There are an abundance of social networking sites on the web, from the ubiquitous to the obscure. But if you’re considering using social media to promote your business, which sites are right for you?
Like many others, I use social media to promote my company and connect with peers and clients. But are my efforts worthwhile, and what should I keep in mind when I’m “talking shop” online? Whether you’re thinking of using social media for your company or you already do, follow along with me as I explore these questions in my next several articles.
With so many social media platforms available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Should you pick and choose services or try to represent your company on as many sites as possible? Creating and maintaining social media profiles could easily be a full-time job, and most people don’t have an abundance of time. A strong web presence is important, but I believe it can be accomplished by using a few services well instead of many poorly. I’ll focus on the main four; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace.
Facebook is likely the most famous social media website, with approximately 170 million users logging in daily. It’s even an adjective now; I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the expression “I’ll Facebook it!” which could mean everything from posting a photo to sharing an anecdote. Therefore, I think representing your business on the site is a good idea.
Business-only accounts can now be established, or users can create “fan pages” that they maintain from their personal profile. Fan pages are the most popular, but if you want to promote your company without having a personal profile, a business account might be for you.
Fan pages can be set up in a matter of seconds and give you the opportunity to share photos, links and contact information as well as create events and send messages to your fans. Don’t think your business is exciting enough to have fans? Think again. Fan pages have been created for banks (status update: RRSP deadline approaching!) and door manufacturing companies, not just Disney and Microsoft.
Facebook also offers paid advertising. Users can create small ads and target them to a general audience or a specific demographic. Facebook ads also allow creators to specify maximum budgets and analyze marketing statistics.
Another popular site is Twitter, which has 75 million users. While Facebook users create in-depth profile pages and post messages and media to a news feed, Twitter profiles are brief (name, location, photo, 140-character bio) and 140-character status updates are the main focus. Twitter is commonly run through applications such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck which allow users to create and monitor follower lists and share links and photos; stayed tuned for a future article on social media management applications.
Some businesses may find Twitter to be better for making initial connections than Facebook; it is used by countless professionals who “tweet” throughout the day. Through Twitter I have connected with clients, established professional relationships and gained a great deal of exposure for my company. However, Facebook has been better for strengthening those connections, perhaps because it allows users to share more content.
LinkedIn is another valuable website. While Twitter offers a balance between business and fun, LinkedIn focuses on professional relationships and career advancement. Your LinkedIn profile can contain employment and education history, job skills and recommendations from clients and colleagues. LinkedIn targets individuals and directly promotes their careers.
MySpace, a precursor to Facebook, targets itself as “a place for friends” but is less popular now than it was five years ago. MySpace profiles are easy to use, highly customizable, and give space for detailed text, photos, videos and audio files; however the site is frequented primarily by bands and internet spammers. Unfortunately, MySpace is an unlikely source of legitimate attention or revenue.
I have profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and regularly make connections through social media that benefit my business and my professional development. Fraser Valley Pulse also uses these networks, and others, to connect with local readers. You will find a list of FVP’s social media network links on each page of this site. While you may be tempted to create profiles on multiple sites, it’s important to consider the time you’re willing to invest and where you might get the best response. With social media, it’s better to use no service at all, or one well, than several infrequently. Updating your profile consistently is the key to a strong presence on the web.