What is the next thing? I bet we all wish we knew. It’s not impossible to predict, but it is impossible to get ahead of it. Facebook was hot, then Twitter, then Foursquare, then Google+ and now it’s Instagram. I’m probably missing a few in there (LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) and I may even have them out of order, but you get the idea and for now I’ll just focus on these five.
So what is next and should any of these be focused on more aggressively than the other – to promote your business and engage with your customers? Here are just some of my general thoughts on each of these, both from a personal and business perspective.
–Facebook – I’m not a big fan of Facebook personally. However, I do see a place for it in small (and big) business promotion. One negative I want to point out for small businesses though is that Facebook is in full control and you, as the client or user, have very little control. Facebook can change their rules anytime they like and you have to quickly adhere to those rules or else. For example, when they changed business profiles to the timeline format, I believe you had 30-day’s notice… Unfortunately some businesses don’t even post every 30 days… Facebook does have the most users of any social media channel and I still think it’s a great way to engage with your customers on certain topics, hold contests, have casual banter, etc..
–Twitter – I LOVE Twitter and this social channel is now much more widely recognized than it was a few years ago. Major broadcasts often reference hash tags and enable the viewing audience to participate in the event in some way via Twitter. I find that Twitter is excellent to find news, investigate products or services, engage with others consumers, share opinions and much more. With promoted tweets it’s become much easier for small businesses to get some added exposure, but it’s still not the best marketing channel for small businesses
–Foursquare – Foursquare is having some trouble as of late and is losing popularity before some even knew it existed. I think it’s a cool way to tell friends where you are and subtly remind them that they should be there too. I find that my restaurant clients get the most benefit from it, but sadly these clients do not utilize it enough. Overall this social channel is good for loyal customers of a brand and if those customers are influencers, then it can be pretty effective. I like how Foursquare can provide specials and tips about certain things at a location. I hope more people come around to it, but for now it’s doesn’t seem to be a major channel for the small businesses I deal with
–Google+ – Google+ is here to stay, whether you like it or not. I don’t actually think that much customer engagement is taking place here yet, but it will. Small businesses need Google+ for search engine reasons, if nothing else
–Instagram – Instagram is another social channel that I love, but the business uses for it – or at least the small business uses for it – are not easy to determine yet. It appears to be more of a personal social channel, if that makes sense, and it skews to the younger crowd. However, Instagram users are growing by the day, it’s a visual medium and it’s one people and businesses need to pay attention to
The key with most of these social channels is that you never know where your customers are going to come from. As a small business you may not be able to effectively utilize each of these, but you have to know what they are and you have to make assumptions about which channels your audience will be paying attention to. Brand impressions are still brand impressions, no matter how you get them, so keep that in mind when using these channels and thinking “what am I getting from this?”
So what’s next? I’m not sure, but I know this. As a small business marketer, we have to constantly be aware of what is happening and quickly determine what will last, what will work for our clients, etc… and then learn how to use it or we’ll get left in the dust by some other provider who’s paying more attention. We can’t let that happen!