COPY & DESIGN

Pinterest & Snapchat & Tumblr — Oh My

by Patricia Fitzgerald

Lately, we’ve been in a bit of a social-media kick with our recent blog posts. This week, we thought we’d continue the trend with our last (for the moment) installment on tips for using today’s most common social media platforms.

Just to forewarn you: this is a long post. Make that a very long post. But bare with us; we think you’ll find a lot of useful info here. So settle in with a cup of coffee (or snifter of whiskey, if you prefer — hey, we won’t judge), and we promise it’ll be worth the read.

As we’ve mentioned before, small businesses shouldn’t feel compelled to have a presence on every social media outlet. We recommend choosing two or three platforms that make the most sense for your type of business, and that are most frequented by your target audience.

Once you’ve picked your social media channels, you’ll want to make sure you’re not just posting the same stuff using the same verbiage on all of them. There are time-saving automation tools out there that do that for you, but we caution our clients against using them. Instead, we recommend customizing content for each platform in a way that feels genuine and human while also making the most of the channel you’ve chosen.

Let’s take a look at the most common social media platforms available, and a few suggested strategies small businesses can adopt for each.

Facebook: The Obvious Choice

With more than 1.55 billion active users, the most obvious social media choice for small businesses is Facebook. After all, according to the Pew Research Center’s recent survey, 79 percent of online Americans use Facebook — more than double the users for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. Of Pew's survey respondents, the highest percentage of Facebook users range between 18 and 49, but online users over 50 are getting in on the Facebook action too.

Given its user audience and format, Facebook is well suited for content that is more direct and informational. Facebook users will often go to a business’s Facebook page to learn more about it, make sure it’s legit, see where it’s located, and find out what other users have to say about it. So when creating a Facebook page for your business, be sure you’re providing users quick and easy information.

Start by uploading a profile picture and cover photo that showcases your brand, products and/or services. If you have a nice logo, put it up there. Have a great shot of your store’s interior, or a beauty shot of a product? Make that your cover photo. Use quality, professional photography that speaks to your credibility.

Take the time to thoroughly complete all the fields in your About page as well, including a succinct but clear description of your business. Add quality photos and videos if you have them (if you don’t, get some). Add your services and contact information. Make it as easy as possible for people to learn what you do, and where/how to reach you.

When you're ready to add content to your Facebook page, don’t just post about your products and services. Stop selling, and start communicating and connecting. Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Connect your post to a topic that’s heavily trending for the day. So, for example, if you own a bakery, invite people to join you in celebrating on National Donut Day (yes, that’s a thing). This could help expose your post to people beyond those following you.
  • Share interesting, fun, insightful, and most importantly related content from other websites, blogs, and Facebook pages. Post links to articles, and when you share photos and other content, tag the source’s Facebook page. This will increase your exposure while also giving credit where it’s due.
  • Offer giveaways or limited-time promotions, such as discounts on certain products or services, or even a fun tchotchke for the first 10 visitors who like you on Facebook. Services like Rafflecopter make setting up give-aways simple.
  • When you host open houses, gallery showings, grand openings, special sales, or any event, promote them on your Facebook page. Use the Create Event feature and invite all your followers — making sure to encourage them to invite others as well.

There are scads of other tactics you can employ on Facebook, including some like Boosts that you have to pay for, but the above should get you started. You’ll also find more tips and info on using Facebook as a business tool here.

Twitter: Marketing in 140 Characters

Twitter boasts more than 317 million active monthly users, 82 percent of whom access it via mobile devices. The afore-mentioned Pew Research Center survey pegs Twitter users at around 24 percent of online Americans, making the audience considerably smaller than Facebook’s. Twitter, however, is more popular among younger users (18-29) with college degrees; just 10 percent of users are 65 and older. Users are pretty evenly split among men and women, and the majority make over $75,000 a year.

With its 140-character limit, Twitter is by nature ideal for short-and-sweet posts. The great thing about Twitter is that you can also add videos, images, links, polls and more to your Tweets — which lets you share interesting and relevant content from a broad range of sources. Pro tip: when sharing links, use a service like Bit.ly to shorten the link so you have more room for text.

We like to think of Twitter as akin to texting a friend — in other words, a person who’s following you because they are specifically interested in what you have to say. We keep our Tweets informal, conversational, and fun — and rarely use it to promote our own services. Many companies have also found Twitter to be a handy tool for dealing with customer service issues — responding to questions and complaints in a direct, personal, and immediate manner.

If you choose Twitter as one of your social media channels, take the time to set up and customize your profile with a personalized avatar (the small square photo) and a high-quality on-brand photo for the wider header. Include a brief write-up about your business (you’re limited to 160 characters).

