Which social media sites are best for your business?

social media with social squidsIt seems that every day a new social media platform arrives on the scene. Trying to figure out which ones work best for your business can be confusing. It does not matter whether your business is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Here are some clues to help with the decisions.

Everyone can benefit from the mass appeal of Facebook and Twitter. There are so many people on these sites that you can use the shotgun approach to finding business. That is when you send you message to so many people, a percentage of them must be interested. You Tube also has a wide appeal, but you have to have to create interesting videos that people want to see.

If your business can show before and after” photos like home improvements, makeovers, dog grooming, etc., the more visually oriented platforms will work great. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Vine are excellent ways to let the visuals do the talking. For businesses that are creative, like illustrators, photographers and web designers, the visually oriented apps are your best bet. Show off your work!

An accountant, lawyer or medical practice can benefit from using blogs. A blog can be more targeted, especially if you use appropriate bookmarking sites to spread the word. Blogs can have a mass appeal as well, especially if you have a topic that is appropriate for a wide audience. By offering tips, you let readers know you are an expert in your field.

All social media helps you get your business name in front of an audience every time you post. Conversely, if you only post occasionally, you are losing that audience. By using the right social media platforms, you will become a household name. Once that happens, people will begin to think of your business when they need to hire someone in your field or make a purchase.

The new look of Pinterest

If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, this is a social media platform for photos. Imagine a room full of bulletin boards. You see a photo that you find interesting and you pin it to one of the boards. That is the focus of Pinterest.

That is all well and good, but you probably want to know how can it help you grow your business. If you embed your web address in the photo using photo editing software, such as Photoshop or Picasa, your website will be on that photo forever. If people repin your photo, or post it to their own Pinterest page, your message will go along with the photo. You can also simply type a message with your web address in the comment section that goes under the photo. If someone repins the photo, they have the option of typing their own comment and your comment will be gone.

You can show what your business does and then pin that photo to your board. If the comment has a call to action, a person may be prompted to email or call your business. Of course, some businesses lend themselves to this visual medium. Others do not. People in the fashion industry, a retail business, real estate agent, etc. would do well with a Pinterest page for their business. Other businesses may not benefit as much from an account. If you can show before and after pictures of a service you provide, Pinterest would work well.

Most people use Pinterest for fun and not for business reasons, which is why getting your brand and message across is a bonus. If you can post non-blurry photos that are clever, funny, awe inspiring or amazing, you can attract people to your boards. Not all of your boards have to be business related.

When I was little and my brother and I would fight, he would often slap me up high and punch me in the stomach and say, “While you are looking up here (slap!), I’ll get you down here (punch!). He is five years younger, so I guess it was acceptable back then! My point is that while you have people looking at your pretty photos, you can sneak the punch in with your brand and message.

The new look of Pinterest was made to be more user-friendly. It was purposely made to look much different than Facebook, according to CEO Ben Silbermann.

Cover photos are now larger to help get your statement across. When you view the boards, you see the cover photo and four smaller photos of pictures within that board. The profile information is now across the top of the page instead of along the side. The profile photo itself is much larger. On the right side, you can see the latest people to repin any of your pins.

Photo sharing fun

Have you purchased anything that needs to be assembled lately? If so, you might have noticed that many things do not have words in their instructions. It’s all symbols and drawing. Maybe it is because the products are sold all over the world, but I wonder if it is not something else. It seems that today, sharing drawings, photos and videos is becoming just as important as sharing the written word.

Choosing a way to share your photos has become a competitive industry. There are many from which to choose: Hipstamatic, Pinterest, Instagram or a host of other apps that allow people to share their smart phone photos with the world. They are all easy to use, for the most part.

Unedited on left, edited version on right.
Unedited on left, edited version on right.

Hipstamatic wants people to find that artist within themselves. Pinterest seems to concentrate on style and fashion. Instagram became popular as a way to share food photos. Millions of people are using them, deciding which one(s) to use is a dilemma. It seems like just when I get used to using something, it falls out of favor and another has come to take its place. At the same time, I do not want to neglect the people I have already made a connection with. I end up dividing my time and photos among various photo sharing options.

