Social media is an excellent, low-cost, high-impact marketing tool for local businesses. But not every target audience spends their time on every social media channel; the key is to find where yours is and focus your energy there. Research from the GlobalWebIndex found that the average person is signed up to five social media accounts, but only actively uses three of these – so finding out what’s best for your business is essential.
Finding your audience
It all seems so simple at first.Sign up to all the social media channels and just start posting. Your audience will quickly find you and immediately you’ll have hundreds of new followers clinging to your every word.
Well, not quite. There’s a lot more thought that needs to go into deciding which social media channels are right for your business. Facebook may have 1.591 billion monthly users but if your audience isn’t among them, then this channel won’t be worth your time.
To help you find your audience, think about where your usual customers are most likely to spend their time online. Consider factors like their age, background, access to the internet and personal interests. Instead of trying to force them to use whatever channel you are using, find out their ‘natural habitat’ and become part of it.
One way to do this on Twitter and Instagram is to search for hashtags related to your business to see whether people are talking about the services or products you offer. On LinkedIn you can use the in-built search tools to look for updates or posts that relate to your business to see what people are saying.
Be careful not to assume only younger customers use social media, or that ‘serious’ businesses aren’t interested in it – you could miss out on an opportunity to connect with your audience. For example, research from GlobalWebIndex shows that 70% of people over 50 have a Facebook account, 34% have a YouTube account and just over a third have a Twitter account.
Finding the channel
You should also think about the products or services your business sells and what channels would be best suited to them. This means a bit of research into how other businesses are using social media channels, but as a starting point:
LinkedIn is generally a business networking channel, which could be great for B2B businesses to focus their energy.
Instagram and Pinterest are visual channels, and lifestyle, DIY, health, beauty and food images are popular so perhaps if you’re a restaurant or beauty salon these channels could be perfect for you.
Facebook is a friendly, fun channel where people are given plenty of opportunities to voice their opinions, which could be good for service businesses.
Twitter is a fast-paced channel where regular updates, time-limited offers and short, snappy statuses are essential, which could be excellent for retail businesses.
This doesn’t mean, for example, you should never use Pinterest if you’re a plumber. But knowing what sort of updates are popular on these channels will help you work out whether you can offer that audience something they want.
You could also choose to use a number of different channels, but give each of them a different purpose depending on the customers who use those channels.
Putting it together – an example
Jenna and Mike run a floristry business, and they often take pictures of their finished bouquets. After doing a bit of research, they see that their potential customers are interested in new products and ways to create their own flower arrangements. They also have a B2B audience – conference venues who need flower arrangements for events.
Here are the social media channels they decide to use, and what they’ll have on them:
Instagram, where they share images of individual flowers and highlight which are new to the store
YouTube, where they film video tutorials of creating flower arrangements
Pinterest, where they share images from the video tutorials and link to them
LinkedIn, where they share case studies of corporate projects for their B2B audience
Trial and error
Finding the right social media channel is about taking the time to explore what each one of them does, and making sure your target audience is using it. Facebook and Twitter may be the most popular choices, but if no one there is looking for your products or services, focusing your efforts there will be a waste of time.
Ultimately, it’s all about thinking like your customer and being in the places that they’re in. And if you get it wrong, don’t worry! Social media is all about trial and error, and eventually you’ll find the winning social media formula for your business.