The social media landscape is ever-changing. 2014 in particular has seen many major changes to the top social media platforms, for better and for worse. As a leading social media agency, we strive to stay on top of any and all updates made to social media platforms, no matter how small or large they may be. Most networks have updated their profile designs, their algorithms, and their advertising options. In this guide, we provide an overview of what you need to know to succeed on the top social media platforms today, and throughout 2015.

General Tips for Social Media Success

Before we get into specifics about the top social media platforms for 2015, we’d like to share some general strategies that apply to any social media network:

  • Fill out information for your social media profiles, pages, groups, and other properties completely. Each field offers the chance to promote a specific aspect of your business.
  • Take advantage of visual profile elements, such as cover photos, but keep in mind that Facebook does not allow you to put messaging on your cover photo that could be conveyed as advertising.
  • Follow your best competitors on social media when looking for inspiration for your social media strategy.
  • Update your profiles, pages, and groups regularly. No one wants to become a follower or fan of an inactive social property.
  • Cross-promote posts from one social media network to another to get fans from one network to become fans on another.
  • Look for ways to convert social media followers into mailing list subscribers.

Now, let’s dive into advice for specific social networks!

Facebook

Facebook is still the most popular social network worldwide with 1.35 billion monthly active users, making it an ideal social media platform for businesses to use to reach their customers. Here is what you need to know about the basics of Facebook in 2015.

Main Advantage

Facebook Ad Targeting

Facebook Ad Targeting

Aside from audience size, Facebook offers the most personalized targeted advertising options. If you have a product specifically for married women in Los Angeles with children, you can target them with Facebook advertising.

Profiles, Pages, and Groups

Zion & Zion Facebook Page

Zion & Zion Facebook Page

On Facebook, you can market your business through your personal profile, Facebook business page, and groups. Note that you cannot create a personal profile for your business. But you can use your personal profile to link to your business page, share updates from your business page, and participate in groups relevant to your business.

Essential elements of your Facebook page include the cover photo, profile photo, short description of your business, and website link. Local businesses will also add their local address, hours of operation, type of business and phone number.

Engagement Options

You can use your personal profile to interact with other profiles, pages, and groups by posting updates on a wall or engaging with a like, comment, and share. You can also use Facebook as your Facebook page to interact with other pages by posting updates to their wall or engaging with a like, comment, and share.

Private messages can be sent between Facebook profiles and to pages from personal profiles. Facebook pages can only reply to messages from profiles.

Websites using the Facebook comment system will allow comments on articles and blog posts using a Facebook personal profile or page. This strategy is a great way to get exposure for your Facebook page outside of Facebook itself.

Reach

In 2014, it continued to become harder for businesses to reach their customers due to declining organic reach and removing overly promotional posts from the newsfeeds of fans. Businesses have been finding more inventive ways to circumvent Facebook’s attack on Facebook page reach through the use of personal profiles and groups.

Facebook groups have been particularly beneficial – while there are not official stats as of yet, anyone who belongs to a Facebook group knows that posts from groups fill their newsfeed. Hence, the more people from your company that you can get active in Facebook groups, the more people you can reach with your business message. The key isn’t to be overly self-promotional, but just to be helpful. Facebook groups can be especially effective for local businesses that belong to local business referral and word of mouth groups.

In addition to utilizing Facebook groups, businesses that want to reach their fans and target audiences are using Facebook Ads. Marketers now refer to Facebook as a “pay to play” network.

Advertising

Facebook Ad Objectives

Facebook Ad Objectives

Facebook’s advertising platform allows advertisers to create ad campaigns based on specific goals. These goals go beyond post engagement with items like building fans, website traffic, conversions, app installs, event attendance, and video views.

Features previously reserved for users of the Facebook Ads Power Editor have made their way into the standard ads manager, including the ability to create custom audiences from email lists and website visitors (also known as remarketing or retargeting).

Analytics

Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights

Facebook page owners can use Facebook Insights to analyze data about their fans and post engagement. Insights will also show you basic demographics about fans, where visitors to your page originate from, and what tabs on your page they visit most.

Major Changes

Facebook revamped the design of Facebook pages, which moved the about information, custom tabs / apps, and media into the left sidebar. They also removed the option for Facebook pages to use “like-gating”, where pages created content only accessible to those who like the page.

Facebook Tips for 2015

So how can businesses succeed on Facebook in 2015? Here are some top tips.

