You may have caught on by now to my strong feelings about incorporating social media into your marketing strategies.
I've called social networking sites an advertising gold mine in the past, and a recent survey revealed that small business owners are beginning to share those feelings. LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest all grew in popularity exponentially over the past year, and 82 percent of respondents now consider Facebook an effective marketing channel. At the same time, more than half of respondents said they need help with their social marketing strategies.
I'm a firm believer in the notion that the more sites you use, the better, as long as your customers visit those sites. But for companies on a budget, that isn't always an option. Therefore, selecting the ones that best suit your business needs will be important.
Every social networking site consists of unique characteristics, which may or may not make it perfect for your company. Let's analyze the ones listed in the survey and explore each site's most valuable marketing capabilities.
Facebook - 82 percent approval rating; 75 percent in May 2012
Facebook remained the most popular social media marketing tool by a landslide, likely because of its do-all ability. While other sites are good for specific purposes, Facebook can incorporate a little bit of everything into your campaign. You can promote new products with status updates, or ask questions that provide consumers the opportunity to give their feedback. In addition, you can post things like pictures and videos, which are more likely to lead to clicks.
LinkedIn - 29 percent approval rating; 10 percent in May 2012
If you ranked Twitter as the No. 2 social media site in your bracket, you might be surprised to find that LinkedIn pulled off the upset. Nearly three times as many small business owners listed LinkedIn as an effective marketing tool compared to a year ago, likely because the site allows you to target certain groups of people. For instance, if you're a document management firm that serves healthcare agencies, LinkedIn enables you to advertise specifically to healthcare professionals.
Twitter - 25 percent approval rating; 7 percent in May 2012
Regardless of the industry you're in, Twitter can boost your marketing campaign - provided you're a persistent enough tweeter. As with LinkedIn, Twitter allows you to target specific groups of people based on factors like gender and interests. Currently, only 13 percent of small businesses tweet every day. If you want to establish a viable Twitter presence, make sure your marketers post daily and respond to everyone that reaches out to you.
Pinterest - 9 percent approval rating; 1 percent in May 2012
Pinterest is one of the newer social networking sites, but it's gaining steam extremely fast. Pinterests marketing value centers around how visual it is - the site allows you to post pictures and videos to your page, which consumers can track and "repin." If you're a restaurant owner, for instance, you can upload photos of new menu items to give customers a sneak peak.
Keep an eye on future trends
There are many other useful social media sites - Yelp, Instagram and Google+ to name a few - and more keep popping up regularly.
You never know what the future holds for social media, so always try to stay a step ahead of your competition. And above all else, utilize the popular sites now that best fit your company's marketing needs.