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How to decide the best platforms for marketing your business

You’ve got a business and you need to market it. People need to know you exist and how they can find you. Sounds easy enough, especially when we live in the era of Social Media, right? Just throw some posts up and you’re good, no?  Maybe ten years ago, but not now. 

There are reportedly over 500 social networks and counting.  While some channels come and go (RIP, Google+), there are six top channels that are likely in it for the long haul. And as it’s not physically possible to be active on all of them (nor would you want to, but more about that later) those companies just starting out may feel like they need to try. A new brand needs as much exposure and awareness as possible – understandably, they want to be everywhere to achieve maximum reach.  What you’ll find is that a more targeted strategy will yield better and long-lasting results as opposed to a blanket, one-size-fits-all methodology.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to keep running on the hamster wheel of posting, it’s time to take a step back and figure out your social media sweet spot.

Repeat after me: I do not need to be on every social media network. 

It’s much more important to have an active and engaged audience on one or two networks than to have a bunch of people across every platform who never read your posts or respond to them.  

Daily posting isn’t necessary either.  Two to three well thought out valued-filled posts a week are much more effective than a hurried and panicked “I don’t know what to post today, so I’ll just post this …” mentality. 

When trying to find out the best channel for your business, it’s important to answer a couple of questions first:

  1. Who is my ideal customer?
  2. Do they have kids? A truck? A koi pond?
  3. Where do they live? What do they do for a living?
  4. Which platform(s) do they spend time on?
  5. How old are they? 

Answering these questions will give you insight into which platform aligns best with your existing and future customers. Some of this information may be available through your CRM, but if you don’t know the answers to these questions – ask! Make a few interactive quiz or poll posts on your existing social pages or website for quick and easy market research.

For this blog post we’ll focus on the top 6 networks:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn

These six are the most well-known and used world-wide, applicable to most industries/niches,  and so are generally where people choose to market their businesses.  

Let’s review each one to help determine which fits best for your business.

  1. Facebook 

The big granddaddy of them all. Used by 180+ million businesses for advertising and 2.7 billion monthly active users, this one goes to the top of the class. It’s been around for long enough that an older audience is comfortable with using it, while younger generations tend to spend their social media hours elsewhere.  If your company has customers who average 35 and older, definitely include this platform in your strategy.

  1. Twitter 

This channel continues to grow;  at last check with 152 million monetizable daily active users. Of these, Americans comprise 15% of Twitters total monthly users worldwide – putting them at the top of the platform’s user base. A quick-moving hashtag-driven search haven for those who want to get bite-sized pieces of information at the push of button. With a 280 character limit this is great for users who move quick and enjoy these microblogs as their preferred method of information intake.

  1. Instagram

The images and graphics grab your attention, but the captions are where the stories are found. Crafting a caption has become an artform, drawing users in to inspire, educate, and inform.  The app has been busy rolling out new features to keep users on the app more engaged and for longer – Stories, Reels, Guides, IGTV, lives and I’m sure, more in the works. This is a great place to tell a story and grow a community.  With a reach of 140 million users in the U.S. and a nearly even gender ratio (51F/49M) it’s one to consider. And if that doesn’t convince you – 200 million users visit at least one business profile per day.  

  1. Pinterest

Not just for moms craft projects anymore! Male users are on the rise (more than 20%) here, and everyone uses it as a research portal. A large majority of female users head to Pinterest to help with planning ‘life events’ so you’ll definitely want your business to have a presence here if you serve that niche.  The site is used to find inspiration and ideas for big purchases and share ‘pins’ they’ve liked and tried with other users. And the biggest benefit to using Pinterest? The lifespan of a pin can be close to two months! When you compare it with other social media channels, where posts are gone in hours (or minutes) from your newsfeed, Pinterest leaves them all in the dust!

  1. YouTube

People may not realize this, but YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. With 2 billion users and growing, if you cater to 18-34 year olds you should work on including this into your marketing strategy. As video content can sometimes require a bit more experience in compiling and producing compared to other channels, YouTube might be a good step for more medium-sized businesses who are ready to add it to their social media strategy and have the resources to outsource the production of videos rather than doing it in-house. 

  1. LinkedIn

If you provide SaaS or primarily a B2C organization, then get on #TeamLinkedIn right away.  It’s no longer just a place to search for jobs. With 700 million active users you can connect with other professionals, and follow industry thought-leaders. They also offer “LinkedIn Learning” where you can take courses on several business topics and programs (from video editing to Microsoft Excel and everything in between). Live streams have spiked 158% in use, especially during the pandemic. LinkedIn users skew slightly more males than females (57%/43%) and it is by far the best site for lead generation.

“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” 

Meredith Hill

As stated earlier, you don’t need to be on every social network. If your customer base is parents-to-be and grandparents ready to spoil their grandkids, you can probably put LinkedIn on the backburner.  Narrow down your audience and wherever they are, that’s where you need to be.

Are you comfortable with Facebook from personal use? Then start there. Start a page for your business, post relevant and helpful content related to your industry.  Grow a community – remember it’s called social media for a reason.  Interact with your followers, start discussions, ask questions of them and they’ll give back to you.

