Small Business: If Not Facebook, Then Who?

SueCockburn
Sue Cockburn Entrepreneur, Growing Social Biz

Posted on November 30th 2012

Small Business: If Not Facebook, Then Who?

After my article "Is Facebook Losing Small Business?" this question came in via Twitter: "What are your thoughts on alternate SM Networks? Google+?"

Here's an expanded version of my response:

I don’t think there are any true alternative social media networks to Facebook, at this time, including Google+. This is largely due to the numbers of fans in the Facebook network, how entrenched those fans are, the diversity of the fans in the network (demographics), etc.

That said, the one possible contender for the ‘alternative SM networks’ role is Pinterest.

Why Pinterest?

Here's a few reasons:

June article in Forbes magazine "Why Pinterest Could Be The Next Social Media Giant" included this information from "recently released data by Modea" about the demographics of Pinterest users.

68% of Pinterest users are  women, and 28.1% of users have an average household income of over $100,000. Furthermore, about half of the users have children and more than 27% are between the ages of 25 and 34.

According to the CNBC article mentioned above, Pinterest's "rapid growth has drawn businesses, especially retailers, to expand their presence on the site."

In fact, in mid-November Pinterest announced Pinterest for business.  Some small businesses, and many larger ones, had already discovered the benefits of having an active presence on Pinterest. Pinterest has now opened the doors wider by creating a Pinterest for Business option.

Many small business owners wonder how they can make it work on Pinterest, especially when what they are selling doesn't easily translate into a visual. 

First, like most social networks it's not all about me or you. It's about our fans, followers, connections, clients, potential clients. Pinterest, as with other top networks, provides a way for you to build your brand and image as well as sell your products, by sharing content that others will find interesting, helpful, valuable and/or shareable - make that 'likable' or 'Repinnable'.

The best way to see this in action is to check out and get a sense for Pinterest before you get too far down the road. Check out a few of the brand pages already active on Pinterest: Martha Stewart, Starbucks, Lamborghini, WalmartAmazon - there are many more!

Pinterest URLs are branded so if you have a name you really want, grab it now. Big brands like CocaCola, Pepsi, Mazda and Toyota don't seem to have gotten on the bandwagon soon enough as typing in these URLs brings up individuals not the brands. Ouch!

Pinterest users, according to the Forbes article mentioned above, spend more time on the network than on Facebook and Twitter. This is good news for business because Pinterest (at least right now) let's the user decide what they would like to view.

These are the options:

  • Everything being pinned by those you are 'Following'
  • Everything being pinned in certain 'Categories' by everyone
  • Everything - really, everything!
  • Everything that is 'Popular'
  • 'Gift' ideas by price groupings - or EVERY 'Gift' idea unsorted

YOU choose - Pinterest doesn't choose for you. (Yes, that was a bit of a dig at Facebook.)

Anything that can be shared using a visually appealing image is ripe for Pinterest. And, you can add text too, up to 500 characters, and a clickable link (URL) back to your website, or your e-commerce site (to make a purchase), etc. You can also pin saleable products from your website to show up on Pinterest.

From a small business point of view, Facebook is losing some of its luster as a place to invest a lot of time and energy for meager results. Social networks like Pinterest are opening up new opportunities for them.

Pinterest is gaining traction with users and with businesses, assuming they don’t mess too much with the way things are, other than improvements of course.

Google+ is a different animal compared to Facebook and Pinterest. It doesn’t seem to have the huge buy-in, usage and time spend that Facebook does. It does have large fan numbers, considering the relatively short time it's been around, but the amount of time users spend on the network isn’t impressive.

An article in Search Engine Journal earlier this year, reported the average number of minutes users spent on Google+ was 3 minutes. I'm sure it's more now but not enough to make it any kind of a threat to Facebook or Pinterest, at least right now.

 

SueCockburn

Sue Cockburn

Entrepreneur, Growing Social Biz

Sue is first and foremost a solution provider delivering website and social media services to micro and smaller businesses, anywhere in North America. Visit her website at GrowingSocialBiz.com for more information.

Visit her website and blog at GrowingSocialBiz.com.  Connect wtih her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/SueCockburn, on Twitter at twitter.com/SueCockburn, on Google+ at plus.google.com/+SueCockburn, on Pinterest at pinterest.com/SueCockburn and on Facebook at facebook.com/GrowingSocialBiz.

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Comments

Great article Sue.I hope doctors with small hospitals will embrace use of facebook in marketing of their medical services.

 

Erick Kinuthia

Team MDwebpro.com

Thanks for your feedback Erick!  

Encourage "doctors with small hospitals" to check out www.facebook.com/MayoClinic and wwww.pinterest.com/MayoClinic if they want to get a sense of how it can work. 

Appreciate the article.  As a user, I am not attracted to Google+, however we are seeing some relationship to robust Google+ activities leading to improved organic search rankings.  Go figure.

Thanks for your comment. You raise a good point about the Google+ connection to organic search rankings. For this reason there is value in having an active presence on G+, but not necessarily because that's where your customers are. They're likely not, at least at this time.

Hi Sue, I thought it was very interesting that you choose Pinterest as a viable alternative for Small Businesses. Yes, I do love Pinterest personally however for Business not so much. There's no private messaging feature to connect with prospects. As a young network, there's still no analytics services. If you're in a sector that is not imagery heavy Pinterest can be especially difficult. Pinterest definitely does bring out the creativity for small business owners to think beyond their products and how they relate to the real world.

Jill, thanks for your comments. You are right that for many small businesses they need to think hard about how they promote their products visually - not always easy to do, depending on the product you are selling. But there are ways. Bloggers for instance can use compelling images that link back to their articles. Realtors can share tips from other sites on decorating, gardening, staging, home improvements.

As most of our business social media posting is best not focussed on selling our product but on sharing visuals/info that is helpful, valuable, interesting to those we are connecting with, PInterest offers lots of ways to do this. My business is mainly B2B and one of the things I have found that people tend to repin and like on Pinterest is Infographics. I don't produce them but I find them and share them and people repin and like them.

On the Analytics side, I doubt it will be long before Pinterest provides analytics for businesses. In the meantime, there are other services available to help track activity. Check out this article in Mashable http://mashable.com/2012/09/21/pinterest-analytics-tools/ 

On the private messaging side, Facebook doesn't really offer private messaging - except of course for fans to connect with the brand, but not the other way around. And if Pinterest followers want to connect with a business the contact information is readily available on their page. So I don't see this as an issue right now.

I don't see Pinterest replacing Facebook at this time, but the future isn't guaranteed for either network. We are in a rapidly changing world and both networks need to stay at the top of their game to retain and grow fans and marketshare.

I really like this information
I' didn't know that was so good Google+, however we are seeing some relationship to robust Google+ activities leading to improved organic search rankings.

Thanks for your comment Lucas. Yes, their seems to be a relationship between Google+ activities and improved organic search rankings, or so I've heard.