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Which Social Media Work Best for Business

SSocial Media Marketingmall business owners are continuing to try social media as a marketing channel. But with so many options – and limited time and resources to use them – which ones are working best?

As with so many other things in business, the answer is: “It depends.” One thing is clear: Small businesses are moving headlong into online networking via social media, with 90% saying they’ve jumped in, according to a survey by the online small business community Manta. Among small businesses using social media, 78% report that at least 25% of their customers are now finding them via social channels.

And in a recent survey conducted by Vistage International (a peer advisory firm for business executives) and The Wall Street Journal, 60% of the 835 small business owners surveyed said they’ve had success growing their businesses with social media.

But the tools and platforms they use vary greatly, and “success” depends on the type of business they have and how they use the social media tools and platforms.

Biz Owners Find Success with LinkedIn

Surprisingly, 41% of the owners in this particular group named LinkedIn as the most effective for them – more than any other social media platform. I’ve written before about the importance of small businesses having a company page on LinkedIn, but a relatively small portion of businesses have done so, making this survey’s finding a bit of a stunner. The online video service YouTube was named most effective by 16% of the businesses, while Facebook was considered most beneficial by just 14%.

A mish-mash of other social media platforms (including Pinterest and Google+) account for the remainder of the “most effective” votes, with Twitter being named by just 3% of business owners as their top social media outlet for helping them grow. In part that’s because just 14% of business owners report using Twitter at all, and Twitter is just now getting around to promoting its services as a tool for business.

How do small businesses find the time?  Increasingly, some are getting employees involved, with about 40% now saying they have people dedicated to social media campaigns. The rest, presumably, are flying solo. Overall, the businesses involved aren’t spending that much time on it, with about half saying they spend 1-5 hours weekly, and a third spending almost no time at all. A few, however, spend upwards of 10 hours weekly.

Pinterest Works for Visual Businesses

As interest in visually display grows, businesses that have interesting photos of what they sell (such as a kitchen remodeler, wedding photographer or jeweler) are finding success with Pinterest, the online photo sharing site. Some now report 10 times as much website traffic coming from their Pinterest pages, compared to Facebook.

Professionals, such as attorneys, architects and consultants, are finding LinkedIn to be a top performer, while small retailers tend to get more traction with Facebook (see A 10 Step Facebook Cheat Sheet for Biz Owners).

How do business owners measure social media success? Being found by customers is the benefit most often named (35%). Referrals and the ability to find and engage with prospects (lead generation) also rank highly.

Clearly, most small businesses want to link social media activities to sales as directly as possible. Thus, having customers find them and buy something is valued most highly.  But don’t overlook customer retention and loyalty, which also play an important role in calculating the value of social networking.

Go Where Your Customers Are

In many respects, it comes down to this: If your customers and prospects are online and in social media (and they are), you must be too. “As 97% of consumers use the Internet to research products or services in their local area, and those searches regularly include company name, product or service, or business owner, it’s critical small businesses build awareness of themselves and their company online,” says Jed Williams, program director at the leading research and consulting firm BIA/Kelsey.

Take it from Joseph Buczek, president of Lighthouse Construction and Restoration, an Indiana-based remodeling and repair firm. “Over time, I’ve realized that it’s very important for me to maintain a consistent online presence for both my business and myself,” says Buczek. “More and more consumers – my prospective customers – are looking online for information about remodeling companies, so I need to be there when they are.”

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Why You Should Have a LinkedIn Business Page

Although LinkedIn is the world’s largest social media network for business people and professionals, most small business owners still don’t have it on their marketing radar. But that’s changing as LinkedIn itself ads more features aimed at helping businesses market to its 160 million registered users, and more small businesses start taking advantage of this powerful platform for generating leads and making business connections.

Your first step is to create a free LinkedIn “Company Page.”  It’s similar to a Facebook business page but easier to set up, better looking and with more ways to feature your products and services. And LinkedIn recently introduced an improved look for company pages that offers new ways to tell your business story, share news or updates and drive word of mouth.

Unlike Facebook, which was originally built for college students, LinkedIn was created from the ground up with the needs of business and professionals in mind. That shows through in the capabilities it offers to create awareness of your products and services. What’s more, millions of people conduct searches from within LinkedIn every day and if you and your company aren’t there, you can’t be found.

Posting updates to your LinkedIn company page gives you a powerful way to generate leads by including links back to your own website. The LinkedIn company page lets you post large images, create your own calls to action and include testimonials or recommendations from your connections. This is all free if you’re willing to spend a little time to learn how it works and get your company page operational.

But you don’t have to get everything done at once. As with LinkedIn personal profile pages, you can start with the basics and add features and sections as you get more proficient. Here’s how to get started along with a rundown of key sections of a LinkedIn company page:

Getting Started: You can set up a LinkedIn company page in minutes with just a few steps. You must first go to the “Add a Company” page to confirm your connection to the business and be authorized to create your page. Go to www.linkedin.com/company/add/show and enter the company name and your business email address. You’ll receive an automated email asking you to confirm your request. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start creating your page.

Overview: This is your big chance to make a powerful first impression. The overview section, or “tab,” is the place to start spreading your message and open a conversation about your business.  You can include a high-level description of your business along with company announcements, product releases or news from your industry. It’s also a great place to feature employees and other people who are connected to your business.

If your business is already creating updates or other content for a Facebook page, this is another place you can put it to good use. But remember that LinkedIn’s membership is much more “white collar,” so be sure to put your best professional foot forward.

Products and Services: This is the place to showcase what you offer.  Setting up a Products & Services section requires just a few steps and can be done in a few minutes.  Click “Add a product or service” under the Products & Services tab and fill in the information about category, product or service name and description. Be sure to include your business photos and videos to bring the section to life. And don’t forget to add your business URL and other web links back to the product, service or order form pages on your own website. This helps with SEO and can send traffic and leads back to your site.

To add more products and services, simply repeat the steps above. When all of your information is complete, click “Publish” to go live.  You’ll then be accessible to millions of LinkedIn members who can view, recommend and share your information within their own networks. It’s word-of-mouth power on steroids.

Company Updates: LinkedIn suggests using this section to share articles, ask questions or post special offers. It also offers the ability to target your updates and offers to specific groups of your connections or followers, as well as to “all followers.”

For more information on how to use company pages visit:  learn.linkedin.com/company-pages.

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