Marketing Executive, Alison, is a former Forensic Scientist who moved into professional services marketing in 2008 and is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (MCIM).
Which social media platform is best for me? A beginner’s guide…
This is, without a doubt, a well-Googled question! And there are, not surprisingly, a multitude of ‘answers’ – opinions, really. In this blog, we’ll take a look at a number of social media platforms from the perspective of professional services firms.
If you’re a complete beginner, start by asking yourself these questions:
- Is it for business or personal use?
- Where is my audience?
- What do I want to achieve?
- How much time do I realistically have for social media?
- What sort of content will I produce?
- Do I want/need to spend money on advertising?
Next, take a look at the most common platforms. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and so on. You may be familiar with some and not others.
Each is based on a complex computer algorithm – which change on a reasonably regular basis. In very simple terms, the current trend is to reward good quality, original content, that generates engagement (likes/shares) and comments. If, for example, you posted a short video, which proves popular with your audience, quickly gaining likes and comments, it would be ‘bumped up’ the feed of other people, so that they have more opportunity to engage as well. If, on the other hand, your content garnered little or no reaction within hours of posting, it would not reach the same number of people and the majority of your audience may never see it.
The main platforms
- LinkedIn – generally seen as a networking platform for professionals. Individuals are encouraged to share posts and videos, ‘go live’ or write articles to grow their network and engage with peers and potential clients. People can Connect with or Follow each other, depending on how much information they want to share. In order to have a Company Page, you must first have a personal profile. LinkedIn has grown considerably in popularity in recent years and we have written a series of blogs on different features and benefits (like this one on “How to get the best from LinkedIn – being present” and this one on LinkedIn Behaviour).
- Facebook – once the ‘go to’ platform for keeping in touch with family and friends. More recently, security issues and the emergence of newer platforms have led people to go elsewhere. But it is still a popular platform and warrants serious consideration. You can set up a Facebook Business page and download a separate Business Manager app for ease of handling notifications, messages and adverts. Local businesses can be very successful using Facebook, for example, through the use of local ‘Buy and Sell’ pages, ‘Recommendations’ and industry-specific groups or pages. And you can keep your personal profile separate from your business one.
- Instagram – Facebook’s younger cousin. Originally intended for sharing images, with little narrative, Instagram led the way with hashtags and Stories, which many other platforms have since emulated. Longer form content is now encouraged, too, allowing you to share more detail. Instagram’s audience is considered younger than Facebook’s and many businesses are seeing opportunities for recruitment and showing off more of their brand’s personality. Think dress down Friday, charity fundraisers and photos of the pets and kids helping you work from home. Advertising on Instagram is best managed through the Facebook Business Manager.
- Twitter – the Marmite of social media platforms. Some people love it, others hate it! Some see it as a good source of information on breaking news, others use it as a platform for debate with government or industry regulators and to raise awareness within the media. As a lead generation tool, it may not be right for you, if your audience is elsewhere, but global businesses can do really well here. Twitter advertising is considered more expensive than Facebook/Instagram, but may help you reach new audiences.
- TikTok – the controversial one! This app allows you to create and share 15 second video clips on any topic. A relative newcomer to the scene, and certainly only taken seriously by businesses very recently, look carefully at the age demographic and advertising options, before deciding if it is right for type of business you are in.
- WordPress – don’t forget about blogging sites. Once you set up the site, you are in control of it. Whilst the social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook may allow you to post articles and reach a much bigger audience, you are at the mercy of their algorithms. Consider combining both approaches – host your blog on a dedicated site and promote it through the likes of Instagram or LinkedIn.
Business versus personal
Business owners may prefer to separate their business and personal lives on social media and there are good arguments for having different accounts for each – your family and friends may use Facebook or Instagram to share holiday memories, kids’ first days at school or a rant about the latest footy scores. Ask yourself if that sort of content is what you would like your customers to see. If not, then set up a separate page for your business and post updates, testimonials and case studies there.
If you are a one partner firm, your own personality is likely to be a big part of your company’s brand identity. Platforms like LinkedIn work well here, where your name, photo, opinions and commentary can help build relationships with peers and clients alike. Employees of larger firms may use LinkedIn more like an online CV, listing career history and qualifications, or to keep an eye on vacancies in their sector. Company pages tend to be more traditional, celebrating success stories, sharing news or highlighting services offered.
In the professional services world, you may operate business to business (B2B) or business to customer (B2C). B2B firms still rely on people buying from people, so LinkedIn can work very well here, allowing you to develop stronger relationships with key decision makers. Advertising on LinkedIn can also help find new audiences. B2C firms may have more success on the likes of Facebook or Instagram, where their potential clients spend a lot of recreational time.
Why do you want to be on social media? Is it to generate new leads, talk to existing customers, follow industry news or check out the competition? The very first objective might be to grow your audience. If client loyalty is waning in your industry, you may have to look further than your town, or to a different age demographic – social media can help you with this. Whatever your reasons, your time needs to be spent efficiently and any content you post should reflect your objectives. Take a look at our recent blog “The Power of Social Proof” for more evidence of why your business needs to be online.
Marketing agencies like Cal Partners spend a considerable part of each day managing social media accounts for clients. Without a marketing department or outsourced help, remember you still have to fit in the day job, too! It’s not just a case of setting up social media accounts and leaving them to run themselves. Building an engaged audience and creating good content take time and effort. You have to be prepared to keep going.
Choose one or two platforms and do them well, rather than trying to be everywhere. Scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can help make more efficient use of your time. You could spend an hour a week, for example, scheduling content on your chosen platforms, then only have to dip in for a few minutes every day to check notifications, comments and respond to messages.
If you’re struggling with what to post, see what other, similar businesses are doing well. Think about your clients, their problems and pinch points, how you solve those, what makes you different and what you have to celebrate. There are many free downloadable content calendars – giving you a different idea for each day of the week or month. Think carefully about your content – what will make you stand out from the competition? What do your customers want to hear? Will you focus on text and imagery, or video and animation? Develop a content marketing style that aligns with your brand identity and tone of voice.
Very many businesses are realising the benefits of having a social media presence. We all like to carry out research online before purchasing – whether it be technology, domestic appliances or holiday accommodation – and these days it is no different for professional services. Cal Partners is an award-winning digital marketing agency who can help you set up and manage social media accounts. Contact us for a free consultation.