As your community grows in engagement and you feel confident in one channel, then think of adding a second one to compliment your offering and expand your reach. A health social media strategy is one that includes an engaged and happy audience.

Transitioning your brick & mortar store online

Perhaps before 2020 began, you’d been contemplating a move to take your business online. Either away from a physical space or in addition to your store.  These last few months may have been the final push you needed to make your decision. In order to keep your store open and allow a possibility for growth, now is the time to make the jump to include an online presence.  So….now what?

 ‘Going online’ sounds simple and feels like it shouldn’t take more than a few button clicks.  In reality, there are a number of decisions to be made and the first few of these actually take place offline.

Know your ideal customer – create a buyer persona

The items you sell or service you provide will give you a good starting point of who your ideal buyer is. Consider the age and gender of your average client, their interests, lifestyle, and salary. Are they likely to shop online or would they be more inclined to come to your store? Review your available data and see what insight it can provide you. For more help in making an informed decision – prepare a quick and simple survey (1-2 questions maximum) that customers can complete while making a purchase in your store.

Product Offering

If you sell physical goods, consider how they translate into being sold online.  You will have some cost savings for an online store – less overhead being one of them – the added expense of shipping may be new for you. Logistics make up a good chunk of the cost of goods, anywhere from 6 – 11 % by some estimates. Transportation and delivery costs are calculated by weight and dimensions of the item sold and that makes a huge difference if you’re selling tea bags or if you make hand-knitted area rugs. 

And now that many giant online retailers (thanks, Amazon!) offer free shipping, smaller stores need to find creative ways to stay competitive. People will quickly ‘x’ out of their browser window when they see they are paying $25.00 in shipping for an $11.00 item. You’ll need to find a way to keep your shipping costs in line before they become a deterrent for shoppers. 

An optional approach could be a staggered launch. Choose a selection of products – perhaps one specific line. Then, as the volume of sales increases and your experience grows, add additional products in stages. This would enable you to refine your online retail plan as you get feedback from your customers.

Choosing an online platform

One of the most important decisions is the platform you choose as the framework for your site.  Things to consider include; how customizable is it, does it offer integrations with your existing inventory systems? With your payment processing systems – are there monthly subscriptions or are they one-time setup costs? If you plan on growing your online presence, be sure to pick a platform that can scale without massive updating and a ton of work from your web development team.  

A vital component that cannot be overlooked is how you will handle online payments. Does your existing financial institution have a way to integrate into an online store or will you have to use a third party for the online portion of your business? There are many options available for accepting payments, just make sure that whomever you choose works with your existing system and lessens your workload instead of adding to it.

Over and above all these – your site must be mobile-friendly, or “responsive” as those in the know would say. People spend more than 50 percent of their time online on a mobile device (excluding tablets)* and BI Intelligence has forecast that m-commerce (shopping on a mobile device) will reach $284 billion, or 45 percent of the total U.S. e-commerce market this year.**   This is critical to include in your online plan – you need to be where your customers are.

The People Factor

Depending on the size of the online store you plan to have and inventory you’ll carry, you will need to either hire additional staff or reassign existing ones into new roles. There be work in fulfilling and shipping the orders, but there will also be some man-hours for the front-end as well. Website maintenance, inventory control, and perhaps a help desk to answer emails and phone calls. 

Omnichannel Retail

One critical goal for any retailer is to provide an omnichannel retail experience. This means that a customer shopping on your site would have the same experience when they shop at your brick and mortar location.  A retail store revolves around the customer and you need to create a seamless, unified experience every time they shop with you, regardless of format. Creating this kind of experience for your shopper’s ties in greatly with the aspect of omnichannel marketing.

Omnichannel Marketing

Your overall marketing strategy needs to have one common voice. Your store and brand should have the same feel and personality across all platforms.  A traditional brick and mortar store could send out flyers, coupons, and personalized offers but an online marketing campaign has several more facets.  Personalized emails, social media posts on various platforms that invite engagement, discount codes and individual landing pages are all spokes in a wheel that create a truly unique and customized experience for the consumer.  

After all the work you’ve put into creating your online store, people need to find it. They need to know your site exists and what you offer.  In today’s crowded online world, a savvy and attention-grabbing marketing campaign will need to be included in your launch. This is one puzzle piece you cannot forget.

Final Thoughts

One element that can’t be reproduced online is the physical experience of being in your store. The human connection we’re all missing these days is one of the hardest parts of the new way we now live.  Going shopping was something that seemed so ordinary and now it’s one of the things we miss most. It shows how important the experience needs to be!

Large brands today have the resources to create seamless and frictionless experiences for consumers. Smaller businesses can achieve this on their own scale by putting great planning and thought into how they set up their online stores, how they create their customer experience, and how well they unify their physical store with their online one. 

Moving online does not have to be scary, it can be a lot of fun. With a well thought out approach, you will be amazed at the interaction you can get with your customers, and how you can foster a sense of community within your social channels. Invite them in to see you, your brand and your store, and you will create brand advocates who shop with you time and again…and bring their friends along for the ride.

*Source: Statista


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