Some social networks lend themselves to a particular type of company or business sector. It is better to be in the right place than everywhere at once.
Unless an SME uses full-time employees to handle social networks, it is impossible for it to be actively present on numerous platforms at the same time. It is sometimes better not to use a particular platform than include a dozen social network icons on your website directing customers to empty or neglected pages. You therefore need to ascertain which social networks will best suit the company, depending on its business sector and target market.
Differences between B2C and B2B
The 2014 “Social Media Marketing Industry Report” by Social Media Examiner shows interesting differences in the use made by companies of social networks, between companies whose products and services are aimed at other professionals (B2B – business to business) and those aimed directly at the end consumer (B2C – business to consumer). For B2C, the most significant platform is Facebook (the number one choice for 68% of those polled), followed by Twitter (10%), blogs (6%) and LinkedIn (6%). B2B put LinkedIn first (33%), followed by Facebook (31%), Twitter (16%) and blogs (11%). All companies combined, Facebook is the social network favored by over half (54%) of those polled, a long way in front of LinkedIn (17%) and Twitter (12%).
Use of social networks in Switzerland
The 2013 study Social Media Schweiz by Bernet PR and the Haute École des Sciences Appliquées de Zurich (ZHAW) reveals that 89% of companies with more than 250 employees actively use social networks for their communication, compared to 59% of companies with up to 10 employees. Today, social networks seem to be used much more by large companies, particularly those with a strong brand image with the public, than by SMEs. However SMEs are not ignoring the increasing importance of these new channels of communication.
Being present on Facebook means having access to an audience of hundreds of millions of users. It is therefore difficult to overlook this social network, although it is more suitable for B2C companies. Since the network is actually mainly designed for individuals, companies targeting the general public will find more resonance on Facebook than exclusively B2B companies.
A few tips for optimizing your presence on Facebook:
- The best way of getting your company talked about is to create a page in its name, which users can “like”, freely (no need to send a friend request first).
- Make the most of Facebook's list of apps. For example, there are apps to link your blog to your Facebook page and others for creating surveys.
- Remember to choose an image for your profile.
- Remember to manage your privacy settings.
- Consider your Facebook account statuses as tweets, which should be informative, interesting and regularly updated.
- Create and organize events to promote your activity.
LinkedIn and Xing
The professional social networks LinkedIn and Xing operate like enormous platforms where members swap business cards. They allow members to grow their network by finding former colleagues or forming new business relationships, notably with people who share their interests, potential customers or suppliers. These networks therefore have huge potential in terms of marketing, particularly for B2B businesses. Recruitment managers can also use them to post job offers or look at candidate profiles.
A few tips for optimizing your presence on LinkedIn or Xing:
- Create the most comprehensive profile possible. Adding a photo is optional but adds a human touch.
- Expand your network – try and get yourself introduced to other users through your contacts.
- Create a “group” to share your experience and skills with other users or find a group relating to your business sector and get involved in discussions, answer questions and offer your expertise to other users.
- Ask questions or answer questions posted by other users.
- Organize events.
- Link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn or Xing account so that your tweets are automatically retweeted.
- Do not send contact requests to people you do not know and do not use aggressive marketing. These practices are very poorly received and counterproductive.
The format and function of Twitter are particularly well-suited to companies. This microblogging site, half social network, half telegraph exchange, means very condensed information can be shared without logging on to a website. This is an excellent way of keeping up with trends and cultivating an audience which may well become partners or customers. So Twitter suits all types of company, provided they have enough material to regularly update their feed!
A few tips for optimizing your presence on Twitter:
- Try to create the most comprehensive account possible, with images, a description of your company and its activities and links to your website or your blog, as well as your centers of interest.
- Find and follow (“become a follower”, in the site jargon) accounts that share your interests or are active in comparable sectors.
- If customers or partners follow you, do not forget to follow them back.
- Tweet regularly and intelligently – your followers want to get relevant information, not find out what you had for lunch.
- Create lists to categorize your followers and use the lists of other users to grow your audience.
- Use “URL shorteners” to save space when you tweet a link. Make sure you only use long-term reliable sites for this.
- Do regular research on Twitter to keep yourself up-to-date on popular hot topics of discussion and find users tweeting on topics similar to yours.
- Add hashtags (#) before keywords in your tweets, to increase their visibility.
Image and video exchange platforms
Video sharing websites (Youtube, Vimeo, Instagram) and photo sharing websites (Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr) in principle allow the free hosting of content on which members of the virtual community can comment. Since a picture speaks a thousand words, posting photos or videos can be very positive for a company in terms of marketing results, particularly due to their educational value. Unlike tweets and Facebook statuses, images and videos in particular have quite a long life and do not require updates, provided their informative content is still valid. This type of communication is therefore suitable for all types of company, on the condition, of course, that it is of a high quality.
A few tips for optimizing your use of image and video sharing websites:
- Share images and videos of your activities, your conferences, etc., to add the human touch and bring your company closer to your partners or customers.
- Systematically add URL addresses linked to your website or your blog, whenever you post images or videos. This will improve your referencing on search engines and will increase traffic.
- Whenever possible, incorporate videos directly into your website, avoiding having to go via the video sharing website (for example, YouTube provides this option).
- Images and videos have a long life and are available to an audience which is particularly quick to criticize, so be very careful with the quality of your posts.
Sources: Réseaux sociaux et entreprise: les bonnes pratiques, Christine Balagué and David Fayon, Pearson, 2011; Le marketing en ligne, Jon Reed and Christine Balagué, Pearson, 2011.