Facebook is currently the ultimate social network because it has the most members, nearly one billion in all. That means that every social networking effort a business makes is more valuable. Furthermore, Facebook is suitable for all kinds of businesses, and it has a rich feature set to meet almost any needs.
Twitter is the premier micro-blogging platform, and it has hundreds of millions of users. An age-old marketing concern is how to stay in the mind of the consumer. The beauty of Twitter is that it provides a business a way to reach out to their audience at times that would not otherwise be possible. The platform also deals in avoidable, bite-sized bits of information, so it is easy not to alienate the reader.
MySpace may be the runner-up, and most people on MySpace are on Facebook or Google+. Nevertheless, modern MySpace has carved out some niches, and the perceptive business can use this to its favor. MySpace is a particularly effective avenue for businesses marketing to teenagers.
Google+ is a direct competitor to Facebook, which may seem foolish, but Google is a juggernaut. Google+ is attractive to users who have never social networked before and users who dislike Facebook. In other words, a business must target both Facebook and Google+ because there are extensive online populations that are unique to both. Google+ also provides a wide array of small business tools.
For a business, Facebook, Google+ and MySpace are about putting a human face on the company and creating connections with consumers. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a platform for representing a company online as a professional business and using that to network with consumers and other businesses. LinkedIn is especially effective to the company that provides services to other businesses.
Pinterest is a visual social network; a photo-sharing service that allows users to create themed albums. Pinterest is an amazing opportunity to increase awareness of articles and products through attention-grabbing imagery. Pinterest works best when integrated with a blog and other social media tools.
Online, video is amazing tool for any small business. It is not an effective SEO tool. It is an incredibly efficient means of delivering information, and it has much better potential to go viral than text and images do. YouTube is an excellent choice for any business because it removes the cost of hosting and delivering the media. It also ensures high levels of additional traffic, and it even pays on a per-view basis.
Digg and Reddit
Reddit and Digg are Web services that allow the audience to post content and dictate the visibility of that content by voting it up and down. The benefit is that good content rises to the top. Websites with low visibility that are generating engaging content can use Digg and Reddit to gain much attention.
Many people do not consider DeviantArt as a social media platform, but it deals in media and has a large, thriving community. DeviantArt is not right for every business, but it is a particularly effective choice for companies seeking to spread awareness concerning their aptitude for graphics arts and similar skills.
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking service. Social bookmarking is a community-based and cloud-based bookmark structure that allows users to manage, organize and store their bookmarks online. An advantage to the user is that they can search the bookmarks of likeminded individuals. For the business, Del.icio.us is a free and very effective SEO technique that is particularly useful for targeting niches.
As a business’ social media presence grows, it can become unwieldy, especially because there are numerous access points to the network. For the robust presence, an effective solution is to create a custom network for the business. Then Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and so forth can integrate with that core network. Creating a custom network is not a simple process, which is where Ning comes in. Ning does all the hard work of creating a custom community access point with a unique appearance and feel.
StumbleUpon is a web service that allows users to “stumble” around the Internet finding content that interests them. It is easy to overlook how valuable this service is to the small website. If a site has an engaging piece of content, then it can use StumbleUpon to target it at specific niches. When the visitor stumbles onto content, they actually come to the website, so it is a very effective form of SEO.
Most online small businesses do not have physical locations, so most of the social networking focus is on virtual solutions. Foursquare, however, is an example of a social network that integrates a physical aspect; in fact, it targets the community based on their current geographic location. That makes Foursquare an effective tool for the small business that has both a Web and brick-and-mortar presence.
Tumblr or WordPress
Up to this point, we’ve discussed playing a role in social networks. Now, we transition to the tools and platforms that allow businesses to create social media presences beyond those networks. One of the most effective ways for a small business to achieve this is through a blog. A business can use a service like Tumblr or it can host its own blog using a platform like WordPress. Done effectively, a blog creates its own community, which is a niche social network. At the cost of some control, the benefit of a service like Tumblr is that it has a social network backbone in place, which makes it easier to promote the blog.
An RSS feed is a tool to syndicate content, and it is particularly useful when you have a consistent source of content, such as a blog. Many Web and mobile tools allow readers to access collections of RSS Feeds. The benefit to this approach for the business is that it provides free visibility and SEO for the source.
The most difficult aspect of effective social media is creating engaging content. A small business is an expert in something, and a podcast is an awesome way to deliver that expertise and engage an audience. Podcasts are very inexpensive to make and can be distributed over an array of free platforms.
Internet forums, as far back as BBS’s, are the original social networks, before we were using terms like social networking and social media. Since Internet forums are an old technology, it is easy to overlook them, but forums still account for a significant portion of Web traffic. Social media tends to reward brevity, and an Internet forum is place where the socializer can relax and be more methodical. Also, providing Tapatalk integration, for instance, allows the forum to dual-serve as a social media tool.
A great challenge in effective use of social media by a business is scheduling the content. If a business simply dumps the content as it becomes available, it is not nearly as effective as it could be. Buffer is a social networking tool that all businesses should use. Buffer allows you to put the content in a buffer and schedule it for each social media platform individually.
Small businesses cannot distinguish themselves on today’s Internet without effective use of social media. The good news is that social media is the great equalizer. In traditional markets, large companies can easily throw their weight around, but through social platforms, all businesses are on an equal playing field.