Which Social Networks Are Best for Your Business?

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 3.51.42 PMYou may or may not be aware that there are dozens upon dozens of social networking sites out there that service such memorable and genuinely worthwhile communities as VampireFreaks.com, PatientsLikeMe.com and WriteAPrisoner.com. However, we’re only going to discuss the ones at the very top. The names you know, like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and MySpace (yes, MySpace!).

For the simple, content-driven campaigns that I espouse it’s best in my opinion to focus on no more than two or three sites that you can easily track and maintain. Big brands have a presence on just about every top network and employ small armies of social media experts to monitor and maintain them. For most small business owners this is clearly overkill and could wind up killing your business. Facebook and Twitter are obvious choices for the vast majority of content campaigns. But why? What other sites should you consider adding to your mix? Let’s break them down:

Facebook

Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. With well over a billion users worldwide there’s practically no demographic you can’t reach for relatively little money. It’s the most technically mature site and they’re refining it constantly. Once they cracked the code on marketing to mobile devices they became the undisputed cornerstone of most social media strategies. As long as you understand that it’s not a great place to sell stuff directly, it’s hard to go wrong with Facebook. It is the place to build brand awareness.

Twitter

As far as marketing goes, Twitter is the 600-pound gorilla in the room (don’t worry, this article won’t become about an ever-shrinking gorilla). Twitter is also not a great place to sell stuff, but it is a great place to publicize content since it lends itself so well to embedded links. Various tools, including retweets, #hashtags and @mentions, make it very easy to track trends, behaviors and reactions to your tweets. It’s a particularly good place for professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountants and consultants to promote thought leadership campaigns.

Google+

Google+ (pronounced “google-plus”) is a relatively new entrant into the social network space, but it’s quickly becoming a contender in the race for relevance. I think it’s an essential choice if you’re marketing a brick-and-mortar location that relies on foot traffic using a search-heavy inbound campaign, such as a restaurant or storefront.

LinkedIn

If you’re looking to reach a large B2B user base, try LinkedIn. With over 50 million users worldwide, LinkedIn skews heavily towards the affluent and educated. It’s where I would target a content campaign to reach C-level decision makers (CEOs, CFOs, Marketing and HR Directors, etc.) at medium to large companies.

Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the new image-sharing networks that has caught on like wildfire. It has over 70 million predominantly female users with approximately 56% in the 18-34 demographic, although a large percentage is somewhat older. On Pinterest, people bookmark or “pin” images that interest them using a virtual scrapbook metaphor. Statistically, women seem to prefer this type of image curating over their male counterparts, making it an ideal place to hawk image-friendly products such as clothing, jewelery, children’s apparel, toys, home furnishings, etc.

Instagram

Instagram is an image-sharing service based on iPhone and Android apps that allow users to upload photos to the site in real time. According to its own press page, Instagram has 150 million active monthly users sharing 55 million photos a day with a more balanced gender distribution than Pinterest. Overall, I’d say that Instagram would be my preferred content platform for a lifestyle product or service such as athletic equipment, arts, crafts, travel and adventure. Even hotels, spas and restaurants lend themselves well to Instagram, especially given diners’ current propensities for photographing and posting their food!

YouTube

The world’s leading video-sharing service lends itself particularly well to instructional footage and product demonstrations. Well-thought-out content can have a long shelf life on YouTube, such as cooking classic recipes or solving sticky technology problems. And, of course, things can go very viral very fast. But one note about creating viral content: It usually happens by accident on videos that have no corporate sponsorship whatsoever. To make something go viral that showcases your product’s name and likeness often requires a big budget and quite a bit of planning. Corporate viral videos generally do not happen by accident.

MySpace

You read that right! MySpace! I’ll bet you thought the grand-daddy of social networks was long dead, buried and in the newspapers, but after a makeover and a fresh infusion of cash from the likes of Justin Timberlake they’re poised to reclaim their spot as the premier venue for musicians and other artists. Similar to iTunes, the interface is geared towards music with buttons labeled “Songs” and “Albums” but I’d use MySpace for any business that wants to put its audio content front and center, including comedians and spoken word artists. Click here if you’d like to laugh at some vintage Victor Borge on the site.

These are rather broad descriptions of targeting strategies for the above-mentioned sites, but if you feel a particular social network could benefit your business in a way that I haven’t mentioned, you should by all means try it. The social media landscape is in a constant state of flux, and changes tend to be based on participants’ usage patterns, so you might just start something big and new.

You may have noticed that I didn’t include Foursquare on this list. If you have a physical premise such as a restaurant or retail store, it’s probably not a bad idea to register on the site. However, Foursquare’s business model never seems to have taken off and it just doesn’t seem to generate the foot traffic it initially promised. That said, Microsoft recently invested $15 million in the location-based service in order to gain access to their geographic data, according to Business Insider. Therefore, they may rise from the ashes soon like MySpace. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you’d like to hash out what social networks your business should be on, please feel free to contact me.

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