Social media’s definition is broadening, and with interactivity a firmly established standard in web user experience, more and more sites are working as legitimate social media platforms. Here I’ll run through a few of the big hitters.
I’m a fan of LinkedIn, because it’s successful without needing bells and whistles. I think it’s great for maintaining a really polished corporate social media image. Any business can benefit from Linkedin’s powerful networking potential, but if you’re not quite sure about social media, this may be the best place to start.
Twitter hardly sounds like a place for serious messages, does it? And it’s true that funny accounts, such as @serafinowicz, @TheOnion, and @TomBodett do massively well, so if you’re a business that specialises in this style, or you simply have a staff member with a talent for composing wry messages, then jump in – you’ll get loads of followers. At the same time, there are many “institutions” on Twitter that are there for information over entertainment. These get followed for their recognisable brands; people will follow after just seeing the name and logo. @essexpoliceUK, @manchesterfire, and @dalailama all spring to mind. Twitter is also very popular with social media experts, and marketing and entrepreneurial “types”, so consider it if these are part of your customer base.
Facebook is dead, long live Google+? Whatever the future may hold, to say that Facebook is big is a heavy-duty understatement. Also, unless your customer base is really tech-savvy, they they’ll be on Facebook for a long while to come. Facebook works especially well for businesses with a bricks and mortar presence, and lots of real-life customer engagement.
Others: Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, Digg, StumbleUpon, careers sites, blogs and forums, and many more
This is where your individual product and marketing strategy affect your choices. Use of industry blogs and forums is an excellent idea. Pick two important ones and focus on them.
A site such as Tumblr or YouTube could be your chance to build up a niche page with avidly followed gems of information or quirky entertainment. In fact, if you’re a “serious” business (perhaps an estate agent or independent financial advisor), consider web video production. A small collection of off-the-wall YouTube videos will give you a huge edge over the competition and allow your name to stick in potential clients’ imaginations.
Adology recently discovered that 31% of small businesses didn’t use social media, and said they don’t need to, because their customers don’t. However, such businesses can use social media to get new customers. If you’re a social media newbie, the best way is to start by “lurking”, that is, signing up and observing how things go on a few big sites. When the time comes to start engaging, you’ll have a feel for the site and the way firms communicate via that medium.
Posting on loads of sites probably isn’t the best use of marketing time for business. Instead, the thing is to find the sites that work best for your company profile, and build a strong and engaged presence there. Wherever you sign up, social media is about the long game, and is about conversing and sharing with people, rather than just broadcasting messages and adverts. This way, you’ll also get more loyal customers and genuinely interested leads, and it’s more fun for everyone involved.