Social Media has been one of the highest growth areas for marketing in the last few years. It is particularly attractive to start-ups and small businesses because it has virtually no start-up costs and enables you to reach a global audience. Social Media can be an excellent way of connecting with customers and driving traffic to your main website.
A lot of the discussion of social media for business marketing has tended to focus on a few services, mainly Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, with Facebook receiving the most attention. However these are not the only social media sites out there, they may not contain your target audience and they may not suit your business. With the continuing collapse of confidence in Facebook as a platform now is a good time to look at other social media networks.
Google + is Google’s main social network. It works almost as a mix between Facebook and Twitter, you can follow friends and brands but can also search through it to see what other people are looking at. With over 100 million members Google + has a large audience which includes lots of businesses. And of course it can’t hurt your Google search rankings to have a strong presence on their in-house social network.
Pinterest has been around for a couple of years but has really taken off in the last 12 months. It now attracts upwards of 12 million visitors per month and is valued at around $1.5 billion. Pinterest is largely used as a platform for people to share pictures they like. Estimates put the Pinterest user base at, at least, 80%. female. Many of the businesses that use it are focussed on hair and beauty, clothes, jewellery and weddings. A number of studies have found that Pinterest can generate high returns for brands. Typically it is used to post images of new products or work which users can then share. Done correctly this will include a link back to your business’s website so any users who really like the product can make a purchase.
Like Pinterest, Tumblr is mainly used for image sharing, although it can be used to share writing or videos as well. The major difference is that Pinterest users largely share images within the site or which they have found on other websites. On Tumblr the focus is much more on sharing work you have created yourself. You can also customise the way your work is seen, presenting it as lists, a magazine or a custom arrangement of your choice. Unlike Pinterest you can also build ecommerce stores within Tumblr, something which works best for visual businesses like fashion or photography.
Digg & Reddit
Digg and Reddit have both been around for a while. They operate in a very similar way. People post a link and brief summary of a news story, article, video or picture. If other users like this they vote it up, if they don’t like it they vote it down. The most popular links make it to the top of the front page. If you can get a link to your site to the top of the front page then you can expect a flood of visitors numbering in their thousands and a significant boost to your search engine rankings.
Goodreads, Behance, Last FM
There are a whole range of specialist social networks for sharing and networking on specific topics. For example, there is Goodreads for books, Behance for design and Last FM for music. The advantage of using these sites is that you are getting a highly targeted audience so it is a great way to reach potential customers for your business.
One of the earliest uses of the internet was text based discussion forums. There are still thousands of them around with tens of thousands of active members. They tend to be highly specialist so, for instance, there are dozens of forums in the UK dedicated to different types of cycling. Like the specialist social networks, forums are a good way to reach your target market. Tread carefully though, read the rules and stick to them. It is best not to actively push your business until you have developed a good reputation on a particular forum. This takes time and patience.
Lady Gaga is often cited as one of the celebrities who have most successfully embraced social media to build her brand. She has 22 million Twitter followers and 50 million Facebook friends. Not satisfied with this she is now building her own social network so that she can connect with her fans on her own terms rather than through a third party service.
If you tried to build a meaningful network for your business on all of the social networks out there you would have no time to speak to any of your customers. Social networks are a great way to connect with customers but they are also time consuming. It is worth spending some time researching which networks are going to be most suitable for your customers and your business model. This may mean you have a Twitter account, a Tumblr and a strong presence on a particular forum. Alternatively Pinterest and Behance may be perfect for you. Remember, though, that social networks tend not to last forever. MySpace, Bebo and Friends Reunited were once the kings of the social media world. Now they are bought and sold for fractions of their former valuations having lost millions of pounds, and millions of users. If one of your chosen networks starts to slide, your business needs to be able to adapt, and adopt a new platform.