The 7 Top Social Media Sites For Business (and why you want to use them)

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There is a lot of social media sites out there, but what are the differences between these platforms and why would businesses want to use each specific one? Depending on your industry some might work better for you than others, but I believe that all businesses should be using these top social networks as much as they can. Today, people are no longer turning to the yellow pages to find the services or products you offer, but instead they are doing a quick search online. Making sure you have a positive presence in the top social media sites is important.

These are my personal thoughts and opinions on the seven top social media networks (by user base) and an idea of what type of content you might see and want to use on each one.

1) Facebook903 million users –  http://www.facebook.com  Facebook is the largest social network and has successfully carved out a market for keeping in touch with people you already know. Family, high school friends and former co-workers are usually included in a person’s ‘friends list’ on Facebook.  Updates are usually short and usually personal. “This is what I had for dinner” or “Here are pictures of the kids” and “I went to the Caribbean with Bob.” It’s a private social space and most people are not looking to be “sold to” while browsing pictures of their family members. Facebook Pages are used to communicate with your customers in this space. Facebook offers some analytics tools to help you track your efforts and how much traffic you are getting. Some businesses have spent a substantial amount of money convincing their fans to “like” their page there. Facebook has changed how the main user feed gets displayed and often times requires the business to purchase a sponsored post for a post to even appear in the user feed of your business page fans.  I spend the least amount of my time on Facebook for business for this reason. When you get a “like” on Facebook, you are getting a “like” for Facebook first, THEN your brand. Maintain a presence, but I personally feel your time can be better spent.

2) Google Plus343 million users –  http://plus.google.com  The second largest social network and backed by the  “#1 name in search”. Google Plus although regularly compared to Facebook, is nothing like it. This platform is great for connecting with people based on interests and topics outside of friends or family. If you are in a business this is mostly likely your target market – i.e. New customers, strangers or people you do not know already.  Because of things like “Communities”, “Hashtags” and “Hangouts” you are able to target in on people who have expressed interest in learning about your business and industry. There is no write API for Google Plus, which means you can not ‘cheat’ or auto-post into this platform with a piece of software. This means that all the interactions on the site are real. This is a major part of the reason social ‘experts’ find this space harder since it does require some effort and take some work. You will need to spend time meeting others just like you would in any networking setting. 100% self-promotion doesn’t work in a real life networking setting, so don’t do it on this platform either. The people you attract in this space can become loyal brand followers. Every single public thing you do on Google plus is indexed by their search engine, helping boost your SEO or rankings in Google for your website. A plus one can help your search results. No other network offers these benefits and it is worth checking it out for this alone. I spend most of my time on this network.

3) Twitter288 million usershttp://www.twitter.com Twitter allows you to network and connect with celebrities, brands and topics. Some of your “real life friends” might be here, but probably not too many. Many “celebrities” are also the one “tweeting” from their twitter account, so with some effort you can appear on a persons radar that you are trying to get the attention of.  There are many automated programs that allow twitter to easily follow, Re-tweet and mention others. Twitter has a significant problem with fake accounts and “bots” that do nothing but automatically tweet Rss feeds and auto post pre-set tweets at certain times. Self-promotion is accepted on this platform and you can tweet about your company fairly regularly, which can draw traffic to your website. There are roughly four hundred million tweets sent per day, so your information can get lost in all the noise. Tweet often, with short, helpful,  and targeted information to stay relevant and interesting.

4) Linked in – 175 million usershttp://www.linkedin.com Linked in is your online resume. It lists your previous work history, skills that you have talent in and can also include recommendations from previous people you have worked with. Make sure you keep this up to date and accurate of your current business dealings. Many people who do business with you will often Google you and look for your Linked in profile. You can use the group feature to become a leader in your areas of interest and strengths. Answer questions as they are presented to get on the radar of colleagues and potential customers. Many people use Linked in as a Social CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) – You can see in real time what your possible customers are up to, which offers valuable insight into their behavior and preferences. There is also a status update you can once again use to drive traffic to your website.

5) Instagram100 million usershttp://www.instagram.com Instagram is a picture sharing social platform. It eliminates the clutter of other social networks listed and highlights your products and services in a very visual way. Even if you don’t sell a product, sharing things like company culture, accomplishments your employees are achieving such as charity work, parties, travel. These events give an ‘inside’ view into what your company is up to and people will respond positively to this.  Show a behind the scenes view of your company’s day to day life and you create a personal relationship with your customer base. User generated content is something that brands need to doing more of in this space. Do something fun and creative like; Create a contest and have your users submit photos via a hashtag, or a scavenger picture hunt for your products. Make sure though that you follow legal requirements for running contests online though. Many people use Instagram as the push tool to other platforms like Twitter or Facebook, which is done at the touch of a button.

6) Pinterest25 million usershttp://www.pinterest.com Pinterst is another visual social sharing platform. You “Pin”  images to your own personal virtual corkboard, broken up into any category you can imagine. People then are able to pin your pins onto their own boards. And will they ever. Pins are clickable back to the website that they were originally pinned from and this can mean traffic for your site. Pinterst offers a high shopping component, allowing you to include the price of items as part of the pin. Pinterest users are shown to buy more products and services than any other social website. You can verify your business website quite easily to help with your branding. Pinterest is similar to Instagram and many of the ideas that work there work here, including showing the behind the scenes views and contests. You can create unlimited boards to keep topics together and highlight all the unique parts of your company. Pins can also count as a link back to your website. 95% of the images on the pinterest website were pinned from somewhere on the web. Make sure your site has a “pin” button and your fans will generate traffic for you.

7) Foursquare25 million usershttp://www.foursquare.com Foursquare is a location ‘check-in’ service that allows your customers to let the world know that they are at your place of business and share it with all their friends on social networks. Foursquare is all about local. If you have a physical store location, and you are not maintaining a foursquare presence take note! Clients who live or work near your business can make up the majority of your customer base. Coffee shops, hairdressers, restaurants are looking to attracted locals and well as those tourists passing through and Foursquare can help with both. There is a high level of “referral” or “word of mouth promotion” when someone checks into your business. You are able to promote deals, rewards and other offers to your best clients. Offering a discount on the meal when someone tells their fan base they love your food can be a very profitable (and cost effective) arrangement. If you are an end user, checking into places and writing reviews can keep you on top of where you have been and what you enjoyed. The discounts and freebies are always nice too.

Social media is becoming where more and more of your customers are turning to for information about brands in the marketplace. Your business needs to get involved in the conversation.  There are many creative ways that you can use the seven top social media networks to get your message out, but make sure you are using them!

Which social network do you find best for your business? Where do you focus the most time?

Amanda Blain is CEO of Girlfriend Social (a friendship social network for women), Geek Girl, Zombie Fan, Speaker, and Consultant to companies looking for assistance with their social media presence. http://www.amandablain.com
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