  • Connect your business page to your personal profile by adding it as your current employer. This way, visitors to your profile will be able to connect with your business. Encourage employees at your company to do the same to reach even more potential friends.
  • Join relevant Facebook groups that your ideal customers have joined. If none exist, create them.
  • Create cover photos that inspire people to click on the photos to follow a call to action linked in the photo’s description.
  • Encourage people to get notifications once they like your page, so they don’t miss your updates.
  • Use the Facebook Like Button or Box on your website to get more fans without them having to leave your website.
  • Post lots of updates to your Facebook page. Studies have shown the more updates you publish, the more organic reach your page will get simply because the volume of updates will ultimately reach more fans.
  • Skip the boost post option to increase engagement for posts on your Facebook wall and use the main ads manager for more targeting options.
  • Get the most out of your Facebook advertising budget by focusing on website conversion goals as opposed to just driving traffic to a web page.
  • Create video content for your business and upload it directly to Facebook. Video exposure in the newsfeed has been much higher than photo, text, and link-based status updates.
  • Don’t just focus on growing your Facebook fans. Focus on converting fans into email list subscribers so you can reach them directly in their inbox.

Twitter

Twitter is another must for businesses. There are 284 million monthly active users sending 500 million tweets per day. Here is what you need to know about the basics of Twitter in 2015.

Main Advantage

What can you do on Twitter that you can’t on Facebook? You can search public tweets using keywords to see who is discussing specific topics related to your industry. You can also talk to anyone on Twitter, regardless of whether they are following you or not. This strategy helps open the door to new connections with potential customers.

Profiles

Zion & Zion Twitter Profile

Zion & Zion Twitter Profile

The only way to use Twitter is through a profile. There are no separate business pages, local places, or groups to contend with, making it a simpler platform to work with.

Essential elements of your Twitter profile include your cover photo, profile photo, 160-character bio, location information and website link.

Engagement Options

You can use your Twitter profile to post tweets, reply to tweets, mention other users in tweets, retweet, and favorite tweets from other Twitter users. You can send private messages (direct messages) to those who are following you. All interactions are 140 characters, including any links, usernames, and media.

Reach

Tweets are displayed in the newsfeed in chronological order with the newest tweets first. If your profile matches an advertiser’s target audience, a promoted tweet may appear at the top of the newsfeed. Unfortunately, one of the possible changes for Twitter in 2015 is a Facebook-like newsfeed algorithm. This change would put popular tweets from popular users first, pushing many businesses towards Twitter Ads to gain the exposure they currently have in the Twitter newsfeed.

Advertising

Canon Twitter Cards

Canon Twitter Cards

Small businesses can take advantage of Twitter Advertising to promote their profile to gain new followers and to promote their tweets to increase engagement. Twitter also allows advertisers to create cards to drive traffic to their website and capture leads directly on Twitter.

Analytics

Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics

Twitter offers analytics to help users learn more about the engagement they receive with their tweets and the demographics of their followers. The engagement statistics include a summary of the number of retweets, link clicks, favorites, replies, and overall engagement rate over the past thirty days. Follower demographics include location, gender, and interests.

Major Changes

Twitter unveiled a new design for their profiles, complete with a large cover photo and tabs above user’s newsfeeds so visitors can see their tweets, retweets & replies, and photos & videos. Twitter also updated their ads platform to include better targeting options and tailored audiences based on website visits (retargeting).

Twitter Tips for 2015

So how can businesses succeed on Twitter in 2015? Here are some top tips.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Twitter Ad platform so you can create effective promoted tweet campaigns in the event of a Twitter newsfeed algorithm change.
  • Post tweets with photos and videos to stand out in the newsfeed and on your profile in the media section.
  • Tweet important messages multiple times per day with different wording to catch the attention of more of your followers citywide, statewide, nationwide, or worldwide.
  • Monitor conversions in your industry using applicable keywords and jump into conversations when possible.
  • Review those who follow you on a daily basis and follow back potential clients and powerful influencers in your industry.
  • Add the Twitter follow button to your website to get more followers without making visitors leave your website.
  • Use the Twitter retweet button on your content to encourage more shares and to get more followers.
  • Thank those that share your content or recommend your business to their followers.
  • Favorite positive mentions of your business on Twitter and embed the tweets on your website as testimonials. You can embed the entire list using a Favorites widget.
  • Add one hashtag to each of your tweets for additional exposure to those following popular hashtags.
  • If you can make a tweet relevant to a trending hashtag in good taste, do it.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the premier social media platform for professionals with 332 million members worldwide and counting. It’s perfect for businesses looking to market themselves to other businesses (B2B) and individuals looking to grow their professional network. Here is what you need to know about the basics of LinkedIn in 2015.

