With Many Social Media Options, Small Businesses Need Focus

When Snapchat went public this year, it was a reminder to many small business owners that they need to be part of the social media evolution. But which network? Snapchat? Facebook? Instagram? All of the above?

Many owners opt for a mix, picking services that will be the best marketing tools for their companies.

"Each channel is used in different ways, and should be used in different ways. There's no 'one size fits all,'" says Michelle Vroom, whose eponymous public relations company in the Philadelphia suburb of Horsham advises small businesses on how to use social media.

Instagram and Snapchat, for example, have more young users. LinkedIn, for many people, is a tool for professional networking and job searches. The majority of users on Pinterest are women, while Tumblr appeals to social bloggers. There are also channels focused on specific industries, such as Architizer for architects and Glozal for real estate.

Owners shouldn't think in terms of this service or that one, but look at all the options to develop a strategy, experts say.

"They need to think about where their audiences are, what they are reading, what they are doing," says Kenneth Hitchner, public relations and social media director for Creative Marketing Alliance, which is based in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. "If you are marketing to seniors, you're not going to be using the latest social media app like Snapchat because the audience isn't there -- just like if you are marketing to teens you probably aren't going to use something like LinkedIn."

White Rabbit New York, an online lingerie retailer, uses Instagram to reach customers in their 20s and 30s. Co-owner Mariana Hernandez finds that those shoppers, when they hear about a brand, want to look it up on Instagram. Once they've bought from the company, they also visit its Facebook page, where there...

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