Everyone tells you your small or medium sized business MUST be on the social media channels. There are a growing numbers of channels, each of them becoming increasingly important in its own way.
So you’ve signed up for the four best-known social media channels:
You’ve written (or had someone else write) a blog post, and now it should be posted on all four channels. There! Done. Right?
Not so fast…
For small and medium businesses that don’t have an established digital marketing team or agency working for them, social media channel differentiation is a common source of confusion. Business owners are busy people, and most of them (unless they’re digital marketers working with digital media specifically) don’t spend much time hopping social media channels. The most common mistake I see businesses make when they come to Stikky Media for help with their social media efforts is that they only post self-promoting content and, more often than not, they post the very same content across all of the channels they’ve set up for their business. This is not the most effective way to do social media. Each channel works differently and offers different benefits. They should be thoughtfully used in ways that leverage effectiveness and benefits based on those differences.
The important consideration when deciding how to post social media content is that each channel is different. Putting care into what you post on which channel and differentiating how you interact with people on each one are integral to effective social media marketing.
Here is a basic breakdown and comparison of four currently popular social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. There are many others, but these were selected for their broad usefulness to a large variety of business types.
What to Post on Facebook
Facebook generally is where you talk about yourself the most because your audience is more genuinely interested in you than your contacts on the other networks. It’s more of a commitment to ‘Like’ something on Facebook—especially a business—than it is on the other networks. For this reason, think of Facebook as your business’ most loyal audience, including your employees, especially when you first open up your page.
If your business is just getting its Facebook presence started, ask all of your staff members to ‘like’ your company page and invite articulate, funny and trustworthy staff to contribute. Invite your friends, your associates, the coffee shop you and your staff frequent and the people that regularly interact with you, your business, and staff on a regular basis. From there, use compelling content and incentives to get customers, partners and more distant associates to want to connect with your page.
Facebook is where you would post photos of events and people and where you would host and promote contests. The tone of Facebook is less about professionalism (in contrast to LinkedIn) and more about fun, novelty, inspiration, and connection. Facebook can be like hosting a party, so make it entertaining! Involve fun people you know, let your company’s personality shine through, and do this through creating and sharing great content. In fact if your company hosts a party, Facebook is definitely the place to post some fun pictures of it. If you can mention or tag other business pages or Facebook users in those pictures, even better.
Quality content for Facebook can include graphical memes (images with words that people hopefully like and share), videos either via YouTube (if you have your own YouTube channel: bonus!), photographs, polls, news of relevance and interest, as well as brief thoughts that are entertaining, thought-provoking or inspiring. On Facebook, it’s common for contests to encourage interaction and to generate new ‘likes’. Just keep in mind that generally speaking, Facebook is where you assume you are posting primarily to people who already know you and/or your business and already like you.
What to Post on Twitter
People on Twitter like to tweet about Twitter. Twitter is probably the most difficult social network to describe out of the four we’re covering here, but it can be a powerful one for traffic, b2b opportunities, and lead generation, as well as encouraging the search engines to cast a kindly eye on your site(s).
People on Twitter are often quick to follow you back if you get the knack for recognizing who tends to follow back and who doesn’t. (I will cover this topic in my next article.) Twitter is where you talk to people while assuming they don’t yet know you or your business. It is essentially the opposite of Facebook in this way. Established businesses often build a significant Twitter following based on current customers; in fact, many larger businesses use Twitter to provide customer service. But for your average company just getting started with social media, it’s best to assume that your follower base will network with you for reasons other than knowing and loving you and your products. The upside to the less personal nature of Twitter is that people ‘follow’ each other more readily on Twitter than on Facebook. A good place to start is by networking with your local business community and to broaden out your connections from there.
