With a new social media site seemingly  going live every hour, are you still having trouble navigating which of the big 4 social media sites will be crucial for your small business?  What if I told you that not all 4 will be the best option for your business, and that you will see a greater return by focusing on social media channels which have a proven track record for your vertical? Between Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, there’s no doubt that each platform has worked diligently to attract small businesses to interact with their platform to reach consumers where they spend the majority of their time.  While it’s tempting as a business-owner or marketing director to want to focus on all 4 platforms to make sure you capture the ENTIRE potential audience, focusing too much attention across all 4 platforms when one or two are actually delivering the right audience can lead to diminishing returns on your social media strategy.

When is Facebook an appropriate platform for small businesses?

Facebook for Small BusinessTouting over a billion users, you’d have to be crazy to not focus your attention here, right?  Facebook certainly has a captive audience, but you have to remember you’re not the only small business on the Zuckerberg bandwagon.  Not to mention, your Facebook posts have to compete with funny meme’s, baby photos, and the crushing flow of all-too-personal information.  For that reason, you should focus on branding and engaging users with new and exciting products.  The attention span of a user on Facebook is going to be very short, so get their attention by launching new products or exciting news that reinforces your brand strategy. If you are trying to get valuable feedback from consumers regarding your new mission statement, and you’re not necessarily interested in the “trolling” comments that may follow, your efforts here are likely going to be futile.  If you don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of time responding to internet trolls, keep it simple.  Have fun with Facebook and give users a glimpse into the culture of your brand, and keep them updated on new products.  Any more thoughtful than that, and your post may go viral for all the wrong reasons.  When used correctly, Facebook can be a great way to engage consumers and can be an important piece of your branding strategy.

Should you use Twitter?

Twitter for Small BusinessThe micro-blogging platform has been an exciting addition to the social media landscape  for a couple reasons.  First, users were absolutely captivated by the idea of reaching their favorite celebrities directly.  Second, knowing that the longest post you would ever read is 140 characters sent users flocking to a site that forced users to be concise and direct. So how does this benefit your small business?  While getting a retweet from Justin Bieber is every teenage girl’s dream, the older demographic has found a new benefit.  With so many companies growing a Twitter presence, users can now directly engage with companies to either voice their concerns or pass along positive feedback.  For that reason, Twitter has become a great customer service platform where companies can directly address a user’s feedback without needing to staff their own call-center.  As a small business, use Twitter to respond to feedback and interact directly with users.

What role should LinkedIn play?

LinkedIn for Small BusinessIf you are in the financial sector, LinkedIn can be a great way to interact with your clientele, but there’s no doubt that you can’t and shouldn’t have as much fun as you might on Facebook.  Users who interact regularly with LinkedIn are looking for a professional approach.  Unless you are a B2B company or worked directly with finances, LinkedIn is probably not going to be the right platform for your small business. I know what you may be thinking… But that’s where the most affluent members of our society spend most of their time!  Just remember, anyone who is on LinkedIn is likely on other social media platforms.  Find them there.  If you are trying to sell a product directly to consumers, there are better platforms to spend your time and more importantly, your marketing resources.  Whether users realize it or not, each social media platform serves a specific purpose.  Going against the mold in this case will just make your small business look “spammy”, and it’s unlikely you will see a return on your time and effort.

The Google+ Wasteland

Google+ for Small BusinessIf you have heard of Google+, it’s likely you’ve worked with an SEO company or website development firm in the past.  Every business that relies on Google to deliver new customers to their business wants desperately to be in Google’s good graces.  For that reason, they want to focus time and energy into this “growing” social media platform.   Let’s stop and ask a question… When was the last time anyone said, “Hang on, I need to check my Google+ profile.”  If there’s no one there, why are you investing time and resources to make sure your small business is? That’s not to say Google+ serves no purpose.  If you have a storefront or if you work in the tech industry, Google+ offers a couple tools that can help you reach consumers.  First, make sure your business is listed on Google My Business (Formerly known as Google Maps, Google Places, and Google Local) if you have a storefront.  Regardless of what Google decides to call this next week, it gets your business locations in front of anyone using Google to find you.   Second, Google+ plays a role in search engine optimization, and having a verified business listing can help improve your search visibility.   With Google+, just don’t expect real life human-beings to interact with posts.  They aren’t there, and frankly, they probably never will be.

Save your time and money… Choose wisely

Understanding the different social media platforms and the role they play in supporting small business can save you both time and money.  Focus on social media platforms that serve your specific need, and don’t worry so much about being a specialist on all things social.  Not every platform is going to be right for every purpose, so understanding your small business goals will help you to narrow your focus moving forward.

Richard Lesher is an internet marketing consultant and Senior Account Manager with Volume Nine.  He is passionate about consulting and providing advice to anyone looking to make an impact on their business through internet marketing. In his free time, Richard is a dog-lover and spends a majority of his time discovering new places around Colorado with man’s best friend.