If you haven’t read parts 1 or 2 of the Inc. Plan Social Media series, they can be found below.
In part 2 of the Social Media series, you calculated your Net Promoter Score to determine whether your company should pursue an outreach or listening and responding campaign. In part 3 we’re going to look at the various types of social media elements available for your company’s outreach campaign. Now here’s your lightning fast tour of the social web.
Text-Based Social Media Elements
Short for Web log, a blog is a feed through which a company or person provides information through an article, video, image, podcast or mixture of these. Blogs require regular updating and are one the most content intensive social media elements. Like the one you’re reading now, blogs don’t always need to be directly tied to what is happening in your business. At Inc. Plan, we blog about the small business industry in general because we know that our customers are interested in tips for running a successful small business.
Microblogs are a condensed version of a normal weblog, usually limited to a certain number of words or characters. The best example of a microblog is Twitter, where a post is limited to 140 characters. However, many people overlook the fact that social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have built in microblogs in the form of status updates. Microblogs are typically used to provide snippets of information that link to full articles, pictures, or websites. Microblogs can also serve as a customer service vehicle because your company can interact directly with customers.
Forums are discussion areas of certain websites that allow users to post threads and start “threaded” conversations. Forums are typically used by hard-core fans of certain products or general users for support. Forums are a great tool for social media marketing because they allow your company to tap into an existing community that engages with your brand.
Depending on the type of company you’re marketing, event sites can be very valuable to getting your events publicity. Most event sites allow you to publish an event, description, picture, and a link back to your website for free. This can be a great tool for both building awareness for upcoming events and helping build high quality backlinks to your website for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. A current popular event site is Eventful.com.
Social news sites allow users to promote interesting content allowing more users to view it. One example of a social news site is Reddit, which allows users to vote up links, and the top 25 are viewable on the front page of the website. Social News sites can function as a starting point for viral content, allowing shareable content to generate large amounts of traffic in a short time. However, when marketing, keep in mind that “going viral” isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Discovery Engine/Social Bookmarking
Discovery engines, also known as social bookmarking platforms, are a type of web navigation that allows users to recommend web pages to their network and other users. One popular example of this kind of platform is StumbleUpon. Discovery engines can be a great way to drive awareness of your brand, especially if you have an interesting or innovative product.
Networking platforms facilitate users connecting online, and have a very high user engagement rate. For informal networking Facebook is the dominant platform, and for formal business networking, LinkedIn dominates the market. These networking platforms allow businesses to create pages or profiles, and have groups of users with certain interests. You can post articles and links within these interest groups to help drive awareness and traffic to your website.
Image or Video-Based Social Media Elements
Photo sharing platforms allow users to upload and share photos and images. One popular example of this is Pinterest, which has gained much traction among the young female segment of the market. If your company is visually intensive either through product design or being in a photogenic industry, photo sharing can be a viable social media element.
Unlike photo-sharing, photo blogging consists of a single person or company posting images consecutively in a blog-like format. Sometimes these photos are captioned with text, and other times they stand alone. Reaching out to prominent photo-bloggers to help promote your brand can be rewarding if your company is visually appealing. A popular photo-blogging platform to look into is Flickr.
Video sharing platforms, such as YouTube and Vimeo, allow users to post videos for other users to view, and these videos can be embedded in websites or other social media platforms. Similarly to photo sharing and blogging, video can be a great marketing medium if your company has visual appeal. Even if your company lacks this visual element, you can still upload informational videos to provide further information to prospective customers. The whole idea of marketing in social media is bringing your company to a personal level where your customers can interact with you, and videos can accomplish this arguably better than any other social media element.
Thus ends your light speed tour of the social web. This list highlights only some of the possible social media elements available, but gives an overall idea of what is possible in the social media realm. It is also worth noting that many social media platforms, namely Facebook, fall into multiple categories above and can be used to combine elements to provide additional value to your customers.
Should you use each and every one of these social media elements when marketing your company? Unless you have a complete social media team and a sizable budget at your disposal, probably not. What you should do with this list is look at it to see which elements would fit well with your current marketing efforts and which social media elements work well for your industry.
Also, go back to the listening step from Part 1 and see which social media elements your customers are already using and you can help build a community around your brand where your customers already are.
In Part 4, we will look at how to incorporate these elements into a full social media plan and how to maintain and measure your company’s social media efforts.
The Inc. Plan Social Media Series:
Part 3: What’s your Platform? An Introduction to the Social Media Elements