Should I use social media for my business?

By Danielle Stone

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Should I use social media for my business?

Having a business presence on the internet has become essential, however the shape of the online world is constantly evolving, offering new avenues of communication and interaction. Pressure is placed on us to be part of these new platforms both socially and at a business level but how do you know whether they are really beneficial to your business and how do you get the most out of them?

Firstly it is worth noting that there is not a definitive answer to this question, businesses should not blindly sign up to Twitter or Facebook just because it is the ‘in’ thing. There are three key questions that should be asked to establish whether to consider the social media route:

  • Do you understand the social media platform that you are considering using?
  • Is it appropriate for your particular business?
  • Do you have the time and manpower to administer it or keep it up to date?

Only when you can answer yes to all three of these questions can you confidently set your business up on the platform in question.

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Do you understand the social media platform that you are considering using?

This question is definitely the most important, yet many businesses embark on their social media journey without really tackling this first question. Each business will have to do their own research, perhaps looking at how their competitors are using the media, to ensure their own understanding but here is an overview of two key players in the social media world:

What is Facebook?

Facebook is the most successful social network on the planet, with over 500 million active users across the world, and a development team that are constantly finding ways to push it forward, and to make it a more powerful tool for businesses.

The primary aim of Facebook is to allow friends to update each other with their daily lives, like a message board with snippets of news, photos and links. It also encourages communities within itself; like-minded people, clubs and friendship groups can join private areas where they can communicate with each other to share their passions and interests. This is where the business aspect comes in. A business starts a fan page which they then encourage people to join by clicking ‘like’ . This then allows the business to post messages that the user (and their friends) see in their personal news feeds. The fan page itself should be used to encourage interaction and discussion between its members.

What is Twitter?

Twitter allows for much of the social interaction of Facebook but in a much simple, quicker and more transient fashion. The best way to think of it is like a radio station: you get your own station to broadcast short messages (tweets) to people who choose to tune in to you. These messages should be fun, interesting or informative. If someone really likes your message, they may choose to broadcast it to their own followers (re-tweet) therefore giving you more exposure. People can also message you directly and their message and your response will be viewable by everyone.

Twitter is absolutely public, unlike Facebook, so even non Twitter users can view any tweets you make or that others make about you.

Is it appropriate for your particular business?

Should my business use Facebook?

Is your business the sort of thing that people would get passionate about? Would your customers have common ground that would allow a community to form? A good example of this might be Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream: their brand has a fun personality which customers like to associate themselves with. They use Facebook to announce competitions, launch new flavours and encourage feedback. Another good example is outdoor clothing company North Face, their customers share a love of the outdoors and their fan page is a mixture of posts from North Face about the latest outdoor challenges and from users enthusing about their outdoor lifestyles. If you can see your customers connecting with you and each other in this way then this could be a good platform for you.

Should my business use twitter?

There are two advantages of using Twitter for your business: one is that you can build up a brand personality – are you fun, an expert in your field or a source of interesting or useful information? All of your tweets build up a picture of who you are. Secondly, the more tweets you make, the more you are reminding potential customers that you are there, which essentially is free advertising for you.

Do you have the time and manpower to administer it or keep it up to date?

For both of these platforms this question is very important. To get something out of a social media site you need to be prepared to put effort in. There must be someone willing to update, add to and administer your page to keep people interested and engaged otherwise you generate no positive interaction by using it, and possibly you look unpopular or it appears you have nothing to say. If you can’t keep up with it, don’t do it!

Be prepared to take the positive and the negative

Using social networks in business is really tapping in to word of mouth and using it to your advantage, however don’t forget word of mouth can be both positive and negative. If you are a cake shop and nine people post or tweet that they love your cakes but one says they hate them – are you prepared to take the rough with the smooth? Many companies believe this shows an openness and willingness to listen and respond to customers which can be very beneficial, where others prefer not to open themselves up to such public debate.

All these factors mean choosing whether to use a social network for business does not have a simple answer. What is clear however is that you need to understand them, they need to be right for your business and you need someone to nurture them into life as they won’t look after themselves. Are you willing to invest business time and energy into getting sociable? The choice is entirely yours to make.

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