The key to social media success for small business: the right message on the right network at the right time

Social media experts gave advice to small business owners on how to figure out what social networks are best for their business, creating a message people will respond to and building a social media following at Business First’s May 22 Social Media Boot Camp.

How to figure out what social networks are best for your business

LinkedIn is the social networking site most often associated with business to business users. Sean Macaluso, founder of The Mac Groups, Inc., a Williamsville-based social and digital media marketing company,called it “Facebook with pinstripes.”

“A lot of my clients use LinkedIn for recruitment­‑ lawyers, accountants‑it’s huge,” said Macaluso. “If you’re looking for more B2B clients, if you’re looking to make more connections, LinkedIn is definitely a powerful site, if it is set up the right way.”

Macaluso pointed out how members of his staff come up first in searches for social media and western New York because his staff uses “social media” as a prevalent keyword throughout their profiles.

For businesses that are more business to consumer, Facebook would be the ideal social network. However, you need to build a relationship with your fans, before they will respond to your posts or messages.

“That’s a key point for Facebook, you have to build a relationship with people,” said Macaluso.  “You can’t sell them before you know them.”

Twitter is great for news and for the individual really obsessed with your brand.

How a business utilizes a social networking site and the messages it posts will also change according to the site. During a press conference, Gregg Pastore, senior director of digital media for the Buffalo Bills, said his staff will tweet the best quotes and put a recap of the conference on Facebook.

“Facebook fans do not want that constant flow,” said Pastore.  “Twitter fans, they want that real-time update.”

For understanding how to use each social media network, Macaluso referenced the photo of a drawing by Douglas Wray that broke down the various sites using a donut analogy.

Douglas Wray’s famous Instagram photo of a whiteboard with a breakdown on the differences between major social media networks and services using donuts.

“I think as Twitter as the place I want to get to know people, so I follow them,” said Mitch Mirsky, digital marketing manager at Fisher-Price. “Facebook is great for people you already know. Twitter is much more around the clock, if you are not in front of someone in the last 15 minutes, you’re not on their newsfeed, because they probably follow other accounts.”

Although it seems tempting and easy to set up an account on each social media site out there, Scott Horton, attorney at Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel LLP., says that might not be the best approach.

“The more you are putting yourself out there, they more exposure you have,” said Horton. “I don’t just mean to legal liabilities but to brand tarnishing activities. You have to police all of this and deal with what might come up with all these platforms. “

If the key to social media success is creating great content-what exactly IS great content?

“Each platform, you have to write a little differently, you have to speak to Twitter followers differently than you speak to Facebook followers and it takes a little time to figure that out,” said Pastore.  “I tell my staff every Facebook post should have a photo and a call to action, ‘Do you like?’ or whatever you want them to do. I found people naturally comment if you tell them to. You will get more likes and get more comments (if you ask).

But how do you know what to post or what your fans want to see? The simplest way is to ask them.

“If you already have a group of people that you reach out to in-store or via an e-mail list, ask them,” said Mirsky. “Ask ‘What’s important? What do you want to hear from us?’”

The most important aspect of social media is not only being present, but being responded too. Your goal is to have your content shared, liked and commented upon. Otherwise, you run the risk of being irrelevant and unseen due to the edge rank algorithm used by Facebook to determine what shows up on a person’s news feed. That’s why so many businesses are posting birthday greetings, asking what place has the best pizza, or what your plans for the weekend are;  they want to get responses to easy and often unrelated posts in order to remain in that fan’s newsfeed. Companies often follow up these types of posts with a message that they really want people to see or react to, one that will result in a sale.

When trying to think of content and posts that will get responses, be sure you have your audience in mind. Macaluso’s company updates the Facebook page belonging to a plastic surgeon, so he is sure his posts talk about things that would be of interest to that audience.

“We know they (the fans) are female, so we talk about female products all the time and we are becoming up-to date on all those products, by the way,” joked  Macaluso. “We ask for example, ‘Do you wear UGGs or something else?’  ‘Do you prefer Sephora or Ulta?’” Basically, just talking to people in a way that we are not saying to you, ‘You should really come in for a microderm or facial. Be more subtle in your approach and the higher up you’re going to show every time someone is commenting back and forth.”

“Overall, you have to be sincere. You have to have excellent content and think about building a relationship.”