social_media.jpgSocial media can be a fun and entertaining way to keep up with friends and family, get breaking news and find out what your favorite celebrities are up to, practically in real time. But social media’s impact on, and relevance for, business is constantly increasing - woe is the business owner that doesn’t jump on board and recognize its promotional potential. Below is a brief breakdown of the most popular social media outlets and how they can help you grow your business and reach new potential customers:

  • Facebook: Initially created as a way for college students to keep in touch with each other, Facebook has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a Facebook account. From young teens to senior citizens, it seems everyone is on Facebook, which means it is an essential tool for your business. It is easy to create a Facebook page for your business that your customers can follow, but you have to make sure you update it regularly and respond to customer’s posts in a timely manner to keep them engaged with your brand. Updates to store hours, sale notifications and any kind of positive business news can easily be posted to Facebook.
  • Twitter: While Twitter limits you to just 140 characters, you can say a lot in that little space. Twitter is considered a microblogging site that people use to find out what is going on in the world right now, almost like a breaking news site. Information gets shared instantly among Twitter’s hundreds of millions of users. Any size or type of business can use Twitter to build connections and engage customers. This com article has some great tips on how to leverage Twitter to your business’ advantage.
  • Pinterest: You don’t have to have a food, fashion or home decorating business to take advantage of Pinterest. It can be a useful tool for any type of business. Pinterest is very visual, so you will need to make sure you know what type of Pinners you would like to target, then tailor your pins accordingly. Start off by creating a few boards that have some relevance to your business. If you own a boutique, you may create boards for the latest fashions and accessories. For a public relations business, boards that offer news, quotes from famous business and PR people and infographics with tips may be relevant. You may also want to include a board that shows what inspires you as a business owner. The key is to have fun with it and don’t forget to promote it on Facebook and Twitter!
  • Instagram: As a photo-sharing app, Instagram is critically important for retailers, restaurants and travel companies, but it is every bit as important for other types of businesses, as well. It’s one of the most effective brand-building tools available today, and as it is considered the second most important social network among American teens, companies that don’t have a strong Instagram presence risk being ignored or left behind. Additionally, a study by Forrester found that top brands’ Instagram posts generated a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent, which is 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times that of Twitter.
  • Snapchat and Periscope: These two video apps allow businesses and individuals to broadcast live videos to their followers. They’re usually short in nature, and can be used for events, breaking news, updates…whatever is relevant in your business at the time. The difference between them is the lifespan of the video – Periscope’s videos stay visible for 24 hours, while Snapchat’s disappear as soon as they are watched (although a feature called Snapchat Stories keeps videos available for 24 hours). With Snapchat boasting 4 billion daily views and Periscope with 10 million, these apps are not to be ignored.

Thinking of social media as the exclusive domain of Millennials and Generation Y is not only incorrect, it is a misconception that can cost you and your business a lot of potential customers. Take some time to learn how best to use each social media platform for maximum effectiveness for your specific business, then take advantage of them – accounts are easily created and they are free to use. While they are a great marketing tool, in order to be effective you need to update them frequently. Also, don’t forget about the “social” aspect of social media sites – be engaging, entertaining, and have a little fun.