A guide to social media for small businesses

Social media offer great opportunities to small businesses, but may be new and unfamiliar to many; so here is a concise guide to the main platforms, identifying their strengths and relevance.

Most important: Remember it is still media, a route for communicating with current or prospective customers; so use of social media should be considered alongside traditional media: press, radio, word of mouth. Social media is not a stand alone function, but should form part of an integrated communications plan. It is key to remain consistent throughout, adapting where necessary, and maintain brand values. So where do you start? What is it all about? Don’t be put off by huge numbers, or lured by them, either. Some users may be of value to you, but how do you find the ones you want?

Twitter: is good for listening to what is going on and being said, perhaps by your competitors. It  can be a useful research tool if you select the individuals who you choose to follow carefully.  It is not necessary to say much on twitter. It is known for the length of tweets having a limit of 140 characters; so brevity wins every time. It is not a selling platform but primarily, a  platform which offers an opportunity to solve problems and provide real time news and comment.  It is possible to attach links to documents or other sites to tweets and illustrate with pictures to help tweets to stand out amongst the constant stream which is delivered into a newsfeed. Content is critical.

Periscope: provides the opportunity to distribute short broadcasts which can be streamed live and invites viewers to join in with comments. Authenticity is encouraged, which means production values do not need to be high.

You Tube: longer self filmed videos useful for “how to” explanations.

Facebook: good for passing ideas and recommendations on by sharing and liking pages It is the ideal platform for defining segments by creating groups.

Instagram:the fastest growing platform currently popular amongst teenagers.

Social media is constant and responsive and must remain social, interactive and fun.

With so much to consider alongside traditional media planning, companies are now appointing social media managers to take on the task on their behalf.  I do not encourage clients to use social media schedule tools  because they are too impersonal.  Social media must remain social.