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Five SME leaders explain how they picked the best social media platform for their business

Best social media platform
The visual nature of a business like The Restory makes it perfect for social media

From LinkedIn to Pinterest, picking the best social media platform for your business comes down to aligning it with the values, interests and demographic of your customers.

Social media has transformed the way in which companies interact with customers. According to recent figures by research agency Kantar TNS, nearly two-thirds of British people use social media every day and over three quarters will do so weekly. On average, we use 4.8 different platforms per week.

However, the findings also offer a warning to brands – exactly half of UK respondents, compared to 32 per cent globally, agree with the statement: “Overall, the things brands post on social media are not relevant to me.” Creating good content, and finding the best social media platform to publish it on, is key to a successful sales and marketing strategy.

“Recruiters often use LinkedIn as a key tool, but there’s a huge difference between those who use it correctly and those who don’t,” said James Calder, CEO of Nottingham-based Distinct Recruitment – which was founded in 2016 and employs 24 people. LinkedIn is widely regarded as the best social media platform for recruiters and it can be every effective. However, Calder believes many firms don’t use it properly because a scatter gun approach is adopted, with spam messages and irrelevant content.

Distinct Recruitment
Distinct Recruitment often takes a light-hearted approach to posts

“It was things like this that were the basis for starting Distinct Recruitment,” explained Calder. “We ensure LinkedIn is used in different ways every day to reach candidates and employers alike. We’ve found success with keeping posts genuine. By this we mean proving our services work, which would be relevant to any industry. If a client has some exceptional feedback about you, share this with your connections and, as long as your tone isn’t too boastful, people will want to engage with your success.”

The company also recently found that advertising job roles through live video on social media has been productive and, even as a business-to-business social platform, there is scope with LinkedIn to take a more humanistic approach.

“LinkedIn is often seen as quite a serious tool in the social media landscape and, because of this, when you’re a business that does things differently and has staff openly having banter in the comments section, you get noticed,” said Calder. “Importantly, in all of our social media content we want people to see us for the real people we are. This is a crucial component in an industry where connections are king.”

For instance, a recent video showing a member staff on the phone celebrating with a candidate that she had secured a new role for had in excess of 700 likes and 30,000 views. “Another example was a comment I made around the emergence of life coaches and my frustrations with them, which led to 70 comments and over 40,000 views. The key, we have found, is to have interesting and non-vanilla content. Opinions, original pictures and videos will gain a lot more tractions than a vanilla job advert.”

Social media usage in the UK and USA

Among online UK and US adults aged 18+, the percentage who use each network – Source: Avocado Social

Christian McAleenan, managing director of Christian Benedict, which is based in Manchester and was launched in 2017, also used LinkedIn initially. Although he found its paid for services expensive, McAleenan has used the site’s analytic tools such, as Website Demographics, to choose other social media platforms and to target customers on them.

“You can see where people live and work and then use that information for other platforms,” he said. “That’s the beauty of social media – because there are so many different platforms you can take the learnings from one and apply them to another.

“You can learn about your customers too. I assumed that our audience would be in around the main conurbations, such as London and Manchester, but actually they’re everywhere across the whole of the British Isles.” One was even from Denmark and persuaded the business to start exporting there.

Facebook, meanwhile, has proved to be the best social media platform for Progressive Property. “Facebook Groups have worked really well as a way of building a community of individuals who’ve become fans of our products such as property investment courses, mentorships and books,” said co-founder and director Rob Moore. One group has brought in some £20,000 worth of business. Users create around 90 per cent of content now and some have been appointed to administer the groups.

“It’s been very much about trial and error – you never really know what will fly until you’ve tried it,” said Moore. Twitter has not been so successful for Peterborough-based Progressive Property, which was incorporated in 2007 and now employs 75 people. “We put in masses of work and only got around 10,000 people to follow us. I realised that people tend to follow individuals rather than companies.

Make it visual

The visual element of Instagram and Pinterest have made them the best social media platform for Bubblegum Balloons, which is based in Hampshire and has staff of 26. “As a brand we’re incredibly visual. Everything we do is ‘Instagram worthy’ so we gain a plethora of new images on a daily basis, making it easy to maintain a strong feed. In the past year we’ve doubled our followers from 30,000 to 65,000, which is an incredible natural growth. For Pinterest, the platform is perfect for wedding and party planning, so our images always do very well,” said Ellen Reed, marketing manager.

Bubblegum Balloons makes sure all of its work is photographed well

The quality of the photography that it uses is important on Instagram, the company has found. “It can be hard to think of getting decent quality images when you’ve been blowing up balloons for six hours, but the events team are always good at snapping the shots to show off the work,” added Reed. “This means when we’re curating the feed there’s always lots to choose from. Instagram and Pinterest are working incredibly well because people can see the products they can buy online being used in professional set-ups. When you can see what magic you can create with a pack of balloons it gives people fun ideas for their own celebrations.”

The Restory, an on-demand restoration brand for luxury shoes and designer handbags, has discovered that Instagram is the best social media platform for engaging with audiences and showcasing the skills of its expert artisans.

The Restory
Being topical, like the The Restory does, helps acquire new followers

“We get lots of content from our atelier every day,” said founder Vanessa Jacobs. “The changes to Instagram mean that we can now show video, tell more stories and share case studies which are great for engagement. We’ve also been posting video from our pop-ups and this means that we can notify our followers live through other platforms.”

Based in West London and founded in 2015, the company’s fans include Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and super-influencer Peony Lim. The service is now available at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. The Restory is careful to work with influencers that have a natural alignment with their brand, appropriate positioning and a genuine interest.

“We find that we get better engagement when we show the natural, emotional response that people have when a much-loved item is restored,” said Jacobs. “We’re looking to grow and build long-term relationships with our clients – they know a genuine promotion rather than something that is simply sponsored as a one-off.”

Facebook has proved to be the best social media platform for written and third-party content, Jacobs has discovered, while Twitter is not as useful. “It’s best for real-time conversations and for people who mainly want to express their opinions – we want to educate and inspire.”

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