Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Vine, Pinterest, SnapChat – the list is long and ever changing, as social networks come and go. Each platform is designed to help communicate, but in slightly different ways – with pictures, text, videos, instantly, in a group, one-to-one, within the workplace, informally – but which are the platforms that really work for your business?
Choosing a platform means answering three questions:
- What do you want to say? Consider whether your want to communicate something about your brand, your business, the service you offer, a special event or something outside your usual business activities.
- How can you best communicate that message? If you want to communicate detailed information, then Twitter is unlikely to be a good choice, unless you can link to further information elsewhere. But for a brief message it’s ideal. Posts that include images or video are typically far more engaging than those with text alone, on any platform.
- What audience do you want to reach? Your customers, potential customers, colleagues and others may be more likely to engage with particular platforms – we outline the demographics of some of the more popular ones below. Think about who you’re talking to and which social media network they’re most likely to use.
Unless you have a product you want to target to a particular niche market, it’s best to stick to the biggest platforms, where you can reach the widest number of people. Smaller social networks, such as SnapChat, Vimeo, Vine and others are unlikely to be seen as a suitable platform for business communications, in any case as they’re designed for use between friends.
Your choice of social media platform may reflect how much time you are willing to dedicate to social media activity. Building networks and keeping them engaged takes time and effort; it’s much better to be actively engaged on one platform than to be half-hearted on three.
Our article on using social media to promote your business has tips from Which? Trusted traders who have successfully used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read on for a rundown of the major players that you should consider.
- for engaging with local groups
- sharing general information about your business
- advertising to a wide range of potential customers
It isn’t the coolest or the newest social media platform but, with more than 32m UK accounts, it’s the biggest. Research suggests that 78% of over-18s use Facebook in the UK, many of whom log in daily on multiple occasions, which makes it a great way to reach a wide potential audience. You can post pictures, videos and text, without a character limit.
More than 2m businesses use Facebook for advertising. You can create a business page with useful information about what you do, contact details and so on. You can get more people to ‘like’ your Facebook page by regularly posting engaging content, both on your own page and on local Facebook groups. However, Facebook does filter which posts appear on people’s newsfeeds, so your posts won’t necessarily reach all your friends or followers.
You can also pay for posts to appear on people’s newsfeeds. You can target paid-for posts to age, gender and geographic area, allowing you to tightly focus any advertising spend.
Check the Which? Trusted Traders Facebook page to see our posts about the scheme, competitions, pictures and other ways we interact with our endorsed traders and consumers.
- for immediate engagement with customers
- promotion of events or competitions
- getting your business name out there
Twitter has an estimated 15-20 million active users in the UK. It has a younger user profile than Facebook, with more than 65% of users aged under 34. Research shows that many younger Twitter users log in several times a day. It’s also favoured by people on higher incomes, making it a good place to talk about your business. Twitter is a shorter form of communication than Facebook, with posts limited to 140 characters, so you need to be brief.
A business Twitter account allows you to engage directly with your customers. You can let them know about promotions, business development, charity activity, anything that’s going on, and receive an instant response to that information. Bear in mind that Twitter filters which of your followed accounts you actually see, so you can’t guarantee that all your followers will see your tweets.
Like Facebook, Twitter offers a paid-for option to increase the number of people seeing your posts. Paid-for tweets appear high on the timelines of people who haven’t followed your business, making it a great way to advertise.
Download the Which? Trusted Traders guide to using Twitter for more tips.
- for visual promotion of your business
- sharing before / after photos
- raising brand awareness
This picture-sharing platform is great for businesses whose product is particularly visual – restaurants can share pictures of food, for example, but it can work for trades too. Images of work you have done, before-and-after pictures of jobs, pictures of people at work and so on, may well be of interest to potential customers. Again, you need to post regularly to build a following in order to raise your business’ profile.
It’s not possible to embed links within images, and there’s no comparable function to a retweet button, so you can’t share images as easily as on other platforms. But Instagram is a growing platform, with an estimated 19 million UK users, so it can be very useful for raising brand awareness, if visual messaging works for your business.
- for professional engagement
- professional network building
Described as Facebook for professionals, LinkedIn is a professional networking platform. Your profile page is about your work history, showing a form of online CV. LinkedIn currently has around 21 million users in the UK. Some professionals use it regularly to share content or ideas with their professional network, but many people will log in only on an irregular basis – often when they’re job hunting.
Larger businesses often have a presence on LinkedIn, but this is often more for recruitment purposes, rather than sales to consumers. You can follow businesses that interest you and some, like Which?, will post content on their LinkedIn page. It’s probably not worth the effort for smaller companies unless you’ve reached the point of wanting to expand.
- Ideas about how to use social media to promote your business
- How to deal with negative feedback on social media
- How to use Facebook and Twitter