramatically flesh out your profile so, even on day one, it will seem vibrant.

Don’t shy away from other kinds of media, either. They take longer to produce, and they’re harder to do well, but videos, infographics, and other media are much more likely to gain traction on social media than other kinds of posts. The more engaging your content, the more you can expect people to engage with the rest of your business.

And while we’re on the subject of engagement, remember that use engagement is a two-way street. When people leave comments, or mention your business in tweets, start a dialogue. Social media is inherently participatory, and your business should be part of the conversation.

This Sounds Like a Lot

Well, yes. But that’s where a good digital marketing agency can help you out. But before handing over the reins to a digital marketing agency, you’ll need to be sure that they’ll echo the kind of voice you want your social media to speak with. There are lots of subtle choices in phrasing, or timing, or punctuation, or even grammar that connote very different things to very different people. If you’re letting another agency handle your social media, the best thing you can do is find a like-minded business so that their natural voice can complement (and compliment!) yours.

For instance, we at Colibri Digital Marketing are up front about our values and our business practices, and we generally work with clients whose values align with ours. We’re certified by the NGLCC, we’re a registered B Corp, and, and we would describe ourselves as socially conscious, left-leaning progressives. This makes us a perfect fit for many local San Francisco businesses, but not every digital marketing agency will be right for any potential client.

If you’ve got any deeper questions about leveraging social media for your business, go ahead and click the big friendly button at the foot of this post to schedule a free digital marketing strategy session, or find us on Facebook or Twitter and reach out!

Colibri Digital Marketing
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