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How to use social media to grow your business
Here's how to pick the best platform to connect with your customers.
Americans now spend more time on social media than any other internet activity, including email.1 It should come as no surprise that 81% of small businesses use social media, and 90% consider it an effective way to communicate their brands.2
If your company hasn't tapped the power of social media yet, start by listening. Search your business's name on social sites to see what people are already saying about you online. Do they have questions about your products? Are they criticizing or complimenting your customer service? Educate yourself on what customers are saying about your business and your industry, and you'll find ideas on how you can engage them through social media.
Next, identify your target audience. For example, are the majority of your customers over 50 years old? Is your customer base made up of mostly young, single women? The answers to these kinds of questions may dictate which social media channel is right for you.
Then start small. Devote about 30 to 60 minutes to social media every day, posting two or three times to keep content fresh. This should also include moderating your social media posts and responding to comments.
Not every social media site is right for every business. Instead of using every platform, start with one or two, and make them attractive for your customers. Here's a look at five of the largest and most popular sites.
Facebook is the most popular platform with 1.18 billion daily users on average,3 including 71% of all adults online.4
Audience: Facebook ranks especially well with women, 18- to 29-year-olds, and those with an annual income less than $50,000. Even 48% of online adults over 65 use it.5
Start by: Creating a fan page for your business and posting photos, articles, and videos. If you operate a daycare center, for instance, write a "how-to" article on childproofing a home, and post a two-sentence preview on your Facebook page. Add a link back to your site, where visitors can sign up for your services.
Facebook for Business provides additional ideas.
Twitter allows users, who make up 23% of adults, to post 140-character tweets.6
Audience: Twitter attracts even usage across gender, income, and education demographics, although 18- to 29-year-olds are the leading age group.7
Start by: Naming your Twitter handle after your business and tweeting tips to show off your expertise. For example, if you run a garden center, tweet a photo of fresh flowers with advice on watering and sunlight. Tweets with pictures get twice the response.
Get more information at Twitter for Business.
LinkedIn is a professional platform that 28% of adults use to showcase their resumes, search for jobs, and make industry contacts.8
Audience: LinkedIn is most popular with people ages 30 to 64, as well as those with a college degree.9
Start by: Making a company profile that highlights your experience. If you do freelance design, for example, upload samples of your best work as PDFs, photos, videos, or presentations. You can also join groups and connect with other professionals.
Learn more from LinkedIn Small Business.
YouTube is a video-sharing site that reaches more adults in the 18- to 34-year-old age group than any cable TV network.10
Audience: YouTube skews strongly toward male users between 18 and 34.11
Start by: Creating a channel for your business and uploading videos. If you own an auto repair shop, you may want to produce videos featuring your staff and your garage. Follow up with helpful "how-to" videos on at-home car detailing or finding trustworthy mechanics.
Check out YouTube's blog for more help.
Yelp helps over 100 million monthly visitors find local businesses and allows them to read and write customer reviews.12
Audience: More than 61% of Yelp users are the heads of their households.13
Start by: Claiming your business's profile and posting the information that will help customers find you: your address, hours, and contact information. Read your reviews to learn how you can improve the customer experience, and respond to complaints through private messages or public posts.
Visit Yelp for Business Owners for more ideas.
Remember that your social media channels are professional ones that represent your business. They should have personality but shouldn't be personal. Don't post anything that presents your business as anything less than a credible expert in your industry.
1 "Social Media Engagement: The Surprising Facts About How Much Time People on The Major Social Medworks." Business Insider. As of September 2014: http://www.businessinsider.com/social-media-engagement-statistics-2013-12
2 "Social Media: A Hatbad for SMB Growth and Fertile Ground for FInancial Services Porscpects." LinkedIn Marketing Soulutions Blog. As of February 2014: http://marketing.linkedin.com/blog/social-media-a-hotbed-for-smb-growth-and-fertile-ground-for-financial-services-prospects/
3 "Faceook Newsroom." As of December 2014: http://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/
4 "The Demographics of Social Media Users." Pew Research Center. As of August 2015: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/19/the-demographics-of-social-media-users/
5 "REVEALED: The Demographic Trends For Every Social Network." Business Insider. As of December 2014: http://www.businessinsider.com/2014-social-media-demographics-update-2014-9
6 "Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms." Pew Research Center. As of January 2015: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms-2/
7 "User Demographic Highlights From 5 Major- and Growing - Social Networks." Marketingcharts.com. As of January 2014: http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/user-demographic-highlights-from-5-major-and-growing-social-networks-38939/
8 "Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms." Pew Research Center. As of January 2015: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms-2/
9 "User Demographic Highlights From 5 Major- and Growing - Social Networks." Marketingcharts.com. As of December 2014: http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/user-demographic-highlights-from-5-major-and-growing-social-networks-38939/
10 "REVEALED: The Demographic Trends For Every Social Network." Business Insider. As of 2015: http://www.businessinsider.com/2014-social-media-demographics-update-2014-9
11 "Demographics report." YouTube Analytics. As of 2015: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1715072?hl=en
12 "Why Yelp?" Yelp for Business Owners. As of August 2013: https://biz.yelp.com/support/what_is_yelp
13 "Audience." Yelp Advertise. As of August 2013: http://www.yelp.co.uk/advertise/agency/audience