Small businesses that use social media are more likely to be on Facebook and Twitter, but a growing contingent are finding Pinterest and Instagram useful tools. Here's a look at pros and cons of using these four services:
Upside: Has huge reach, with nearly 1.2 billion active monthly users. Its format allows businesses to post a lot of content including large pictures and lengthy videos. Some businesses use a Facebook page instead of a website. If a user "likes" a post, it will be shared on their Facebook page, giving a business more potential customers.
Downside: Younger people are becoming less interested in using Facebook.
Upside: Businesses can use Twitter to promote products, services, events and offers. They can also have conversations with customers and some search for keywords in other users' tweets and start a conversation with them. It also has a big reach with 232 million users.
Downside: Tweets have a short shelf life, a few hours at most. Many users don't scroll down the Twitter feed to see all the tweets they've missed, so unless they follow a small business closely, they're likely to miss messages. And those 232 million users? Most of them — about three-quarters — are outside of the U.S.
Upside: Businesses can use Pinterest to post hundreds or even thousands of photos to display their products on what are called "boards." Customers can post their own photos on a company's boards, and they can share the company's photos on their own Pinterest or Facebook pages.
Downside: A majority of Pinterest's users, 68 percent, are women, which makes it less appealing to businesses who want to target men.
Upside: Businesses can use Instagram to post photos and short videos. Its users tend to be young adults, so it's seen as edgy and a way for a business to create buzz with its younger customers.
Downside: Like Twitter, postings tend to be fleeting. Businesses targeting older people may not find it as useful.