Social media is a catch-all term that covers a variety of online communication platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Each is slightly different, allowing you to share images, links or thoughts with your online network – something that can be useful for a business that wants to get noticed.
For digital natives, born after the internet and digital communication took over the world, it is second nature to share everything from what socks you’re wearing to advanced political theory on your social media platform(s) of choice. For many others, though, this avalanche of information can be bewildering. So how do you find your way through the noise?
The first thing to do is to decide which platform is right for what you want to say and the audience you want to reach – see our guide to choosing the right social media platform. For business use, stick with the biggest ones – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Smaller social networks tend to be focused on purely social interactions, and a business presence could be misinterpreted or unwelcome.
If you’re already confident finding your way around social media, take a look at our guide using social media to promote your business. Read on for an introduction to using Facebook and Twitter.
If you’re one of the 22% of the UK adult population that doesn’t already use Facebook, it’s pretty straightforward if you want to get involved. You’ll need to start by creating an account.
To do this, log on to Facebook and fill in your details on the home page. The easy-to-follow instructions guide you through the set-up process, helping you make connections (friends) once you have an account. You can search for people, groups or organisations you’d like to connect with. Once you have a few friends or have liked a few groups or organisations, Facebook will suggest more based on your existing connections.
At the top of your newsfeed (the list of posts from your friends) there’s a box with your profile picture next to it saying, ‘Write something’. At its simplest, this lets you just type in what you want to say. You can also add pictures or videos to your post by clicking the picture/video button, or link to other websites by adding in the web address. Hit ‘post’ and your post will appear on your friends’ newsfeeds.
Underneath each post on your newsfeed there are three buttons – like, comment and share. These buttons allow you to react to each post you see.
Like something? Click the thumbs-up icon to ‘like’ the post (or hold down the like button to choose one of the other reaction icons – love, sad, angry and so on).
Have something to say in response? Click ‘comment’ and tell the world (or your friends, anyway).
Want to show your friends a post that is on your newsfeed? Click the share button. This post will then appear on your friends’ newsfeeds.
If you like an organisation or business page by clicking the thumbs-up button on their page, then their posts will appear on your newsfeed, too.
We’d recommend using Facebook in a personal capacity to get the hang of it first. Once you’re up and running, you can create a Facebook page for your business. Include useful information such as business area, contact details and so on – then post jobs you have done, testimonials, or any other business-related content that will encourage prospective customers to like your page and see your updates.
Take a look at the Which? Trusted Traders Facebook page to see what we share – maybe give us a like too!
You can read other people’s tweets (posts) without having an account but, if you want to promote your business, you will need to create one.
Creating an account is straightforward. As with Facebook, Twitter wants you to join the conversation. Log on to Twitter and fill in your name and an email or phone number on the home page to create an account.
To start with you will need to follow other accounts. Find friends, celebrities, businesses – anyone who interests you – and click ‘follow’. This means you’ll get to read what they post. Unlike with Facebook, this does not create a reciprocal relationship between you: people you follow don’t see your posts unless they follow you back.
Once you’ve followed a few people or organisations, Twitter will suggest more based on those you’ve got already.
You can choose to follow accounts and say nothing at all – in fact, research suggests that there are far more people reading on Twitter than tweeting. But if you want to share your thoughts with the world – and you can do just that – you have 140 characters to type into the box that asks ‘What’s happening?’. You can add pictures, video or links to make your tweets more engaging.
Your tweets will appear on your followers’ timelines (list of posts). You can also increase their reach (the likelihood of being seen) by using hashtags.
Hashtags work like labels to group together tweets on the same subject. If this was a tweet, I could use the hashtag #TwitterTips, for example. Then anyone searching for that hashtag would see my tweet, along with all the others that had used that hashtag.
Businesses and events will have official hashtags where fans and followers can find relevant tweets grouped together. This makes it easier to respond to people who are tweeting about a subject that interests you. When a lot of people are using a hashtag, they are listed as trending. If you have something relevant to say that is linked to a trending hashtag, it’s a great way to get it seen by a lot of people. Beware of crowbarring in references to your business where they are not relevant, though, as this is unlikely to be well received.
Under each tweet on your timeline there are three opportunities to react. The first is a reply arrow, which allows you to respond directly to the person who has posted the tweet. You do not need to follow them to reply.
You can reply, retweet or like any of the tweets that you see.
Click the heart if you like what they’re saying.
The re-tweet button is an equivalent to a ‘share’ button. It reposts the tweet on your own timeline. The numbers next to the like and retweet buttons show how many times that tweet has already been liked and retweeted.
Having a business account is a great way to engage directly with your customers. You can tell them about promotions, events, service offers – whatever is going on in your business, in real time. Remember everything you tweet reflects on your business, so you need to be polite and professional at all times, even if some interactions can feel informal. As with Facebook, we’d recommend tweeting on a personal account first to understand the process before running a business account.
Take a look at the Which? Trusted Traders Twitter account to see how we interact with our followers. There are competitions, pictures from traders, news and updates about the scheme – as well as penguins.
Download our guide to using Twitter for a handy print-out for more ideas about using Twitter.