We get a lot of questions about the use of hashtags on Twitter. Placing a hashtag in front of a word or phrase (#WhatIsAHashtag) makes it easier for others — including those who don’t follow you — to find your post when they key in the same hashtag. There are a few different ways you can approach hashtags. One is to incorporate top-trending hashtags (you’ll see a list of them on your Twitter home page) in your post. These are topics that Twitter users are buzzing about. The trick is to somehow make that trending hashtag relevant to your business, customers, and followers so it doesn’t seem forced or gimmicky.

You can also create unique hashtags for any kind of special event or promotion you're offering. This will make it easy for your followers to quickly find information about it. Many Twitter users also employ hashtags as a way to display their creativity, cleverness, and sense of humor. Hashtags can be a fun — and funny — way to catch attention and engage with your followers. However, resist the urge to use too many hashtags in your posts. Hashtag-overload can be annoying and come across as spammy — so just use a few carefully selected ones and make them good. (BTW: you can use all these same approaches to hashtags on your Facebook page).

Twitter offers a couple of nifty tools you might want to look into, once you feel like you’re getting the hang of the Twitterverse. A free tool, TweetDeck gives you views — organized into columns — of your Twitter activity, including your tweets, as well as tweets and retweets referencing you. You can also use it to track hashtags and even schedule future tweets in advance.

Another free tool, Twitter Dashboard is ideal for business owners and Twitter users with a large following. Use the Dashboard to schedule posts, see any tweets about you, and view tweets you’ve posted. It also offers analytics that give you insight into your Twitter activity, followers, and visits/views.

Pinterest: Pin Me Pretty

With over 100 million active users, Pinterest captures around 31 percent of online Americans according the the Pew Research Center's recent survey. A visual platform that works on both mobile devices and desktops, Pinterest attracts more women than men. Most users range in age between 19 and 49, have at least some college education, and are pretty evenly distributed across income levels and urban/suburban/rural locations.

Think of Pinterest as a kind of digital bulletin board where users pin images and videos of stuff they find beautiful, inspiring, interesting, or simply cool. Users can create and organize boards by category, with popular categories including do-it-yourself projects, fashion, food, photography, beauty, travel, and fitness.

As such, Pinterest is more of a niche network than other catch-all platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Which also means Pinterest isn’t a great fit for every business. We recommend Pinterest for businesses whose products and/or services fall into one or more of the above-mentioned categories, appeal to women, and lend themselves well to beautiful photography.

But think beyond photos, too. You can also use Pinterest to post written content, such as inspirational quotes, as long as it’s captured as an image. Create pinboards of insightful, interesting, and inspiring articles, books and other good reads. Turn a pinboard into a gift guide for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions. Promote any sales, discounts, events, or giveaways you’re offering on your pinboards. You can even create a playlist board and pin music videos from YouTube.

If you choose to use Pinterest, you’ll want to spend some time making your profile stand out. Organize your pinboards by category and give them clever names that also use searchable words and phrases so they’ll be easier to find. Create a short description for each board that ties into your brand, and chose a quality cover photo for each one that draws people in. Show off your creativity, and other pinners will come.

Keep track of what’s trending on Pinterest’s “Popular” page and pin content that’s relevant — when it makes sense. Pinterest is also a great platform for collecting, curating and sharing content as a means of interacting and engaging with other users in your space. Repinning content, commenting on and liking other pins, tagging other users in your pins: these are all ways to build your community and expand your reach.

Another cool little trick to try is adding a “Pin It” button to visual and/or video content your website. This little red button pops up whenever a visitor hovers over an image on your site, and allows the visitor to easily add your content to their own boards. We also suggest connecting your Pinterest account to your Facebook and Twitter accounts (if you have them), to let pinners know where else they can find you in the social media sphere.

For examples of pinboards done well, check out Remodelaholic, Travel Dreams, Etsy, and Refinery29.

Tumblr: Mastering the Microblog

Last time we checked, Tumblr had about 550 million monthly users and supported more than 280 million blogs. According to a recent comScore report, 69 percent of Tumblr users are millennials and 47 percent are male. Not surprisingly, given the youthful demographic, 78 percent of users access the platform through a mobile device. Advertising giant Ogilvy reports that Tumblr is now more popular with 13- to 25-year-olds than Facebook.

While it’s still a fairly untapped social media platform among small businesses, it might be worth taking a closer look at Tumblr, especially if your target customer is under the age of 30.

So what it Tumblr, exactly? It defies labels, but we like to think of it as a multimedia microblogging platform. Tumblr users can post all manner of content to their blogs, including text, chats, quotes, audio, photos, and videos. Tumblr users tend to congregate into smaller, wildly diverse sub-communities based on very particular shared interests. You’ll find a sub-community for just about every niche. Which makes Tumblr a great platform for businesses looking to connect with and accumulate “fans” for their specific products. Sell can openers for left-handed people (Ned Flanders, we're looking at you)? Tumblr may be the the perfect place to be.

