By: Gabrielle Tieman

Today, social media networking is considered one of the largest voluntary human behaviors next to brushing your teeth.  Widely acknowledged as an asset and a blessing to most companies, social media offers a diverse array of benefits to all business owners. No matter the size of your company, years in the business or level of multimedia expertise, it is one of the easiest ways for all businesses to connect directly with their customers on a personal and direct level.

Consider the benefits: not only are social media platforms free, user friendly, and carry wide spread global reach, but social media lends businesses a level of accessibility to their market and potential customers that would have never been feasible during the era of word of mouth publicity and traditional hard copy marketing. This form of instant communication can vastly improve customer relations and add increased marketing strategies.

Though this expansion of digital marketing is anything but new, the sheer number of tools and platforms available can be daunting. Many businesses are still at a loss at how to harness the power of these digital platforms. What most businesses find the most challenging is striking a fine balance between becoming laser focused on a single social network and spreading themselves too thin over too many platforms.

The key to mastering social media and being successful with your marketing goals is to have a full understanding of where your audience is and what they want and need from you in order to grow your company.

When used properly, social media can be one of your business’ most effective marketing tools and tactics – it is just a matter of understanding your market and uncovering which platforms are worth both your time and money.

1. The Conversation Starters: Twitter and Facebook

Businesses that should Invest: All businesses no matter size, age, products or services

The Benefits: Twitter and Facebook have become the go-to platforms for conversation and personal expression. Whether it is a status update on the weather or a tweet about a new favourite restaurant, Twitter and Facebook are the first two places almost all individuals go to express themselves, thoughts, concerns and feelings.

For a business, these two social platforms are like having a 24/7 direct customer contact line. They are key forums that businesses can visit to research the likes and dislikes of their customers and look into their competitors and what they are doing to attract similar clientele. As well, businesses now have the ability to respond to customer feedback, start conversations and join into existing conversations regarding criticism and positive responses.

Why they are Effective: Companies can now solve problems and complaints before they become a larger issue, reach a much broader cliental, understand which of marketing strategies are working the best and what is making their customers happy.

How to make them work for you: First you need to understand where your customers and potential customers are. What do they look for online, what do they respond to well and most importantly, what drives them away? Once you understand your audience’s wants, you can customize your posts, interactions and frequency according to what will garner a positive response.

2. The Boardroom: LinkedIn

Businesses that should invest: B2B (Business to Business) companies, working professionals, all businesses that rely on networking and expanding their pool of connections for growth

The Benefits: LinkedIn is no longer simply a networking site – it is a lead generation magnet. It allows your company infinite access to a wide range of potential new customers, suppliers, connections and employees that you would not have known existed in the past. With a number of groups and pages available for you to join, businesses can expand their reach further into topic specific areas with like-minded professionals. It can also drastically improve your brand awareness and generate buzz towards any new products and services you may have. And how nice is it to have top potential employees seek you out instead of you having to search for them?

Why it is Effective: With a new array of customer comment and review sections attached to business pages, LinkedIn is now more effective for attending to customer woes and improving on what they react positively too. And because it is vastly known as a professional platform, you can trust that your LinkedIn will attract the proper cliental and potential employees – as long as your page reflects your business’s stance.

How to make it work for you: Ensure that your profile is consistently up to date, relevant and dynamic. You want to attract followers and applications from LinkedIn talent who are using the network to find great job opportunities and connections.

3. The Visual Stimuli: Pinterest and Instagram

Businesses that should invest: Restaurants, specialty stores, clothing chains, any business that has products to promote and can benefit from visual accompaniment

The Benefits:  A picture says a thousand words and new social media sites are gripping this theory and running with it. Simply put, videos, images and infographics are easy to consume. They can take a message viral and engage with your audience so much faster than a traditional informative document would in the past. If your business is product oriented, like a store or restaurant, sharing great images of your products can increase interest and intrigue new customers to try it out.

Why it is Effective: Photos and videos can help bridge the gap between entertainment, information and lead generation. Visiting a Pinterest board of your products can feel like a leisurely activity to most consumers; so even though you are actively engaging them with your products, they feel like they are consuming it upon their own accord, not being pitched to.

How to make them work for you: Only share engaging content. Although an image is easier to craft and share with your audience than a well written paragraph, you should never post images just for the sake of filling up your feed with content. By doing so, you will lose your creative edge and your customers will skim over you when searching for content.