social networks

Which social network is right for my small business?

One of the best, and potentially free ways to grow your small business or startup is through social media. Many of you might use one or several social networks personally, but when it comes time to make that jump into managing a business social account, it can be a daunting decision. Below we’ve broken down the basics of each of the major social networks, listed some pros and cons, and what type of business could be best served by that network.

We’re big proponents of using multiple networks to appeal to a range of customers. That said, it’s better to have one well-managed social profile than multiple networks that are partially done. If you want to have a complete social portfolio, it might be time to consider hiring a consultant.

It’s important to remember the cons listed below are not necessarily reasons to avoid that network, but things to consider when building a strategy. We’re also just going into the major social networks (and may add more later), but there are plenty of social networks out there that may fill a huge need depending on your target market. If you’re not sure what your target market is, read this.

Facebook

Monthly Active Users: 1.59 Billion (Dec. 2015)

Post Type(s): Text, photo, video, check-in, links

Pros

  • Most users of any network
  • Most varied post type
  • Extensive post add-ons
  • Best advertising targeting tools
  • Can be used as a rudimentary business website
  • Many ways for customers to connect with your brand
  • Allows reviews from customers
  • Comprehensive, free analytics

Cons

  • Puts premium on paid posts from pages
  • Advertising targeting can be difficult to perfect
  • Takes the most work to get a complete-looking page
  • Can be harder to gain page fans for free than other networks

Best for: Businesses who need to connect with customers on a very personal level. Facebook allows conversations between a brand and their fans to happen pretty easily between comments, messages and a host of other ways to let fans know of your contact information. It’s also great from brands who generally have a lot to say in their posts since there aren’t low post length restrictions.

Twitter

Monthly Active Users: 305 Million (Dec. 2015)

Post Type(s): microblogs (140 characters or less), videos and photos

Pros:

  • Doesn’t take as long to write a post
  • Easy to jump in conversations no matter whether you follow the other users
  • Great “Who to follow” algorithms to help grow your community
  • No limits on direct messages for connecting personally with customers
  • Allows list building to help segment audience
  • Comprehensive, free analytics

Cons

  • Character limit makes details tough to achieve
  • Can be chaotic and overwhelming at first
  • Content gets posted and viewed in real time, harder for audience to see it if they aren’t online then.
  • Desktop, web-based platform doesn’t support multiple user sign-on

Best for: Brands with a lot to say and share. With the real-time viewing aspect of Twitter, posting at several points throughout the day and staying engaged will help grow the audience quicker.

Instagram

Users: 400 Million Users (Sept. 2015)

Post Type(s): Photos and videos

Pros

  • The beautiful social network, with only visual media
  • Large character limit
  • Heavy use of hashtags makes finding audiences easy
  • Most extensive array of photo filters to spruce up images

Cons

  • Can’t post text-only (unless in a photo graphic)
  • Posts are published and viewed in real time.
  • Can’t set posts to post automatically. (Can be scheduled, but still have to be posted in real time).
  • Can’t repost interesting content without a third-party app
  • Can’t segment audience with lists without third-party app
  • Can’t put links in posts, only in bio

Best for: Brands with a lot of visual content. If you’re an accountant, it’s going to be tough (though not impossible) to always find interesting things to post. Businesses in the food, fashion or entertainment space do really well here because they have visually stunning products or events worth sharing.

LinkedIn

Active Users: 414 Million (Dec. 2015)

Post Type(s): Text, photos, links

Pros

  • Many types of posts
  • Feeds aren’t terribly saturated, opportunity to be seen
  • Higher standard of post quality and forethought

Cons:

  • Not ideal for connecting to consumers
  • Not the best for cute/funny
  • Biggest users are ones actively engaged in job hunting

Best for: B2B businesses. Consumer-facing business are rarely going to see a strong ROI on LinkedIn efforts. People don’t go shopping on LinkedIn, they’re looking to better their careers and businesses, so if your posts aren’t in some way connected to that end, it may not be worth your time.

YouTube

Active Monthly Users: 1 billion (April 2014)

Post Type(s): Videos

Pros

  • Most widely used video platform
  • Easy to share to other networks
  • Allows you to sell advertising on your videos for instant revenue
  • Owned by Google, can help with SEO

Cons

  • Can only post a video, no other post format
  • Uploading videos is more time consuming than other networks
  • Not a comprehensive “News Feed”

Best for: Brands with a lot of video content. Whether it’s a web series specifically or just a lot of interesting videos, it doesn’t have to be every day, but consistently having something that will make people want to come back to your channel is essential.

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