Its open-endedness makes Tumblr one of the more challenging social media platforms to master. Best just to dive in and start playing around. To get started, set up your custom domain so it mirrors your business name. Next step is to customize your blog with a theme, color palette, font, photo, and “about” description. Tumblr offers a decent selection of pre-built themes for businesses so you can always pick one of those.

The rest is entirely up to you. Because Tumblr is so flexible, you can post pretty much any content you want to your business's blog. Post text about an upcoming event or sales promotion. Add photos of a new product or customer installation. Dole out inspiring or funny quotes. Link to a interesting article or insightful report. Post a chat with a customer heaping praise upon you. Share a gif that made you smile. Add audio files of music you listen to while working. Upload video of the grand opening party at your new location. Have fun with it.

Tumblr does have a few handy tools that make blogging a bit easier, including a mobile app. If you’re on Instagram, you can also use the photo-sharing app to have your beautifully edited images automatically sent to Tumblr. Your Tumblr dashboard will give you views of all the content you’ve added, as well as who liked or reblogged which content and who’s following you. Much like other social media platforms, once you start following other bloggers on Tumblr, chances are they’ll follow you back.

For some ideas on what you can do with Tumblr, check out Well Made Studio Blog, Design Cloud, design:related gallery, and Inspire Me Now.

LinkedIn: Facebook's Conservative Cousin

LinkedIn has a rap for being solely a networking and headhunting/jobseeking platform. That could be because it’s the most popular social network among professionals, with an estimated 380 million members. Of the LinkedIn users who participated in the Pew survey, 50 percent have a college degree and 45 percent earn over $75,000 a year. Men slightly edge out women on LinkedIn, and the majority of users are between the ages of 18 and 49, although there is a significant presence of members over the age of 50. So, in general, the audience tends to skew a bit older.

Because it’s seen as a place for professionals to schmooze online, many small businesses overlook LinkedIn as a social media marketing channel. But consider this: LinkedIn is the third most popular social network, right behind Facebook and Twitter. What’s more, it offers more features small businesses can use to market themselves.

In addition to creating a LinkedIn profile for yourself as an individual professional, you can also create a Company Page for your business — complete with an eye-catching banner image that supports your brand. On your Company Page, you can link to not only your business website, but to work samples, projects, videos, images, word docs, presentations, and any other business-related content. You can also solicit endorsements and testimonials from clients and colleagues. And, of course, be sure to share your Company Page with your existing LinkedIn connections.

Another cool feature within Company Pages, LinkedIn Showcase Pages are a good way to call out specific products, services, projects, and case studies. You can create a separate Showcase Page for difference categories or for individual work. Or create Showcase Pages that appeal to specific segments of your target audience. Add an attractive, quality image for each page, a brief description, as well as a link to a web page or site where other LinkedIn members can learn more. Indicate which industry the page relates to, and if you belong to a LinkedIn group (see next paragraph), you can have your Showcase Page featured there as well.

To expand your LinkedIn circle beyond your immediate connections, you can join other LinkedIn groups related to your industry and/or populated by your customers. To find groups, you can use the search feature and enter key words. Or you can refer to the suggested groups LinkedIn offers on your homepage. Heck, you can even create your own group. You can also search for fellow alumni from your alma mater and ask them to connect with you. If you’re willing to make the investment, you can purchase a premium account to send messages to other LinkedIn members you aren’t connected with.

We find the most effective use of LinkedIn for our business is to post regularly (we typically add our latest blog post on our LinkedIn page), and to notify our network every time we post an update. We also take the time to endorse skills for our LinkedIn connections, who often return the favor.

Savvy businesses have started using their LinkedIn pages more like branded web pages, as less like a professional Facebook. For some examples of what we mean, check out LinkedIn Company Pages for HP, IBM, and Adobe. Be warned: LinkedIn isn’t the easiest platform to figure out and customize (their user interface leaves something to be desired), so be prepared to spend some (maybe a lot) of time tinkering with it. There are a lot of good tutorials out there on the Interwebs so search around for some more in-depth help.

Instagram: Picture Perfect

With more than 400 million active users, Instagram captures around 32 percent of online Americans. Predominately a mobile sharing app, Instagram is the platform of choice for people who want to share photos and videos of family, friends, pets, food, travel, fashion, art, and other visually appealing subject matter. The majority of Instagram users are women, and around 50 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29. Most have at least some college education, and they’re pretty evenly dispersed across income levels.

So if your products and/or services don’t lend themselves to compelling, beautiful visuals, and you aren’t trying to reach female millennials on their smartphones, then Instagram may not be the best social media channel for your business. To make Instagram work for you, you’ll need to put your account in the hands of someone who has pretty solid photography and editing skills, and an eye for detail. The photos and video you post should be high-quality and on-brand.

