What are the Best Social Media Channels for Small Businesses

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For those of us in the brick-and-mortar business world, the very idea of using social media as a marketing tool can seem intimidating, time-consuming, or just plain nonsensical, but the numbers tell a different story. According to a report published by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), Canadians spend an average of 36.7 hours per month online, and 59% of us log on to use social media. We’re also there for general surfing (49%), shopping (46%), and product research (43%). Yet despite this strong trend toward online research and purchasing, some Canadian businesses are reluctant to embrace social media—and it’s hurting their bottom line.

As decorators and designers, do we need to be on social media? Like every other aspect of our work, this is a matter of making smart decisions about where to put our time and money. The answer is there is undeniable value of using social media in our industry. We all know buyers use social media to research and plan their projects. And we have great material to share: we trade in “look and feel” and research shows that images are more engaging, memorable, and shared than text posts. This means the very work we’re already doing transfers easily to social media, and often outperforms other kinds of content.

The question isn’t should we be on social media, it is which social media platforms should we be on. Here’s a rundown to help choose.

Facebook

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Still the largest social media channel by far, Facebook should not be ignored. According to an Insights West report on 2016 social media usage, a full 71% of Canadians surveyed visit the network at least twice per week. That’s a lot of eyeballs and a lot more potential for sharing. Remember: Your messages have the potential to reach not only your target clients, but also their connections. Facebook has the ability to handle video, images, and text, and has integrated direct messaging which makes it dead simple for your clients (or potential clients) to find you.

Bottom line: Facebook is worth your time investment, and is absolutely crucial if you don’t also maintain your own website.

Pinterest

Despite (or perhaps because of) its reputation as a “women’s” channel, Pinterest is a very strong outlet in the social media landscape, attracting around 23% of Canadians at least twice per week. Built with scrapbooking in mind, Pinterest is an easy and visually appealing way to gather and present curated collections of… well, anything at all. Imagine a meeting with a client. To illustrate your ideas for a sitting room, you pull a paint chip, a fabric swatch, and a picture of some vases out of your bag. Pinterest is the digital version of that.

Bottom line: You should be using Pinterest in concert with Instagram (see below).

Instagram

Instagram attracts around 20% of Canadians at least twice per week, and worldwide, it’s got more than 500 million users. Instagram prioritizes imagery and offers a collection of gorgeous photo filters that easily make everything you shoot look incredible. And, whereas Pinterest boards are typically collections of other people’s images with links to external sites, on Instagram you post your own pictures. In this scenario, when you meet with a client you pull out a portfolio of high-quality photos of your previous projects.

Bottom line: Instagram is indispensable for engaging users and building loyal followers in our ultra-photogenic line of work.

YouTube

Worldwide, online video usage is up and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. In Canada, around 49% of us visit YouTube at least twice per month; it’s especially popular among millennials. Video is the perfect medium for how-tos, panels, and showings, but video production can be time-consuming.
Bottom line: Setting up a YouTube account is easy but keeping it fresh is not. Consider a YouTube account if you are already experienced at making videos and plan to produce them regularly.

Twitter

Twitter was made to deliver fast, brief bits of information. Although the original hard character limit has been modified to include image attachments and a 280-character count, its strength lies in speed and directness.

Bottom line: Skip it. Other platforms perform better for our industry, so you’re better to invest your time on those. Revisit Twitter if you get to a point in your communications where you need to make yourself available in real-time, you have the resources to make sure someone’s monitoring your feed.

LinkedIn

Different in tenor from the channels listed above, LinkedIn acts as a digital CV and social networking tool with a strong emphasis on professional networking.

Bottom line: LinkedIn is worth maintaining, if only to establish yourself as a Canadian design and decoration professional.

The key is to pick just one channel to start and keep it updated. Although there are dozens of social media channels, getting acquainted with one at a time will help you learn the “language” of the others. Once you have that profile thriving, then consider expanding your social media reach. Before you know it, you’ll have a firm grasp of this rich space, and a list of clients and potential clients engaging with you there.