Main Advantage

Linkedin Ad Targeting

Linkedin Ad Targeting

While Facebook has highly specific targeting options for personal profiles, LinkedIn has highly specific targeting options for professional profiles. For example, you can create ads aimed at CEOs of healthcare companies in Vermont who graduated from Harvard if you so choose.

Profiles, Pages, and Groups

Dell LinkedIn Company Page

Dell LinkedIn Company Page

On LinkedIn, you can market your business using professional profiles, company pages, showcase pages, and groups.

LinkedIn Showcase Page

LinkedIn Showcase Page

While company pages, like the one above, are for your business as a whole, showcase pages are for your top products and services.

Essential elements of your company page include your cover photo, company logo, website link, and detailed information about your business. Showcase pages host similar information focused on a highlighted product or service.

Engagement Options

You can post new status updates to your professional profile and in groups, as well as engage with other users by liking, commenting, and sharing updates. You can send private messages to people you are connected with, or pay for InMails to send private messages to those outside your network. LinkedIn company pages and showcase pages can post new updates, but cannot engage with others beyond replying to comments made on their status updates.

Participating in LinkedIn groups is particularly useful for those looking to expand their professional network. Active participation in LinkedIn groups will attract new connection requests and allow you to request connections with those otherwise outside of your network.

Reach

Users can sort the LinkedIn news feed by top updates (similar to the Facebook news feed) and most recent updates. To get more exposure in the LinkedIn newsfeed, you can sponsor updates that will be shown to your target audience.

Advertising

If you want to reach a larger audience beyond those following your company page or connected to your professional profile, you can invest in LinkedIn Ads. They offer traditional ad blocks around the LinkedIn network as well as sponsored updates that can be placed inside targeted audience’s newsfeed. While LinkedIn Ads have higher costs than Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn also has the most specific ad targeting for B2B (business to business) companies.

Analytics

LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn company pages offer engagement analytics and follower demographics. You will be able to see the engagement you receive per post on your company page, as well as a summary of your overall reach and engagement. Follower demographics include seniority, industry, company size, and function within their company.

Major Changes

LinkedIn made three major changes to their network in 2014. First, LinkedIn removed the Products and Services tab from company pages, resulting in the loss of any product and service recommendations made by customers of those companies. The new Showcase pages were created to replace the Products and Services tab, but they did not carry over the recommendations. Second, LinkedIn unveiled a new design for individual profiles, complete with a large cover photo, very similar to both Facebook and Twitter. Third, LinkedIn began offering a publishing platform so all users can start blogging on their LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn Tips for 2015

So how can businesses succeed on LinkedIn in 2015? Here are some top tips:

  • Complete as many fields and sections in the LinkedIn professional profile and company page as possible.
  • Link your professional profile to your company page through the work history section. Encourage all employees of your company to do the same.
  • Participate in relevant discussions in active LinkedIn groups for your industry. If none exist, create one.
  • Grow your professional network with relevant connections. These include current and past work colleagues, alumni, potential customers, potential employers, and industry influencers.
  • Create a company page and keep it up-to-date. Add a company follow button to your website to grow your followers.
  • Create showcase pages for your top products and services so people can follow updates for those items.
  • Publish content to your professional profile using the new LinkedIn publisher service. As of right now, everyone in your network will get notified when you make a post until they unsubscribe from your blog.

YouTube

Some people consider YouTube nothing more than a video hub, but with 1 billion unique visitors per month, it is also a powerful social media network. Here is what you need to know about the basics of YouTube in 2015.

Main Advantage

Video content published to YouTube can also rank well in Google search. You can also take advantage of YouTube advertising to get your video content placed at the beginning of other popular YouTube videos as pre-roll content.

Channels

Microsoft's YouTube Channel

Microsoft’s YouTube Channel

Profiles on YouTube are referred to as channels and are utilized by individuals and businesses.

Essential elements of your YouTube channel include the channel cover photo, links to your website and social media profiles, a channel trailer featured video, and featured playlists.

Engagement Options

You can use your channel to like, comment, and favorite videos as well as create playlists of favorite videos. You can also start discussions on YouTube channels that have their discussion tab enabled.

Advertising

You can reach your audience on YouTube by creating video ads and banner ads that can be displayed on other YouTube videos or throughout various areas of the YouTube website. You can create YouTube ad campaigns using your Google AdWords account.

Analytics

YouTube Analytics

YouTube Analytics

Your YouTube channel analytics offers insights about video engagement and video viewer demographics. Video engagement data includes likes, dislikes, favorites, shares, playback locations, traffic sources, devices used, and audience retention during the length of the video. Viewer demographics are limited to gender and location.