As with Twitter, your use of hashtags can play a role in helping others find your Instagram posts. Our recommendations for Twitter hashtags apply here as well: use them sparingly, make them relevant, and tap into trending topics. While helping others find you, you can look for other folks who have used the same hashtags as you and follow them. They may follow you in return.

When posting to Instagram, think beyond the usual beauty shots. Instagram can be a great platform for showing the more personal and intimate side of your business. Post behind-the-scenes photos and videos of your office staff at work, or your newest shipment of product being unloaded or assembled. Share exclusive deals and promotions. Invite customers to post photos and videos of themselves using your products. You can even embed Instagram posts on your website as well as share them on your Facebook page. Above all, be sure to respond to other users’ comments when they take the time to make them on your posts.

Snapchat: This Snap Will Self-Destruct in 10 Seconds

A mobile image messaging app, Snapchat is one of the newer social media kids on the block, but it’s growing like gangbusters — especially among youngsters. A mere 18 percent of U.S. social media users may be on Snapchat (according to eMarketer research) but take a gander at these numbers: Snapchat users share 9,000 snaps (photos) per second, watch 10 billion videos per day, and 45 percent of them post Stories at least once a week.

The reasons for its popularity among younger users are two-fold: 1.) Parents don’t use it, so no chance of Mom posting about how "on fleek" you look in those jeans; and 2.) Content you post on Snapchat disappears after 10 seconds (posted Stories stay up for 24 hours), so there’s no record of it to haunt you. Given its self-destructing nature, you may be wondering why any business would invest in creating a Snapchat presence?

Unless you’re actively targeting mobile millennials, Snapchat probably shouldn’t be your first choice. But a growing number of companies are starting to promote their brands on Snapchat, using the longer-lasting Stories and Between Stories features with some interesting results. McDonald’s snapped this animated commercial on Stories:

And the giant taco shell lens Taco Bell posted for Snapchat users during the Super Bowl was viewed an astounding 224 million times. Of course, these campaigns cost big bucks that small businesses simply don’t have.

For those without massive media budgets (aka most of us), Snapchat’s 10-second videos can be a fun, unique and cost-effective way to introduce your products and/or services, get the word out about a promotion or offer, and put a face to your business. You can even ask customers to snap a photo of themselves using your product, then send them a coupon they can open in Snapchat at your location as a reward.

Snapchat is a fun tool to use during live events as well, such as a grand opening or a open mic night. Think of it as more of an instant messaging app that connects you directly to potential customers. It’s less about racking up the likes, and more about making connections in the moment.

You can also use the Stories feature to post demo videos or tutorials, give a behind-the-scenes tour, or tell the story of your business. Just remember that your Story will vanish 24 hours after you post it, so be sure to add new and evolving stories to keep users coming back.

Snapchat snaps tend to be raw and unedited, which means yours can be too. You don’t need slick, high-end (translation: expensive) production value to connect with these users. And because Snapchat is still relatively unchartered territory in the marketing world, you won’t see a lot of your competitors on it (yet). If you do go the Snapchat route, we suggest using it in conjunction with other social media platforms such as Instagram. Let your friends, fans, and followers know you can be found on Snapchat, and then meet them there.

Feeling Adventurous?

So that pretty much covers the heavy hitters in the social media arena. But there are a growing number of up-and-coming players that may offer some interesting opportunities for intrepid small businesses. Here’s a quick snapshot of each, but we encourage you to dig into them some more.

We Heart It

This image-based social network describes itself as "a home for your inspiration" and a place to "organize and share the things you love." Think Tumblr and Pinterest for a younger audience.

Periscope

This app lets you live-stream video from your smartphone to anyone in the world. It’s what the House Democrats used last year to broadcast their sit-in protesting gun violence when the CSPAN feed was shut off. Hey, if those old-schoolers can use it, why not you?

Slack

An alternative to Twitter, this cloud-based team collaboration tool includes chat rooms, private groups, and direct messaging — all searchable.

WhatsApp

A messaging service that gives your customers another way to reach you by text, WhatsApp offers great possibilities for fast, responsive customer service.

Kik

Built by Canadians, this instant messenger app for mobile devices is used for chatting and sharing with friends. Developers, however, are starting to build special apps that let businesses share content with Kik users.

Viber

This mobile application lets you make phone calls and send text messages to all other Viber users for free. It also offers one-on-one messaging or group chats, voice or video calls, and allows users to follow their favorite brands.

Had Enough of Social Media Yet?

Ok, we're just about done. You’ve probably finished that snifter of whiskey by now (possibly the whole bottle). While we’ve just scratched the surface of social media, we hope this post has provided some additional insight and ideas to get you started. If you want to learn more, talk about your social media goals, or simply fancy a chat over a good whiskey, give us a shout. And feel free to see if we’re practicing what we preach on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Hope to see you there.



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