Social networking has stormed the nation in recent years and has become an integral part in many business’s marketing strategies.
Although many social networking sites are primarily aimed at end consumers, most offer an opportunity for businesses to effectively promote their products and services too.
In the UK, there are now hundreds of social networking sites – some operating as blog platforms within niche sectors. Below is an overview of the most popular social networking sites that could help you raise awareness of your brand and products as part of your digital marketing plan.
It’s worth remembering that only a few of the social networks reviewed might be suitable for your business, so don’t feel you need to be active on all of the platforms all of the time. It’s about finding what works best for your business and marketing needs.
Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites today with around 32.5 million users in the UK and 1 billion users worldwide.
To use Facebook, users must register and set up a personal account which they can tailor with profile information which the system publishes for other users to see.
Users build their network by becoming “Friends” with people they know and categorising them as “Work Colleagues” or “Close Friends”.
Facebook allows users to post updates and images, exchange messages, join interest groups and utilise an array of apps to play games, send e-cards, participate in quizzes and much more.
As part of a marketing plan, businesses can set up a company page on Facebook which allows you to build a network of followers and post regular communications. The page can be branded and tailored with a bespoke cover image that helps to promote your products and services.
On a daily basis, you can post status updates on your company page timeline including product information, promotions and other interesting information that helps you to build a relationship with your customers.
Individuals can become “Fans” by “Liking” your page, which means they will automatically receive your news updates in their news feed. Encouraging your Fans to “Like” and “Share” your updates spreads awareness of your page amongst other Facebook users and gradually builds your community of followers.
Twitter is another popular social networking site today that is also described as a “microblogging” service. The site, which is currently used by around 10 million users in the UK and 200 million users worldwide, can send and receive messages of up to 140 characters that are known as “Tweets”.
To use Twitter and publish Tweets, individuals must register to set up an account, which can be tailored with a personal photo, a background and a short biography.
To build networks and communicate with other Twitter users, account holders “Follow” each other. Users communicate by posting Tweets which can include images, videos and links to other website pages.
To talk directly to another Twitter user through a Tweet, the “@” symbol is used followed by their username.
To categorise Tweets and be part of a topical conversation, the “#” symbol is used before a keyword which then ensures it can found by others users searching for relevant content.
To benefit their marketing activity, businesses are able to set up a branded Twitter page and publish Tweets as often as required. The page can be tailored with a branded background image and populated with relevant images and video clips through the posting of Tweets.
LinkedIn is a social networking site designed specifically for business professionals and enables users to keep in touch with business colleagues past and present.
With over 11 million UK members and 200 million members worldwide, users register to set up an account which then operates as an online CV. A user’s profile can include information on skills, experience and employment history, logging details of your previous companies which automatically identifies people that you may know. The Jobs section allows members to find new employment opportunities via search, suggested jobs and available jobs across the individual’s network.
LinkedIn allows users to “Connect” with other contacts, creating a professional social network. When an amendment is made to your profile, an update notification is automatically published for all of your connections to see. Members are encoraged to recommend and endorse one another to help build personal profiles helping them to win new job opportunities or future business.
Another key feature of the network is the Groups section. Members can join up to 50 interest Groups in which you can interact with other Group members, create posts plus keep up to date with business news and comment in your chosen industry sector.
Businesses can utilise LinkedIn as part of their marketing activity by setting up a company page. The page can include a business overview and a comprehensive list of products and services that you offer.
Through a company page, news updates and information can be published as often as required, which can incorporate photographs and links to other websites.
LinkedIn members can become “Followers” of companies that they are interested in and keep up to date with their activity through news feeds and status updates.
Followers can also endorse a company’s products and services, offering a genuine recommendation for potential future clients.
Pinterest is a fast-growing photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections for events, interests and hobbies.
Attracting 50 million worldwide subscribers to-date, users create mood boards to which they can “Pin” images of things they like such as clothing, home furnishings, art or travel destinations.
Users can “Follow” each other and share image collections with other subscribers that have the same interests.
Businesses can gain brand exposure and promote their product range by setting up and managing a company page on Pinterest. After setting up an account, mood boards can be created using themes and categories that are appropriate to your business and your market sector. Images of your products can be uploaded into your mood boards from your computer or from your website with a website link directing viewers to the relevant web page.
Other Pinterest users can “Follow” your company page or your individual mood boards and “Repin” the images of products they like onto their own boards. This helps to spread brand awareness amongst friends of your followers and gradually improve your overall online profile.
As its name suggests, Google+ is part of the Google family and is described as being the second largest social networking site in the world. It is estimated that there are currently around 500 million subscribers worldwide with around 50% active every month.
Google+ allows users to share updates with their friends and acquaintances, which consist of a text post that can be enhanced by attaching images and videos.
Enabling users to tailor posts for specific groups of contacts, Google+ allows you to organise your contacts into different “Circles”, such as close friends, family and work colleagues. By simply selecting a particular contact circle, users can choose who their post is issued to.
Another feature of Google+ is the ability to create a “Hangout”. This facility allows up to 10 members to hold a group video chat which can only be accessed using a unique URL code.
Businesses can take advantage of Google+ as part of their marketing activities by setting up a “Google+ Page”. Designed particularly for companies, organisations and publications, a branded profile page can be set up which promotes your company and allows you to post regular updates. Other Google+ users can “Follow” your page and join your “Circle” to keep up to date with your news and information.
YouTube is the world’s most popular video-sharing website that allows users to upload, view and share videos. Predominately populated with content from individuals, a number of the major media corporations now make some of their material freely available via the website.
Launched in 2005, YouTube allows registered individuals to upload videos that are up to 15 minutes long, in a wide range of compatible formats. Videos are categorised into topics enabling users to easily search for required content. Unregistered users can view video content but cannot upload video onto the website.