So what should you post to Twitter? Certainly not the same content as described for Facebook. You have only 140 characters to work with, including the Twitter handle of other users, any URLs you share (which should be shortened), text, spaces, and punctuation. It’s tricky getting used to working with this format! Things to post on Twitter include: quotes, commentary on current events, humour, inspiring words, links to content on your site with compelling and succinct descriptions, replies to other Twitter accounts who have interesting things to say or who have directly tweeted to you, and the important part of Twitter networking – the occasional ‘Retweet”, which is where you share another account’s tweet on your timeline.
An important part of establishing yourself as a new unknown on twitter, particularly for small businesses, is to make a habit of following and retweeting other accounts with the hope that some of them will reciprocate. If your company has a party, Twitter is not the place to post pictures from it. Twitter is the place where you could make general comments—witty, inspiring, wry, your choice—about the experience of the staff party, or about staff parties in general. You should also ‘shoutout’ to other Tweeters who attended by mentioning them with their Twitter @user handles.
What to Post on Google+
Google+ is an important part of social networking for many businesses (because…Google); however, its user base is not quite as broad as either Facebook or Twitter. It’s particularly popular with people who work in technology or information sectors. However the business community is rapidly growing and it’s worth participating in it if you have the time and resources to post across numerous networks. The content is laid out quite a bit like Facebook and LinkedIn, but the community is more like Twitter – less personal, more of a professional network.
Google+ is a good place to network with other business owners who are tech savvy. People are quicker to ‘follow’ back on Google+ than they are on LinkedIn or Facebook. Plus, there are numerous communities where you can connect with other businesses and people to generate interaction, which Google regards as a boost to your online reputation. Post a range of things on Google+ with the understanding that it’s less personal than Facebook, not quite as professional as LinkedIn, and that you’re speaking to a tech-savvy audience. Photos (less personal), memes, videos, infographics, commentary, and longer posts that can essentially be themselves blog posts are all popular and effective forms of content on G+. There is an art to writing longer-form posts for Google+ and here is an excellent guide on how to write them. (http://www.copyblogger.com/art-of-google-plus/).
What to Post on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is known for its unique demographics: it is a more affluent network of well-educated professionals. The content is laid out similarly to Facebook and Google+, minus the latter’s long form post capacity. LinkedIn is not the place to post contests or silly/fun memes, nor is it the place to post staff party pictures or other content that is casually personal. It is where you represent yourself and your business carefully.
Appropriately personal content on LinkedIn could be announcing the addition or promotion of a prized member of your staff, business partnerships, or to congratulate others in your network. Out of the four channels we have mentioned here, LinkedIn company pages are less able to interact outwardly on the LinkedIn network. A business page is not able to ‘like’ other pages; only individual accounts can do that. For this reason, it’s initially difficult for smaller businesses to get connections to their page. You can certainly start by asking staff, associates and friends to connect with your business page. But once the business page is set up, do not post as if your audience knows you; post as if you are trying to impress someone above you.
LinkedIn and Google+ content is easier to cross-post, especially if you work in the technical domain. However, always make sure to tweak the tone to the channel—it’s okay to be less formal on Google+. Popular topics on LinkedIn include economics, work and career information, leadership advice and industry trends and news. Think of the tone of LinkedIn content as being similar to what you might put in a company newsletter.
Rules – Know them, Follow them, Bend Them, Break Them.
After reading this, you might think that these are hard rules that must be followed if you want to be successful at social media for your business. It’s important to realize that these rules are all yours to break, as long as you do so thoughtfully and intentionally. Once you consider and understand the differences between these social media channels, then these suggested rules are yours to follow, bend, or break however you think is best. If you have a creative mind working with your social media, perhaps that mind will play with making your company LinkedIn profile stand out from the rest by posting humourous takes on business topics. Perhaps you have a photographer on staff that somehow takes the funniest staff party pictures ever with broad audience appeal and tries taking them to Twitter, subsequently generating untold retweets and new followers.
The truth is, there are no hard rules for social media content. The channels themselves are continuously changing, and every business talks to a different audience. The starting place is to recognize that the social media channels are different and that your business is most likely to reap rewards from your efforts if the content posted to each of them is created and submitted with these differences in mind.