Most of the photo sharing apps will allow the user to edit, crop and change the lighting. Many can make the photo look old-timey, artsy or have some special effect that makes a poor quality photo appear like the photographer did it on purpose (always good for my sad photography skills). Photos can be imported from the phone’s camera roll or taken through the app, manipulated and then exported to other social media sites. It is a way for people to share photos of every aspect of their lives, which seems to be important these days.

Unedited on the left, edited version on the right.
Unedited on the left, edited version on the right.

And, 300 words in, I get to the point. You can drive prospective clients to your website, blog or other page with your amazing photos. Allow people to get to know your brand. Use descriptions with hashtags making your photos searchable. Follow people who are in your target audience. They just might follow back. You can add text to the actual photo in some apps. Add your website. Give the people a way to find your business.

People are making money using these apps by funneling business to their more serious website, Facebook page, Twitter page, Google+ or blog.

Take some photos and give it a try. Who doesn’t like taking pictures? I took about 20 photos while walking my dog the other way to give a new app a try (see above). It is a fun way to get your message to the masses and grow your business.

Infographics on the rise

infographics-for-business-growthInfographics, like the one on this page, are gaining ground on regular photos for marketing. Why not? Take your subject matter and turn it into something that is a little more entertaining than a boring photo or mere words. You do not have much time to either get someone’s attention or lose him. Having interesting artwork can make the difference.

As memes have become more popular, infographics followed along with B2B (business to business) messages. At a glance, a person can see the article’s subject matter. Then, he can make the decision to read or to move along to something else. Because my background is in graphics, I find the use of infographics a fun way to get my message to others. Because the graphic work is a jpg or gif file, the image can be pinned on Pinterest.

Often times, I take some base clipart and add my own spin. I’ve always been a huge fan of collage and taking pieces of art and putting them together in a graphic is a little collage-y. I didn’t realize I was such a trendsetter until I started reading about infographics in the news lately.

Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve been custom designing little graphics to make my point. Who knew? What I thought was a quick little flourish on my blog, is now becoming a serious marketing technique. Without getting an advanced degree in graphics, you should be able to find some clipart (I subscribe to a service) and then embellish it to illustrate your content. If not, I’m available for consultation at a reasonable price.

As You Tube, Pinterest, Instagram and memes are snowballing in popularity, the visual media is nearly as important as the written words. Make sure if you are using artwork in anything you do, like your website or blog, that you have permission or pay for the art you use. If not, you can get yourself into trouble with copyright infringements. Better yet, draw your own images or take your own photos.

It seems like every day the social media possibilities are changing or growing. As a B2B owner, freelancer or subcontractor, you have to change with the times. You only have a couple seconds to get someone’s attention or they will click on to the next item. If you have read all the way to this point – thank you!

Instagram for fun and profit

instagram for business growthWhile I’ve been an avid user of many social media sites, I only recently started using Instagram. As a rival to Pinterest, businesses can take advantage of this very visual medium to spread the word of their brand. Unlike Pinterest, users can edit their photos.

Last night I went to a happy hour event to say goodbye to a friend who is moving out of town. It just so happened there was a big rally for the Ravens going on at the same time. I snapped a photo of a car – Ravens purple – on display. Not bad, right?

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, take advantage and start posting. Whether you have photos of people, movie stars, athletes, food pics, crafting projects, flowers or whatever – you can spread a message visually. Use this free service to grow your business. Think of all the images that define who you are and what you do. Then go take some pictures.

Just about everyone has a camera on his/her phone. With Instagram, you can add a little flair to your pics and make them look old-timey or change the warmth of the photo. Essentially, you can make fairly awful pictures look pretty good – or at least make them look artsy!

Instagram started gaining popularity as a business tool with chefs showing off their delicious food. If you have ever taken a photo of food, it generally looks terrible – unless you have professional equipment and great lighting. Using the various tools on Instagram, you can make your dinner plate look much more appetizing.

Just like with Twitter and Pinterest, you can add hashtags to keywords in your descriptions. You should use descriptions of the photos when using Instagram for business purposes to help people find you when they search keywords or terms.

WordPress and other websites have Instagram widgets that can add up to 20 photos onto your web page. This keeps your site ever-changing as you regularly update photos. We all know how much people love to see new content. It gives your clients a reason to keep checking back with your site or your Instagram page.