If you want to set up or grow your business online, then it’s important to understand the role that social media could play for you.
Besides letting you connect socially with others, social media has emerged in recent years as one of the most cost-effective tools for promotion, branding and customer service.
This trend looks set to continue into 2013.
According to a report by Social Media Examiner 83% of businesses now use social media for their business. Clearly, social media is here to stay so ignore it at your peril!
But as exciting and powerful as social media can be for your business, it should be regarded as a marketing tool rather than a complete marketing strategy in itself.
In 2012, it was widely held that you should have a presence on every social network going. This year, experts are advocating a more strategic approach. In other words, you need to identify which social network is the right fit for your business to achieve the best Return on Investment (ROI).
Not All Social Media Networks Are Equal
There are hundreds if not thousands of different social networks out there. This mind-boggling list from Wikipedia gives you a taste of the vast social media landscape at the end of 2012.
However, very few of these social media sites can be classed as mainstream or even particularly popular. Facebook is the obvious leader with over 1.5 billion members but what else is out there?
In this post, I’m going to compare the 5 main social media networks to help you choose the best platform(s) to invest your time and energy.
#1 Facebook – The Daddy of Social Media
Even though Facebook is referred to as the “daddy” of social media, it is actually not the oldest social network. It gets this label due to its sheer size, currently standing at a mighty 1.5 billion users with millions of new members joining daily.
Facebook has huge reach, is easy to use and is extremely accessible thanks to the wide availability of its app. There are Facebook apps for practically every device under the sun which make joining and sharing content on Facebook a breeze!
Facebook is an absolute must for every business. No other network comes close to the massive exposure it can give your brand so it’s worth investing the time to learn how to use it correctly.
Despite its increasing restrictiveness, Facebook will continue to be one of the most popular social networks for a very long time to come.
#2 Twitter – When Social Media Meets SMS
Twitter is a micro-blogging network that is extremely popular with celebrities, businesses and notable figures around the world. Twitter allows people to send Tweets, short messages of 140 characters in length, to a vast audience of around 500 million.
Twitter has experienced massive growth in the last two years thanks largely to the increase in mobile phone usage and the availability of its app. Although Twitter users comprise a broad demographic, in the last year usage has shot up 400% among young adults who own smartphones.
Like Facebook, Twitter is an essential platform for marketing your business but especially if you target young people.
#3 Pinterest – Social Media Disguised As Eye Candy
Pinterest stormed to the top of the social media charts last year despite being a social network with a difference – instead of sharing words you share images!
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Pinterest and the potential of this exciting social media network to drive online sales.
Personal preferences aside, I urge you to learn how to use Pinterest correctly particularly if you market products or services to women who represent roughly 65% of all users.
But if you’re still on the fence about Pinterest, perhaps this research by Pew will convince you to get on board. It seems that Pinterest is gaining ground on Twitter in the US market and could already be the #2 largest social media platform there.
#4 Google+ – The Search Engine’s Choice
Google Plus (or Google+) is a growing social media network that many people don’t seem to understand. As its name suggests, it is owned by the world’s biggest search engine, Google, which is reason enough to take note.
Even though Google+ has tremendous potential for SEO and branding, strangely enough it is still ignored.
In the 2 years since it launched, Google+ has quietly amassed over 400 million followers, much faster than Facebook at the same point in its trajectory!
Like Facebook, Google+ allows you to create personal and brand pages on which you can post text, images and video. You can also create circles of contacts (the equivalent of Facebook groups) and hold live video chats or “hangouts” to engage your audience.
If you want to improve your SEO, it’s essential to set up a Google+ account. Since Google controls this social media platform, whenever you post content to your Google+ page, you can quickly improve your search engine results.
#5 LinkedIn – The Sleeping Giant of Social Media
LinkedIn has been called the “sleeping giant” of the big social media networks and is a fantastic online business networking platform for professionals. But it’s not a social media network in the traditional sense that targets everyone like Facebook or Twitter.
From the outset, LinkedIn has been the platform of choice for professionals to engage, share ideas and network. The average income of LinkedIn users is far higher than the other platforms and the tone is also more formal.
But don’t let that put you off!
LinkedIn is particularly useful if you are marketing products and services aimed at businesses and professionals. It is also ideal for showcasing your personal brand which makes it ideal for job seekers.
It’s clear that there are many different social networks and they all fill a different gap in the market.
To help you choose the right social media network(s), take a look at this excellent infographic from Pardot, which looks at each of the above social networks in more detail e.g. their growth, total number of users, as well as some of the best uses for each site.
Which social media networks do you use?
What do you think? Which platforms are helping you achieve your goals? Let me know in the comments below.