Social media is one of the cheapest and most effective ways for new startup businesses to promote themselves. There are now dozens of different social media networks and tools and very few businesses will be able to use all of them effectively. So it is important for startups and small businesses to pick and choose where they spend their time and energy.
The social media landscape is constantly changing as services evolve and audiences move around. Below we have rounded up the latest trends in social media that you need to know about and described how some of the newer social networks could be used by startups and small businesses.
Facebook has announced a range of new features which are going to be launched in the next few months including improved analytics and better support for embedded videos. Probably the most important new feature for businesses will be that users will be able to communicate with you through the Facebook Messenger platform. Facebook’s idea is that users will send messages through the Messenger app rather than emailing or communicating through other traditional channels.
We will have to wait and see how much uptake this actually gets from businesses and consumers but it is likely to be something people use alongside email rather than a replacement for it.
Facebook are continuing to move Business Pages towards adverts and away from organic growth. They are making it much harder to connect with customers on Facebook unless you are willing to pay and many businesses have found the return on investment from Facebook ads to be poor. This is one of the reasons why many businesses are paying less attention to Facebook as a marketing platform.
Pinterest continues to go from strength to strength as a platform for marketing businesses. Its key demographic is women in their 30s and 40s, the kind of businesses that do well on Pinterest are related to weddings, food, fashion, interior design, gardening and fitness. It is an image sharing platform so you do need to either create or find good images but these can be embedded in blog posts and then shared on the platform. As any posts will link directly back to your blog or website it is an easy way to drive traffic to your site. Because posts on Pinterest are highly searchable they tend to get re-posted for weeks or months, giving your content a much longer lifespan than it would have on networks like Twitter.
Pinterest really works best for business to consumer and retail and is well worth exploring if this is your marketplace.
Periscope and Meerkat
These two new apps have appeared in the last couple of months. They both allow the same basic functionality which is to share live streaming video from your smartphone or laptop with anyone in the world. Periscope has been bought out by Twitter and this functionality is now being made available to all Twitter users so that they can directly share streaming video.
If you are putting on events for your business this could be an easy way to share them with your social media followers. Quite a few people are also using these apps to do live interviews, seminars or talks about their business or industry. We have also seen people using them to give live tours of business shows and to do product reviews.
Algorithm updates – In the past Twitter was pretty simple, when you opened it up you got the most recent tweets by the people you follow in chronological order. Twitter have been quietly messing around with this for a while so that they may now show highlights of what happened since your last login. They may also show tweets people have favourited or bump up popular tweets in your feed. They aren’t always doing this though and they seem to be treating business and personal accounts equally so for the moment it doesn’t make much difference to how businesses use Twitter. However it is something that Twitter users should be aware of and keep an eye on.
Twitter and Google – Twitter is now the go-to place for breaking news and live commentary on events. Google obviously want to be able to see what people are saying, index it and show it in search results, so that if a major news event happens Google may show breaking news from the BBC or Sky but also Tweets from people who are there on the ground. The problem for Google is that Twiiter has so many posts that they struggle to keep up. Twitter used to give Google a direct feed of all Tweets but stopped a couple of years ago. Recent reports indicate they are starting again so we should soon start to see Tweets appearing more often in search results.
This is good news for businesses who are active on Twitter as it gives them another avenue to appear in the Google search results.
Google+, Streams and Photos
When Google+ was launched it was supposed to bring together a lot of Google’s services under one umbrella. Their latest moves have been to start separating them out again. Over the last few months ‘Google My Business’ has evolved into a more standalone service for small businesses to promote themselves online. Under the hood it is still basically Google+ but Google are choosing to promote it as a separate service. They are now doing a similar thing with the steams and photo sharing parts of Google+, separating them out and promoting them independently. For the moment this doesn’t change how most businesses will use Google+ but it has been seen by some in the industry as the start of the end of the Google+ brand.
Whatsapp and Snapchat
Neither of these services are really social media networks. They are messaging services but they are starting to get used as social media tools by some businesses. Whatsapp effectively works as an instant messaging service and some businesses are using it to communicate with their clients. The advantage of a service like Whatsapp is that it is essentially free and can be used from smartphones to get an instant response. It is mainly being used for customer services rather than as a selling tool at the moment.
Snapchat is a service for sharing images. One of the key features of Snapchat is that the images disappear after 10 seconds. However there is a function within Snapchat called Snapchat stories. This allows you to put together a series of images which last online for 24 hours. This is starting to get used by some companies to promote product launches or special one-off events. Snapchat is mainly used by people in their teens and early twenties so this could be a good service to experiment with if you wanted to promote an exclusive one off event to this demographic.
While it always takes time to build a following and get meaningful returns on social media it is worth testing out some of the new features and social media networks to see how they will work for your business. You never know, they may turn into a brilliant new sales channel.