It seems like everyone is using social media these days.
From Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest, people are using social media as a regular part of their day.
Social media sites have a wide variety of value to people.
On Facebook, people can connect with people they know in the real world. You can keep in touch with friends and share photos with your family.
On Twitter, you can share updates with friends, share articles and get the latest news.
On Pinterest, you can make collections of images and designs for inspiration.
There is a social network for everything and billions are using social media sites throughout the world.
What does this mean for small businesses?
That’s a big question.
If you’re looking to acquire customers through social media it’s good to know where to start and where to focus. If you try to do it all you’ll get caught in the rat race and likely won’t have much success.
What we’ll do here is review the top social media sites and give you an idea of where you should focus.
For more read these articles:
- The Best Social Networks For Lead Generation
- How to Get Small Business Social Media Leads
- What Social Media Strategy Provides The Biggest SEO Benefit?
Social Media Sites for Small Businesses
This is a general overview of each of the top social media sites (Top Social Sites by Alexa). Use this information to guide you where you should spend your time in building a community with the help of social media.
These are the top US-based social media sites.
Facebook is the biggest social network in the world with over one billion users. That’s a big chunk of the world population. How many of those are duplicates, fakes and other organizations is up for debate, but it’s still safe to say that Facebook has a big presence around the globe.
And businesses have taken notice. When you have that many people in one place, businesses will come around looking to tap into the audience.
Even with all those people using it, Facebook is still a site for the young people out there. Those over the age of 30 likely don’t use Facebook as much or even really close to what teens do.
There are always exceptions, but the reality is that age plays a big role in social media marketing. If your business has a customer over the age of 40 it probably doesn’t pay to invest time in social media marketing unless you know your niche audience is using the sites.
One example would be business people and business professionals. This group does seem to be tuned into social sites including Facebook, but they’re using blogs and Twitter more than Facebook.
The big aspect of Facebook that users love is the Newsfeed. This is where users can see what is going on in their network right now. It’s a friend and family-based feed of what’s happening. You see what your connections are doing whether it’s sharing photos, grabbing a coffee or commenting on the latest political news.
It’s kind of amazing how Twitter basically took one aspect of Facebook (giving an update) and turned into the second biggest social media site.
What I think Twitter did really well especially in the early days was get celebrities to use the service. Fans wanted access to the thoughts and updates of celebrities and Twitter got celebrities to deliver.
That is still a big aspect of the site. You can follow celebrities of all kinds and those celebrities can broadcast information while building an audience, which they can market to as they please.
Twitter is also big in the news and business world. It’s really interesting how Twitter has become the go-to source of up-to-the second information.
Twitter, like any website, depends on content and really it depends on content not created on Twitter for it all to work. Bloggers, video creators and others have found they can build a subscription audience of people that want to know when the latest content has been created.
Google+ really isn’t a social media site. It has those kind of features, but Google uses the site – now with over 500 million users – to get a profile information on people.
Google’s business is serving ads and they’re digging into every aspect of life to really know what ads to serve people.
Google has put out a few carrots with Google+, especially to content creators like bloggers, to build Google+. With the site Google gets personal information and they’ll use that along with all their other free products to improve their ad-based system.
For businesses that want to get some organic traffic from Google it makes sense to participate and build an audience on its properties including Google+ and YouTube.
LinkedIn at the basic level is an online resume for professionals. But now it’s going beyond that to really provide value to businesses. I’ve found that LinkedIn is a great way to connect with your ideal customer. It’s an introduction to people and those introductions can lead to business partnerships.
The GBW customer is a small business owner and I’ve been able to meet people on LinkedIn that need a blogging service. It’s been a great audience for GBW to tap into and turn the people directly into customers.
Pinterest was a recent darling child in the social media world. The site is a pin board for all things inspirational. People can go crazy expressing themselves by sharing content from all over the web.
It’s a pretty organic type of site, but businesses have been able to tap into the audience especially businesses with female customers.
These sites are sometimes considered part of social media.
Depending on how you define a social network you may or may not consider YouTube to be on the list of the top social sites. There is a community, a very large community, of users on YouTube. This huge community has also turned YouTube into a huge search engine for videos.
Small businesses are creating original videos and sharing them on video to generate new business. I have a good friend that used this strategy to generate a ton of new business for his small company. He created something interesting and found a niche audience within YouTube. Those people found his videos and sought out his company website and his company to purchase products.
It seems like every Internet user is also using YouTube in some way. Google is pushing it in search results.
The Internet is becoming faster and faster and more people can watch video and they are watching more video because they like video content in some instances more than other types of content.
It must have been 2006 or 2007 when I first saw someone use SlideShare. I was attending a presentation instead of pulling up a PowerPoint the person used SlideShare (or a very similar service). It blew my mind. It was an introduction to the cloud and social networking. It was a crazy moment and was really an indication of how people would use the web in the future.
SlideShare today is a huge network of people mostly sharing and downloading presentations. The service is very SEO-friendly. It’s a great way to repurpose your content for those that like reading slideshows instead of blog posts.
And if you’re a speaker there is no reason you can’t take your presentations and provide them for free for everyone to see on SlideShare.
Tumblr was a latest dream kid in the social media world the last couple years. The blogging platform became a popular way to share all kinds of content from around the web. You could write a quick post, share photos and reblog something someone else had published on the site.
The site seemed to be used by teens and the younger crowd mostly. Businesses that were quirky and fun seemed to have success building an audience on Tumblr.
Sanuk is one example.
However, Yahoo! just bought Tumblr and there are already worries about how the service will change. It’s another note on the fragile nature of building an audience and depending on it too much while using social media.
Don’t forget about niche forums. They are all over the web for just about any topic you can think of and they’ve been around for as long as the Internet. They’re not going away anytime soon.
Simplicity is the great thing about a forum. Nearly everyone understands how to use a forum. You find a forum community for the topic you love and start communicating and connecting with others that love the same thing.
The way for small businesses to participate in forums is to provide answers to questions. Ask questions. Seek insight from the top users on the community.
As with all social media it’s not about promotion. Do that and you’ll get exiled from the forum by the users.
At Ghost Blog Writers we’re biased when it comes to blogging, but we have to say that blogging is an essential part of social media marketing for businesses of all sizes.
When you create content for social media sites you’re doing it as a way to tap into those existing audiences to grow your own. There is nothing wrong with that strategy. We do it and so do many other businesses. You have to do things like work with social media if you want to grow your own audience.
But there are risks.
We’ve seen sites like Friendster and MySpace almost completely go out of style over the years. Sites can also change design, function and purpose without warning.
It seems each time Facebook makes a change the business world has to scramble to keep up.
That’s part of the game. With your own blog you can keep control of the majority of the content you create. You own it. You can control what to do with it.