When it comes to social media, how involved do you need to be? Does online activity have to be all or nothing? Should you either engage on every social network or engage on none of them at all? The answer, thankfully, is no.
In fact, there’s a lot you can gain from social networks even when you pick and choose how to use them. And if you’re wondering how to know which networks are the right networks for you, consider this—you go where your audience is. If your target customers don’t engage on Facebook, you shouldn’t either. The best social networks for you are the ones where you find your fans. So with that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the different networks and the people using them, along with some of the benefits of each. Use this information to help you determine on which networks to focus your energies.
What it is: The veritable mother of all social networks, Facebook started off as a way for college kids to stay connected and grew into the most widely used platform of its kind.
Who uses it: Almost everybody today is on Facebook, from college kids to soccer moms to businesses. According to the company’s most recent quarterly report, the network has a whopping 1.15 billion monthly active users.
What it offers: For brands, Facebook is appealing because of its sheer breadth of users. Whomever you wish to reach, chances are that they’re on this site. Here are some of the benefits Facebook offers brands:
- Fan Pages: Collect fans on a brand page where you share updates, photos, news, and more. When users like and respond to your content, their activity appears in friends’ feeds, thereby promoting your name. What’s more, through the easily accessible and user-friendly Facebook network, you have a great tool for engaging your audience.
- Advertising: Although still considered controversial by some, Facebook advertising has one obvious thing going for it—it goes where users are.
- Improved SEO: Social media activity affects search rankings, so when you engage on social networks, you boost your online influence.
- New Insights: The Facebook Insights feature that is built into fan pages gives you information on how many people are talking about your page, how far your reach extends, the virality of individual posts, and more.
What it is: Backed by the world’s largest search engine, Google+ is a social network integrated into all of Google’s other services.
Who uses it: According to Forbes, Google+ is the second largest social network today. It has 343 million users, and while those users are less active than Facebook’s, many social media experts think that could change over time, particularly as brands continue to see the power of this network.
What it offers: Google+ has a lot of benefits to offer its users. By engaging on this network, consider what you gain:
- Content Authorship: Thanks to Google+, you can easily identify all your online content with authorship code. This means when search engines bring up your content in results, it will be alongside your name and a link to your Google+ profile.
- Improved Search Rankings: Because Google+ is so tightly connected to Google, being active on the network helps your search rankings. The more your content is appearing on Google+, the better your search results.
- Easy Feedback: As a user-friendly social network, Google+ makes it easy for you to interact with and respond to fans.
What it is: Twitter is the social network known for microblogging—Everything you post has to be said in 140 characters or less.
Who uses it: With over 500 million users and more than 200 million active users according to TechCrunch, Twitter is no small potato in the social media scene. Its users include professionals, students, brands, and bloggers alike.
What it offers: The brevity of Twitter posts makes it perfect for quick, compact updates, which means it’s ideal for:
- Engaging with Customers: Simply search Twitter for mentions of your brand and respond to the people talking about you. This helps you build good PR and better customer service.
- Automatically Promoting Content: Set your blog to automatically post to Twitter when you publish a new post, and you seamlessly promote your content to your online audience.
- Network with Colleagues: Twitter makes it easy to stay connected to others in your industry. Follow and interact with them, and build a sense of community.
What it is: Pinterest is a social bookmarking tool that makes it easy to save and share images from all over the Web.
Who uses it: With 70 million users and growing, at least according to The Next Web, Pinterest is one of the hottest tools today. Research published at MediaBistro says women are five times as likely as men to be on the network, and the type of content that performs best includes tutorials, quotes, and beautiful photographs.
What it offers: For brands, especially those with food, household goods, or crafting products, Pinterest is a huge referral source. Here are some benefits it offers:
- Content with Long Lifespans: Pins on Pinterest are more evergreen than updates on Twitter or Facebook—instead of slowly being buried by what’s new, pins may be circulating for months or more, depending on who shares them.
- Higher ROI Potential: According to Pinleague, users on Pinterest are much more likely to spend significant dollars–$179 on average, compared to $69 on Twitter and $80 on Facebook.
What it is: To most people, LinkedIn is the career-focused social network. It’s where professionals go to network and ask for recommendations and campaign for new jobs.
Who uses it: LinkedIn tends to attract affluent, ambitious professionals. According to VentureBeat, it has 238 million users right now.
What it offers:
- Recruitment: The most obvious benefit of LinkedIn to businesses is recruiting. Brands may set up their own company profiles, directing users to information about the business. For a fee, you may also post job listings to recruit among LinkedIn users.
- Brand Building: A strong company profile and completed profiles from company executives help strengthen your online brand.
- Networking: LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with fellow professionals, which has many benefits, not the least of which is growing your business over time.
What it is: Instagram is a photo-posting social networking app available on smartphone devices.
Who uses it: People who like pretty pictures like Instagram, and this includes everyone from photographers to brands to college kids. The network currently has more than 130 million users, according to Mashable.
What it offers: Using Instagram is about more than pictures. As a business, here’s what the network could offer you:
- Community: Due to its fast, ever-changing nature, Instagram is an extremely easy way to engage your fans. Post pictures, receive likes. Scroll through your feed, like others’ pictures. By doing these simple tasks, you are engaging with your audience and building community.
- Enhanced Branding: Make your Instagram feed consistent with your other branding efforts and you build your online image.
- Market Research: Follow users in your target audience, and observe their behavior on Instagram. What do they post? What are they interested in? This informs your understanding and future marketing efforts.
What it is: Flickr is an online photo management and sharing network where users create libraries of images.
Who uses it: According to The Verge, Flickr has 87 million users, who are uploading over 3.5 million pictures every day. Users include everyone from professional photographers to amateur hobbyists to homemakers posting pictures from their smartphones.
What it offers: There are many ways companies can use Flickr to their advantage. Consider the following:
- Interact with Users: Share fresh, authentic material that’s consistent with your branding, and you not only engage with a community, but you also amplify your brand.
- Host Photos: Through its paid plans, Flickr offers limitless photo storage, which makes it an ideal space to upload photos you want to use on your blog. Storing them on Flickr means using them to interact with the community there, while also saving your own website’s space.
Reading the above descriptions and benefits, what are your thoughts? Which social networks make the most sense for your company, and why?
*This is a guest article by Shanna Mallon*