How to Use Social Media When you Own a Small Business

One of the biggest frustrations my clients have when I first sit with them is their sheer confusion and overwhelm with social media.  They literally want to pull their hair out!  Sonali, do I get on Pinterest or Twitter? What am I supposed to post on Instagram? Isn't it for teens? What the heck is Periscope? And let's not get into SnapChat or Blab.  Seems like there's new platform to figure out every month and who can really keep up with all of them?

Truth is, more and more people around the world are getting online everyday.  Social media influences almost all aspects of our life everyday from what outfit we wear to who we choose to vote for in the elections.  It isn't going anywhere, folks. Whether you're mostly on Facebook and not much of anything else, learning about all the platforms out there and how they're all interconnected is just good common sense for a small business or a solopreneur.  As they say, like it or not, every company today is a media company.

So how do we break it all down?  Well, to make things simpler, I split them into two main categories, the Community Social and Visual Social.   The Community Social platforms are about connecting with who you know already (family and friends), who you connected with and met at a networking event, a conference or someone you were introduced to at a party.  Community Social seeks to dig deeper and cultivate those relationships on a personal level.  Facebook, perhaps the most intimate of all platforms, is all about creating meaningful discussions, sharing memories and cultivating relationships around topics and events that are posted or shared. Facebook wants to be your very own customized newspaper of all that matters to you.

Twitter lets you tweet with leaders in your industry and connect with peers who are at about your level.  It's the place to share and learn what you need to know right now that's current and relevant to your business.  When I attend a conference, Twitter is my go-to platform for real-time information and peer discovery.  Each conference usually has a custom hashtag created for the event. Based on the tweets you see using that hashtag, you focus on what speaks to you and quickly choose who you want to connect with and follow.  It's a great platform for peer-peer relationship building. And it's also the best place to have access to industry leaders and top influencers.  You never know who might retweet your gem.

Another type of community social platform is Periscope. This one is the baby of the group. It made it's debut earlier this year but quickly gained a loyal following.  You use Periscope to directly engage with your viewers. They, in turn, can watch the broadcast and ask questions and comments.  Many online marketers believe that Periscope accelerates the coveted know-like-trust factor that's so important for small business owners. 

Visual Social relies on connecting with other creators and businesses using images. Pictures say a thousand words is the key idea here.  Artists, photographers, crafters, wedding planners and fashion stylists online work and play primarily on these platforms.  Instagram began as a space for professional photographers to share their work.  It has quickly become a go-to platform for lifestyle bloggers and so many other creatives to find their ideal clients, engage with them and sell.  It's currently my favorite place to hang out and I absolutely love it. When I worked for a startup a few years ago, I learned about the importance of UX or user experience in the online space. Well, Instagram totally nails UX with it's beautiful interface, the engagement and the overall understated experience keeps people coming back for more.

Next on the Visual Social list is Pinterest.  Now this one has a colossal following among food bloggers and creative artists and it's well on its way to becoming a visual google.  A way to "find stuff that you can't put into words but you know it when you see it".  It's a powerful platform that people use daily for making choices ranging from "what do I eat today" to buying their new cool gadget.  It's a great way to discover "what you might want or like", which is what draws the audience in.  The key to success on this platform is to visualize what might appeal to your core audience and find and pin the best images that express that feeling to you. 

So, that's the lay of the land as far as Visual and Community.  As a business owner, you have to ask yourself these questions. Which platform does my ideal customer use the most?  Which platforms do I enjoy?  What platforms work best for my type of business?  

Splendidly yours,

Sonali