After watching a video, users can give it a rating (thumbs up or thumbs down), share it via social networking sites and subscribe to the channel to keep up to date with future new content.
YouTube keeps a track of the number of views each video has attracted and highlights the most popular video in each category on its home page.
Many companies today use YouTube as part of their marketing strategy, publishing video content to promote their products and services. Companies can quickly and easily set up a YouTube channel for their business which can be tailored with a logo and a brief company overview.
Uploaded videos can be promoted through social networking sites and other online tools, to drive traffic to your channel. YouTube visitors can become subscribers of your channel and follow your future YouTube activity.
Instagram is a photo-sharing and social networking site that makes it easy for users to share photos with friends and family. Through the use of filters, photos can be transformed into works of art before sharing them on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
With over 100 million active users, Instagram has grown rapidly since its launch in October 2010 and it highly rated amongst subscribers.
Similarly to other social networking sites, users can follow each other and connect with friends, family and work colleagues to keep in touch. Images can be accompanied with comments to describe their occasion.
Instagram can be used as a powerful marketing tool for businesses as part of their overall tactical plan. A business account can be set up and populated with photos to promote products and services. Other Instagram users can become “Followers” of your page and “Like” and comment on your photos which helps spread awareness of your brand.
Flickr, which is part of Yahoo, was especially designed for hosting images and videos. The site allows users to upload and organise their digital photos and share them with friends and family.
There are estimated to be around 87 million users of Flickr today, with around 8 billion photos being hosted on the site.
Helping you to remember your occasion and tell a story, Flickr allows you to add notes and comments to your photos. The use of tags enables you to categorise your images which helps you and your friends find them easily in future searches.
Similarly to other social networking sites, users can connect with people they know. Flickr allows you to designate them as friends or family and restrict viewing of your photos to people you trust.
Flickr can be used as part of a business marketing plan to help promote products and services. An account can be set up in your company name and populated with interesting images to help promote your brand.
Tumblr is a site that allows subscribers to collect and share anything – text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos can all be posted from any device, wherever you are. It is primarily used as a blogging platform and is popular amongst artists and photographers as a means to showcase their work.
In April 2013, it was reported that Tumblr had 102.6 million blogs present on the site and more than 44.6 million posts.
To use Tumblr, subscribers register and create an account which can be styled with a tailored look and feel. There are pre-defined themes available to select from or you can create something completely bespoke.
Blogs can be supplemented with images, videos, quotes or links and tagged with key words to help other users to find relevant content.
As part of their marketing activities, businesses can set up a branded Tumblr page and publish articles help promote their products and services. Adding links in your articles back to your website will help drive visitors to your site and ultimately increase brand awareness.
Myspace is a social site that is focused on entertainment. It enables users to connect to the music, celebrities, TV, movies, and games that they love. The system connects to Facebook and Twitter which helps you to find friends and has recently undergone a massive redesign.
Although not one of the most popular choices of social networking sites, for businesses connected to the entertainment industry, a branded account could be an effective communication tool.
Bebo, which was the biggest social network was acquired by AOL in 2008 for a staggering US$850m and later resold to Criterion for around US$10m.
It is very similar to other popular social networking sites – particularly Facebook – with core users being between 13 to 21 years old.
To use the site, individuals set up a personal profile on which they can post updates, photos, videos and music to keep their friends updated.
Bebo allows you to add other users as friends and send them messages through a private inbox as well as through your profile.
On setting up an account, users can login with their Facebook account which enables Bebo to access their profile and friends information.
Worlwide, there are an estimated 20m plus monthly users on the site.
If your business specifically targets the teenage market, it may be worth further investigation to test feedback to videos and gain an understanding of what makes this age group tick.
Foursquare is a location-based social networking site specifically designed for use on mobile devices. Users “Check-In” at venues wherever they are and earn “Points” and “Badges” every time they check-in.
Foursquare is a great tool for identifying the best places to go, enabling users to read reviews left by others and benefit from their experiences of shops, restaurants, museums, leisure centres and much more.
As a local business, Foursquare is a fantastic tool to help get you noticed. Companies can set up a branded page which users can follow to receive information on special offers and general updates.
When a user “Checks-In” at your location, their activity will be logged on their profile, notifying their friends of their experiences, helping to spread the word about your business.
Each week, you will be sent an email about your business page, notifying you of key statistics and showing you any comments and photos that members have left.
Currently, there are reported to be 30 million people using Foursquare and approximately 1 million businesses.
Behance is a social networking site specifically aimed at creative people, enabling them to showcase their work to colleagues and clients.
Ideal for graphic designers, photographers and artists, Behance enables users to set up a tailored profile and display their projects whether they are work-in-progress or complete.
Once you have loaded your project onto the system, a robust analysis tool clearly shows you how many visitors have viewed your work, breaking the analysis down by time period. Other Behance users can tag your projects showing their appreciation and can also leave comments.
The site also features a JobList for those creatives wanting to search for new roles posted by design agencies.
In addition to displaying creative work on profile page portfolios, Behance also enables artists and agencies to sell their work online.
BBM is an instant messaging service exclusively for users of BlackBerry phones.
Messages, pictures, voice and video are sent over Blackberry’s private network – users can see if messages were successfully sent, read or are being replied to in real-time.
The service operates like a fast free texting service via the contacts’ telephone numbers or pins and can be used for one to one messaging or for groups.
The service is very popular within the 16 to 24 year old age group but is also widely used in the business community.
At myCloud Media, we are experienced in setting up and managing social networking accounts on behalf of our clients. For more information on social network marketing services, please get in touch by calling 0800 849 0888 or visit our website.
We’d love to hear from you regarding your experiences of social networking sites for business marketing.
Article by : Tim Bennett