The Entrepreneur’s Field Guide To Using Social Media Channels

I came across this useful honest article on Social Media for Business

I’ve been on an eight year journey of trying to figure out how to use social media to build a business. As I mentioned last week in 4 Basic Elements Of Successful Social Media Strategies, I believe that if entrepreneurs are not leveraging social media, they are already late to the game. But the whole notion of setting out on this path was daunting to me in 2008, and things have only gotten more complex since then.

Whether you’re a social media veteran or are overwhelmed about where to start, picking the right social media channel to use can be overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve experimented (and failed) a number of times as I have found my way toward using this powerful breakthrough for business. Here is a field guide of some basics that I’ve learned. I believe every entrepreneur can use these to build their business through the major social media platforms.

1. Facebook

If you want to reach the younger generation or are looking to recruit millennials, this is NOT the place. What used to be a giant college party has become the hangout for Boomers, Gen X’ers, and occasionally my kids. But usually, the kids only post on Facebook around the holidays or their birthday, so that grandparents will see and gifts will follow. I’m only being semi­facetious. This is the single biggest platform on the planet for social media, but Generation Z isn’t buying into it like the rest of us did.

Tip: Be careful if and how you advertise. We have found very little B2B success in advertising here, but many of my B2C or e­commerce business friends, like Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans Wool have great success through Facebook advertising.

2. Twitter

This is probably our strongest medium for reaching our client base. Twitter has a huge following in the church world, enough so that the company moved a C­suite executive to Atlanta to be near lots of megachurch pastors. Why? Senior pastors are pulled in many directions, and many of them are high functioning ADD people (I can say that because I am a recovering pastor). So what’s the lesson for entrepreneurs? If you’re trying to reach CEO’s, folks with very little time, or a whole lot of the business world, this is your medium. The other place we have seen this to be an effective tool is in client retention and satisfaction. I’ve been amazed at the number of times I have tweeted about a company and heard back from them quickly.

Tip: Target your tweets toward the short winded and corporate types. This is not the platform for direct sales, but it is a place for branding, sharing thought leadership, and inspiring your community.

3. LinkedIn

This channel wins “comeback player of the decade.” Back in 2008, if you sent me your LinkedIn profile, I would have laughed and called you antiquated. It was a clunky system that didn’t do much, and if that was your best foot forward, I’d have said that you’d do great if the 1990’s ever came back. I was wrong. Over the last few years, LinkedIn has aggressively innovated and become the platform for professionals to house their resume and network. You won’t find my teenagers there, but the minute they graduate from college, you will. I doubt there is much room for a B2C business here, but collaboration with other business owners could be valuable here.

Tip: Use LinkedIn pages and groups to start discussions around the felt business needs of your client base. Think corporate, but with a modern flair.

4. Instagram

Here’s the channel for all things visual. If you sell anything that can be looked at or “oohed and ahhed” over, this might be the spot. My friend (and relative) Mica May of May Designs has been brilliant in her use of this digital medium to sell an old school paper product – notebooks and stationery. This is not the spot for thought leadership. However, you aren’t limited to 140 characters here, so I’ve seen businesses post an interesting picture with a paragraph long message here.

Tip: In 2016, even those of us that aren’t graphic designers know good design. Make sure whoever oversees your Instagram has an eye for good design. Also, if you’re sharing a clickable piece of content on Instagram, put the link in your profile, and then include “Click link in profile to read more,” to drive your audience to the article.

5. Pinterest

Honestly, we have had very little success with Pinterest. I’ve interviewed many CEO’s of social media minded companies, and very few of them have it figured out. To that end, we have chosen not to participate. If however, you are a company that sells something toward a recipe, interior design, or home repair, this might be a great platform. Nearly all users are women, and they are looking for ideas about “how to” design, dress, cook, fix, or apply goods to their lives. Simply having a visually oriented product (that would work on Instagram) isn’t enough here. It’s about the application of the good to life. Think of Pinterest as an online version of a cookbook, or magazines like “Real Simple” or “Martha Stewart Living.” If your product fits there, this could be a winner. If not, you might drop your Pinterest efforts.

Tip: You don’t have to be on all major platforms to leverage social media for your business. Pick your battles based on which platform best fits your business.

6. Snapchat

Want to reach millennials? Want to know what’s up in entertainment? Want to post incessantly and not be criticized for it? Welcome to Snapchat. Honestly, we don’t do too much here. But when we do, it is targeted toward a much younger audience. The posts are focused on communicating our company culture and value of contagious fun. Everything is temporary here, but it’s not to be ignored in building relationships with the next generation.

Tip: Hire a college intern to run Snapchat for you. They’ll figure it out much better than you ever will. There is so much more that could be said here, but hopefully this will give entrepreneurs a beginner’s field guide to entering all things social. I’m learning as I go, but one thing is for sure. Social media isn’t going anywhere. Either get on board with it or get left behind.