On Small Business routinely reaches out to a panel of entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).

Q: Which social media sites are worth the time and effort for small business owners and start-up founders?


Bryan Silverman, co-founder of Star Toilet Paper in New York, New York:

“Facebook and Twitter for the company, LinkedIn for personal. There are so many other places that small business owners and start-up founders can focus, but I highly recommend sticking to what is biggest and what we find most useful.

We use Facebook to build our brand — as a B2B company, we are not doing a lot of e-commerce and thus, we want to make our Facebook page fun and we want people to interact with us in that way. Twitter is used to express the business side of our personality, posting interesting links, connecting with writers and authors, and posting updates as to what is going on. Finally, we don’t use LinkedIn much as a company, but individually within the business it helps us stay in touch with those we have connected with as well as connect with people who could potentially help the business as a whole.

Final recommendation on social media? There is no right answer -- but whatever you choose, don’t try to solve it, just use it for its purpose and get the most out of it possible. The ‘answer’ is different for everyone so you just need to find what works for you.”

Nicole Smartt, vice president and co-owner of Star Staffing in Petaluma, California:

“The most important part of choosing which social media platforms to employ is identifying what you’re offering and what platforms your customers are using. Pinterest and Etsy, for instance, focus on products that are easy to promote visually.

If your products change often, this could get time-intensive, but may still be well worth it. LinkedIn and Google + have functionality more appropriate for networking, and showcase credibility and accomplishment. Initial setup may take time, but it’s likely that your content will change less frequently. You can update with useful information when the timing works for you, but lack of timely engagement won’t necessarily work against you.

Facebook and MySpace help you stay connected on a more personal level. If your services encourage community, these may be worth maintaining. Timeliness is an issue; if you’re concerned you can’t keep up with input, consider scheduling appropriately. A disengaged presence may be worse than none.

Twitter is great for short timely news, teasers, special offers and updates. It is also easy to “spin” longer content, link to external sources and offer promotions.

Remember, social media works best when the people you’re trying to reach are also using that platform.”

Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance in New York, New York:

“Whether you are just starting your own business or own an established company, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are excellent websites to use to gain a larger audience and customer base.

Facebook and YouTube have more than one billion monthly users, and Twitter boasts more than 500 million total users. Twitter requires little time, as posts must be brief (limited to 140 characters), whereas longer postings are encouraged on Facebook.

It’s difficult to determine exactly which websites are not worth the time, because the answer is different for each business. Research your competition, and see which sites seem to be working for them. Once you have narrowed down your list, try them out to see what kind of response you get. Just be patient, as there’s little chance that you’ll develop a significant following on any social media platform overnight.”

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of promising young entrepreneurs.

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