YouTube Tips for 2015

So how can businesses succeed on YouTube in 2015? Here are some top tips:

  • Create video content on a regular basis.
  • Optimize videos for search using keyword phrases in the title, video descriptions, and tags.
  • Organize related videos into playlists and display popular playlists on your channel.
  • Grow your YouTube subscriber list by adding a subscribe button to each of your videos and on your website.
  • Drive traffic back to your website using annotations within your videos.

Google+

Google+ is the fifth most popular social network with 540 million active users per month. Despite rumors of its demise, Google+ is still going strong. Here is what you need to know about the basics of Google+ in 2015.

Main Advantage

Google+ is Google’s own social media network. Information and recent posts from Google+ pages for major brands and local businesses tend to appear in the right sidebar of search results.

Profiles, Pages, and Communities

Google Analytics' Google+ Profile

Google Analytics’ Google+ Profile

On Google+, you can utilize profiles, pages, and communities to market your business.

Essential elements of your Google+ page include your cover photo, profile photo, and business information plus website links in the about tab.

Engagement Options

You can use your personal profile and business page to post status updates and engage with others with +1s, comments, and shares. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, both personal profiles and business pages can create and interact in Google+ communities (groups).

Major Changes

Aside from a major shakeup in the infrastructure of Google+ with the head of the company stepping down, the biggest change related to Google+ was the loss of authorship in search results. While you can still add websites you contribute to on your Google+ personal profile, your headshot and Google+ profile link will no longer appear next to your content in search results.

Google+ Tips for 2015

So how can businesses succeed on Google+ in 2015? Here are some top tips:

  • Post updates to your business page often.
  • Use correct formatting when posting for best SEO results.
  • Engage as your business page on other pages.
  • Participate in communities related to your industry using your business page. If none exist, create them.
  • Use Google+ badges on your website to grow your follower base.

Instagram

Instagram boasts 200 million monthly active users who share 60 million photos per day. Here is what you need to know about the basics of Instagram in 2015.

Main Advantage

Instagram allows you to connect with your customers through photo and 15-second video updates.

Profiles

Zion & Zion's Instagram Profile

Zion & Zion’s Instagram Profile

Individuals and businesses use Instagram profiles to share visual content with their followers.

Instagram on Mobile Devices

Instagram on Mobile Devices

Essential profile elements include your profile photo, a short description of your business, and your website link. The cover photo is composed of your most popular Instagram photo updates and only appears on the web-based version of Instagram. The Instagram app does not use the cover photo.

Engagement Options

You can post photos and videos to your Instagram profile and engage with others by liking and commenting on their photos and videos. You can also send photos and videos privately to your mutual friends through Instagram direct messages.

Advertising & Analytics

Instagram Insights

Instagram Insights

Instagram began rolling out advertising options to big brands in August 2014. Engagement and follower analytics are currently limited to advertisers and will roll out to more businesses in the following months.

In the meantime, you can use third-party tools to give you insights into your Instagram engagement and followers. Simply Measured offers a free Instagram report that is available for users with up to 25,000 followers.

Instagram Tips for 2015

So how can businesses succeed on Instagram in 2015? Here are some top tips:

  • Post new photo and video content to your Instagram account on a regular basis. Include relevant hashtags to increase update exposure.
  • Cross-post your Instagram updates to Twitter and Facebook for additional exposure.
  • Grow your Instagram followers with the Instagram badge.
  • Invite Instagram fans to share photo and video content about your business using a custom hashtag.

Snapchat

For businesses that want to reach younger crowds, Snapchat is an important social network to explore with 30 million active monthly users sharing 400 million messages. Here is what you need to know about the basics of Snapchat in 2015.

Main Advantage

Snapchat allows you to reach younger demographics on their mobile devices through short video messages, or snaps.

Profiles

Individuals and businesses on Snapchat use profiles to engage with each other. You simply create a username and you are ready to use Snapchat.

Engagement Options

Create photos and videos for fans. Note that unlike most social networks, content created on Snapchat lasts for a maximum of 24 hours.

Snapchat Tips for 2015

Snapchat

Snapchat

So how can businesses succeed on Snapchat in 2015? Here are some top tips:

  • Promote your Snapchat presence on other social networks such as Twitter and Instagram.
  • Hold contests for fans, inviting them to create snaps of themselves with your products.
  • Create exclusive deals and secret items just for Snapchat fans.
  • Send fans on a scavenger hunt for discounts.
  • Have fans caption images you share.