Jul 042013

This is the fourth (and long overdue) installment in my Cake Blogging 101 series. Past topics include getting started with free blogging platforms, how to set up a Facebook page, and sharing your pictures online. This post offers a basic rundown of the more well-known social media services. You don’t have to join them all, but it’s a good idea to have a presence across multiple sites so you reach more potential customers.

There are many ways to promote your business, blog, and website through social media and networking sites. These are also opportunities to interact with customers, while simultaneously gaining followers and building the online presence of your business. As such, social media can be a valuable and highly effective marketing tool.

Popular Social Media Sites:

You already know about Facebook, right? If not, then read this.

LinkedIn: Mostly a business and professional networking site, but members can connect via common interests and participate in groups. I’m a member of several baking and cake decorating groups on there, and as a result I have discovered some really great bloggers, like Amanda Macleod. You can also connect with people in your area, which is useful for promoting your business. This seems to be where folks go when they’re looking for a job. It’s not as personal as Facebook, which may be appealing to some, but I notice quite a bit of spam in some of the groups.

Google+: I am a HUGE fan of Google Services (I use a Chromebook, after all), but I’m still not all that active on Google+. Yet. It’s basically a lot like Facebook, with similar-yet-different features. For example, you don’t have friend connections. Rather, somebody can choose to add you to their circles, and you can reciprocate, or not. You connect with others via these circles based on what and how you want to share. You could have fellow cake decorators in one circle, craft bloggers in another, etc. When you post an update or share a link in Google+, you decide who sees it. Each time you share or add content, it can be public or only visible to certain people/circles. Like Facebook, Google+ allows you to add pages for your website or business. This is useful if you prefer to reserve your personal profile for interacting with friends and family. To use Google+ you need to register for a Google account, which allows you to sign into all Google services like Gmail, YouTube, and Blogger under the same username.

YouTube: A fantastic place to watch, upload, subscribe to, and share videos. It’s not only a useful tool to promote your business–just take a look at what Sweet Wise has done if you don’t believe me–but also a way to earn a little bit of money if you decide to monetize your videos. I love YouTube, and I earn more from my cake decorating tutorials than I do in affiliate commissions. But please feel free to keep buying stuff via the sidebar banner ads and my amazon links.

Twitter: Members post brief updates called “tweets” that are read, shared (“retweeted”), or ignored. You can find other members with common interests to follow, and then their tweets show up in your timeline. Essentially a micro-blogging platform because tweets are limited to 140 characters, this is a fantastic place to post quick tips, links to new blog posts, offer a sales promotion, or let your audience know what you’re doing. Mary Vance frequently shares health and nutrition tips, often with a recipe link. Twitter supports photos, and there are plenty of smartphone apps that make it easy to tweet from anywhere. And the good news is that you can link your Twitter account to your Facebook Page, so when you post an update on your Facebook page it automatically gets tweeted on Twitter.

Pinterest: A relatively new, but exceptionally popular, image-based bookmarking site where web pages are shared by being “pinned” onto appropriate boards, which are basically categories set up by the users. You can have as many different boards with as many pins as you like on them. Other members can follow all of your boards or just the ones covering topics that interest them. If you’re a visual person and like pictures, this is the site for you. I use it mainly to promote my blog posts and to save recipes I want to try later, even though I rarely get around to it.

Flickr: A photo sharing website with free image hosting, but there’s also a community element to it. It’s where a lot of cake decorators share their photos, making it a great place for inspiration and self-promotion. If you already have a Yahoo ID, you can use it for Flickr as a common log in.

Instagram: Smartphone-based app similar to Twitter, only members share pictures and there’s no character limit. This service is very popular with younger users, and the really nice thing is that it now supports video up to 15 seconds. This means you can post a video of a newlywed couple sharing the first slice of that beautifully decorated wedding cake you made for them. Just an idea.

Local Services: The internet has global reach, so if your customers live within easy driving distance you should also look for local social networking websites and message boards. For example, in the Middle Tennessee area there’s MusicCityMoms.net. I’ve posted announcements about my cake decorating classes over there and have received a few responses. Every little bit helps when it comes to word-of-mouth advertising.

Industry-Specific: There are plenty of cake-related online communities like CakesDecor.com, CakeCentral.com, and CakesWeBake.com to name just a few. These are great sources of information and support. But then, you guys probably already know about them.

Some final notes:

  • Always put a link to your business Facebook page and/or website in your online profiles! This includes any local and niche online communities.
  • Social media is rapidly growing and evolving, so while it may seem overwhelming at first, it does get easier. Just pick one or two sites to join until you get comfortable.
  • Don’t feel as though you have to manually update everywhere. Linking accounts across different services makes it easy because then your updates and posts will appear on all the linked platforms.
  • There are free services that help you mange multiple social media sites from the same dashboard, and some even support scheduled posts, so you can queue up and space out your updates to potentially reach a broader audience at different times.
  • Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest are all very popular, and different people will tend to use the service they like the most. But nearly everybody is on Facebook these days, which is why you should have a Facebook page.
  • Know and use hashtags. These are search keywords with the # symbol in front. They’re supported almost everywhere now, and my Facebook page updates get considerably more views when I throw in a hashtag or two. You can even have a little fun with them.
  • Be consistent with your username so it’s easy for people to find you. My username is cakedarla nearly everywhere.
  • Share! Share! Share! Promote your business and website via social media often, but also feel free to share content you think is worthy and relevant to your business, even if you didn’t create it.
  • Be supportive of other blogs and websites you like by leaving comments and promoting their posts. Some may reciprocate, and it all helps to get your name out there.

I realize this is a broad topic, and I’ve possibly created more questions than I answered with this post, so please let me know what I missed! Feel free to ask any questions in the comment form below, or email me.

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