Which social network is best for your business?

BY MAGGIE OVERFELT, CNN Money

Facebook 

small business social facebook

What it is: The world’s largest social network, Facebook (FBFortune 500) allows users to share content and conversations, create events and deploy targeted ads.

Best business uses: Generating and fostering relationships with potential clients; advertising.

Who should use it: Everyone

How to maximize your reach: When posting to your Facebook page, include value to the user, said Joe Dinardo of Blue Fountain Media in New York City. Add a few brief business insights when linking to industry news or ask users for feedback when posting pictures. Sharing real-world tales of how your company overcame challenges can connect with users on a personal level, which makes it more likely they’ll become clients.

How not to use it: Don’t advertise directly on your page — that turns fans off. And while Facebook is a great place to address customer complaints, don’t get involved in lengthy back-and-forths. “Try to bring a complainer into your world by being more personal about it, but only respond once,” said Don Sorensen, founder of Big Blue Robot, which helps firms improve their online reputation. “If the discussion turns negative, then it’s open to the rest of the room and can affect the whole party.”

Twitter

small business social twitter

What it is: A site that lets users post messages — “tweets” — of 140 characters or less.

Best business uses: Promoting events, news and specials; building your customer base by fostering conversations where you can show your expertise.

Who should use it: Owners with a few hours per week to read, send and search messages.

How to maximize your reach: Use the hashtag symbol (#) or the advanced search option to find questions that relate to your business and provide answers, said Dinardo. Doing so helps increase engagement with your audience and “plant[s] a seed for a relationship that can turn into a customer,” he said. If readers trust your expertise, they’re more likely to visit your website. And while Twitter is a great place to announce special deals and offers, phrase promotional Tweets conversationally: Your followers don’t want to get slammed with ads.

How not to use it: Don’t blindly retweet or set up automatic tweets. Carefully read articles before you retweet to be sure you’re comfortable with the ideas your company will be conveying. Also, beware of the time sink factor: It’s easy to lose hours going back and forth on Twitter.

LinkedIn

small business social linkedin

What it is: The world’s largest resume pool; a place to read career-oriented blogs and news articles.

Best business uses: Hiring; networking to reach potential clients.

Who should use it: Everyone, especially B2B companies looking for new customers.

How to maximize your reach:Establish relationships with high-quality potential hires before you’re actually hiring, said Dinardo. Join a few LinkedIn (LNKD) groups that relate to your company or market. Once you’ve established yourself in a group, work to answer questions and foster conversations, which will boost your reputation as an expert and help others get to know your company.

How not to use it: Don’t spend too much time pitching your products or services.

YouTube

small business social youtube

What it is: Google’s video-sharing site, which has more than 1 billion unique visitors each month.

Best business use: Building credibility by showcasing your knowledge and skills.

Who should use it: Everyone. Financial advisers, lawyers, and marketing professionals can record themselves offering valuable tips; advertising firms can display their creativity.

How to maximize your reach: Make a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions in your industry and film yourself answering them. Think of “the same kind of queries that people sit down to Google,” said Liz Jostes, co-owner of Eli Rose Social Media. And because YouTube videos show up in Google (GOOGFortune 500) search results, make sure to optimize the videos with as many keywords as possible.

How not to use it: Don’t post long videos — keep them under a minute and a half, said Jostes. Focus on one question or issue per video to keep your message on track. And don’t leave anything blank: “Add your company URL and links to all your other social media accounts to your YouTube Channel,” said Jostes.

Pinterest

small business social pinterest

What it is: A place to create and share links centered around visual themes.

Best business use: Promoting your brand to a female-skewed audience.

Who should use it: Retailers, manufacturers and travel sites whose brands lend themselves to images.

How to maximize your reach: Use good SEO practices when titling your boards and filling out pins and descriptions. “Social media sites are search engines — people go to the search boxes and type things in,” said Heather Lutze, author of Thumbonomics: The Essential Business Roadmap to Social Media & Mobile Marketing. “It’s important to name your boards with phrases people will search for.”

Lutze also recommends regularly checking Google Trends: If people are searching for something related to your business or industry, create a board or pins around the topic.

How not to use it: Keep personal pins highlighting your favorite books, fashion, and travel photos separate from those linking to your company’s URL, said Lutze, although it’s OK for both business and personal boards to reside in the same profile. Never use copyrighted pictures to create pins.

Instagram

small business social instagram

What it is: Photo app that allows you to apply artsy effects to your shots.

Best business use: Promoting your brand via stylized images to a largely twenty-something audience.

Who should use it: Hotels, restaurants, consumer products companies and other firms with lots of photos of properties and goods.

How to maximize your reach: The revenue generated by an Instagram follower is 10 times greater than that generated by a Twitter follower, according to data analytics firm SumAll, so you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck if you take take the time to post interesting shots of your products.

“Take pictures of what makes your business unique, whether it’s an office perk (like the organic fruit we receive from The Fruit Guys), a conference you’re attending, or pictures of your team and/or products and customers,” said Rhea Drysdale, CEO of Outspoken Media.

Instagram doesn’t let you link pictures to your website, so connect your account to Facebook or Twitter so the photos are cross-posted there. Eli Rose’s Jostes recommends using the hashtag to search for photos of your products and share those on your other social media pages.

How not to use it: Don’t let your account go dormant, said Jostes. Update it with new pictures at least every other week.

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