NEW YORK (AP) — When Snapchat went public this year it was a reminder to many small business owners that they need to be part of the social media evolution. But which network? Snapchat? Facebook? Instagram? All of the above?
Many owners opt for a mix, picking services that will be the best marketing tools for their companies.
“Each channel is used in different ways, and should be used in different ways. There’s no ‘one size fits all,’ ” said Michelle Vroom, whose eponymous public relations company in the Philadelphia suburb of Horsham advises small businesses on how to use social media.
Instagram and Snapchat, for example, have more young users. LinkedIn, for many people, is a tool for professional networking and job searches. The majority of users on Pinterest are women, while Tumblr appeals to social bloggers. There are also channels focused on specific industries, such as Architizer for architects and Glozal for real estate.
Owners shouldn’t think in terms of this service or that one, but look at all the options to develop a strategy, experts say.
“They need to think about where their audiences are, what they are reading, what they are doing,” said Kenneth Hitchner, public relations and social media director for Creative Marketing Alliance, which is based in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.
“If you are marketing to seniors, you’re not going to be using the latest social media app like Snapchat because the audience isn’t there — just like if you are marketing to teens you probably aren’t going to use something like LinkedIn.”
White Rabbit New York, an online lingerie retailer, uses Instagram to reach customers in their 20s and 30s. Co-owner Mariana Hernandez finds that those shoppers, when they hear about a brand, want to look it up on Instagram. Once they’ve bought from the company, they also visit its Facebook page, where there are stories, event announcements and other posts.
The New York-based company also uses Pinterest, where users “pin” links to items for reference or for their friends to see. Hernandez continually experiments with different kinds of pictures, videos and content to keep up with the changing tastes of social media users.
Facebook is the most widely used social media service, with a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center finding that nearly 80 percent of adults who use the Internet are on Facebook. Thirty-two percent use Instagram, 31 percent are Pinterest users, 29 percent are on LinkedIn, and 24 percent use Twitter.
The differences among the services go into an owner’s social media strategy. Facebook posts are available for years, while some Instagram posts disappear after 24 hours. Companies that use video in their marketing have many options. While YouTube was the online video pioneer, the most popular services also have video capabilities. Twitter is used by companies not just for advertising but to break news about their products and services.
What a company sells can also affect its choices. Consumer products and services that can be beautifully photographed are perfect for Instagram and Snapchat, where images and videos are the main draw. Facebook is set up more so users can click on links that will take them to websites where they can browse or order merchandise.
Many companies that don’t believe social media can help them grow nonetheless make sure they have a presence on at least one channel.
MemberSuite, a software company, posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, although social media don’t necessarily help it get new customers, CEO Andrew Ryan said. Its news and blog items increase awareness about the Atlanta-based company.
“What (social media) does is give us a sense of credibility and gives our customers confidence in us,” Ryan said.
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