The social media environment does include, of course, social networking sites (including Facebook), however, social media also includes media sharing, bookmarking sites, social news streams and a range of micro-blogging sites, other than just Twitter. And this is a just a starting point.
But for businesses the important issue is to understand what social media channels there are, what social media their customers use and which of the social media tools will improve the business’ profile and brand.
The obvious place to start an explanation is with familiarity – with the two big boys – Facebook and Twitter. Launched outside of American college campuses in 2006, Facebook, a social network, has taken the world by storm and as of August 2015 had more than one billion users worldwide and a net value of $250 billion.
Getting a presence on Facebook is often touted as vital for any business as part of its integrated marketing approach but this isn’t true. If you are selling widgets to manufacturing managers, is your time really best spent trying to track down interested parties on a platform designed to engage people socially? Understanding where your customers are and what platforms they interact with is essential, so for business to business customers, Facebook may not be the right avenue, however, for a business to consumer firm, like a hair & beauty business for example, Facebook really makes sense.
Twitter, meanwhile, is one of the 10 most visited platforms in the world and with more than half a billion users has been nothing short of breath-taking in its growth. It has been at the vanguard of the personal media micro blogging revolution since its launch in 2006. The idea of allowing users to communicate via 140-character messages couldn’t be simpler – and your business can take advantage of the Twitter sensation. It allows you to communicate directly and quickly with your customer base, both collectively and individually. Of course Twitter is a useful tool, but again, not for every business – a fact that applies to every social media platform.
Aside from Facebook, there’s LinkedIn, the world’s biggest business-led social networking site. With almost 400 million users across the globe, it has become a vital way of building and maintaining connections with other businesses and customers. There is also Google+, a smaller player in the market but one which still has more than half a billion users and is growing rapidly. Setting up a Google+ account is simple and is suitable for most businesses as part of a social media approach – it will help the SEO of any website.
Away from social networking, media sharing is playing an increasingly important part of social media strategies for businesses. YouTube, now owned by Google, is the web’s No 1 site for sharing video content. But as well as sharing the world’s videos, YouTube is also a social network in its own right, with comments sections providing lively debate and opportunities for marketing. Your business can tap into this resource, as it can with Instagram, one of the internet’s top photo sharing sites. There is also the likes of Pinterest and Vine, two useful sites for promoting photos and short videos respectively. Pinterest has grown quickly into one of the web’s top sites for presenting images in a fashionable way across a range of platforms including mobiles and tablets. Vine, owned by Twitter, allows you to embed a six-second looping video as part of a Tweet. It is an increasingly popular method of sharing videos, especially among younger audiences.
One of the more established social media channels relevant to business involves bookmarking sites such as Delicious and StumbleUpon. These allow users to share bookmarked documents with each other and promotes information sharing – including information about your company. If used correctly, social bookmarking can help bolster your website, increasing hits and introducing you to new users as an alternative to a traditional search engine.
There are also social news sites, such as Reddit, Digg and Propeller, which enable you to submit news stories and share them with other users, who either vote up your submission, or vote it down. Although enough down votes results in an article being deleted!
Some of these sites use content editors who can promote your items and ensure you an even wider audience. Social news outlets should not be seen as an opportunity to sell, but more to share your key messages about your business, generate publicity and share the benefits of your goods and services.
The final aspect of social media which needs consideration are forums and blogs. These are a growing and major facet of the internet which brings people from across the world together. Promoting your business on relevant forums is an excellent way of spreading the word about what you do with no cost attached to it – or a small one if you become a forum sponsor. Blogs are also an excellent method of communicating your expertise on the field in which you operate. A well-written blog can be a persuasive tool for potential customers – perhaps this blog has persuaded you I know what I’m talking about?