The majority of small businesses use social media to grow, yet for many of them, deciding which sites to use remains a challenge. In May, SocialCentiv, a patented Twitter marketing tool to help businesses find new customers, released its evaluation of how five of the most popular sites perform as marketing vehicles for small businesses. “Roughly 80 percent of small companies use social media in their expansion efforts,” says Bernard Perrine, co-founder of SocialCentiv, “yet nearly 60 percent of them had received no return on their investments.” So which site works best? Here’s what Perrine thinks:
Facebook: Prominent But Pricey
For many small businesses, the answer seems to be Facebook. “Around seven out of every 10 Internet users in the U.S. is on Facebook,” Perrine says, and with more than 1.39 billion active users, “the site is the most dominant player in social media.” A strong advantage is that advertisers can target would-be customers based on a variety of criteria, such as an individual’s location, gender and interests. The flip side? Facebook’s marketing landscape is getting crowded. As of late 2013, one million of the site’s 1.5 million advertisers were small and mid-sized businesses. Perrine says Facebook also seems to be killing off “organic,” or unpaid, reach by corporate marketers—ensuring they must pay to share their messages with the site’s members.
Google+: Too Few Members?
Although Google+ boasts some 2.2 billion user profiles, one study found that only 9.9 percent of those profiles have any content that’s been posted publicly, and in January, another researcher estimated it had only 4 to 6 million active posters to date. Since its inception in 2011, Google+ has primarily had a user base made up of younger, technology-friendly men. So aside from niche marketers looking to pitch to that demographic, Perrine says it’s difficult to see the value in small businesses spending marketing dollars on Google+.
LinkedIn: B2B Marketers Favorite
With 300 million-plus active users, LinkedIn’s niche is the professional audience. This gives it an edge in users that are college educated and between the ages of 30 and 49. “Advertisers can target LinkedIn audiences on everything from their job titles and employers to geography and age,” Perrine notes. “That can be a compelling proposition for purveyors of high-end business services, but it can be a costly advertising platform. For advertisers that cater to younger or less affluent demographics, other social platforms may better serve their interests.”
Pinterest: Visuals Over Text
Pinterest, which should hit 47 million monthly active users this year, has definite pluses for marketers. Yet its essential function—serving as an online pin board or visual bookmark—“isn’t necessarily something that large numbers of people may want to do,” according to an eMarketer study released early this year. What’s more, the vast majority of Pinterest members are female. “The emphasis on Pinterest is the visual,“ Perrine notes. “To attract users’ attention, marketers need compelling images or videos, which can be a challenge for some small businesses.”
Says Perrine, Twitter has one advantage that other social platforms can’t match: the ability to reach consumers just when they’re ready to buy. “The simple innovation of limiting users’ posts to 140 characters means people use Twitter to express just what they want in real time,” he maintains. The sheer volume of Twitter usage can present a challenge for small marketers, however. “Some 288 million monthly active users send roughly 500 million Tweets daily,” he notes. “That can be a lot of posts to comb through, but do-it-yourself marketing tools like SocialCentiv can help companies filter out the noise so they can respond in real time with discounts for products people want to spend money on.”
SocialCentiv is a do-it-yourself Twitter marketing tool that makes it easy to create a campaign that tracks keywords and reaches relevant consumers with greater precision by targeting local Tweets.