Types of Social Media Platforms
Social media is everywhere these days: we see companies employing social media advertising on commercials, radio, billboards, websites, and even on our cell phones and other mobile devices. We see logos for Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr at the bottom of hundreds of websites. We are asked to subscribe to blogs, become fans, friends, share, and connect in countless ways, but how is this social networking actually benefiting us, and are the companies using these platforms seeing measurable results?
Since the list of social media platforms and the variety of advantages and disadvantages to using them can be overwhelming, we've decided to take a few that we believe to be most advantageous and describe some of their pros and cons from a business point of view. It is critical to remember that not every industry should be spending their time and money on some of these platforms, and it is best to analyze just what your desired outcomes are before beginning a social media campaign. From there, weighing the costs and possible profits of each platform should help narrow down which type of social media program to begin.
Blogs - We begin here, as blogs are widely considered the "base" of any social media campaign. Blogs can add personality to your website and boost industry perception, educate others through the demonstration of your knowledge of the market, create an emotional investment in your company, build brand awareness, and more. Additionally, blogs can be integrated with other types of social media platforms, and can even have your Facebook posts or Twitter streams live on the blog itself.
One of the downsides to blogs is that they need to be as real to their readers as you should be to your customers. Readers will know if you are faking your industry knowledge, if you have too much emphasis on yourself and not on them, and also whether or not you are involved with the blog regularly. Along those lines, blogs should be updated frequently, which can be difficult from a time perspective. This factor must be taken into consideration before deciding to create a company blog.
Facebook – One of the most currently relevant and widespread platforms for social networking is Facebook. Although trends come and go, Facebook should be the second social media device used after blogging for the very reason that it takes brand awareness to the next level by making your company logo very visible and allowing people to easily share news about your business to all their “friends”. People who become your fans are frequently reminded of your presence by status updates, news, and other interactions. Additionally, Facebook provides an analytics tool whereby companies can view weekly reports detailing new fans, numbers of interactions, and types of actions taken on their pages. Furthermore, Facebook allows for the creation of customized tabs on which to link other platforms, such as Twitter or a blog, to a Facebook profile.
The downside to Facebook is, like blogging, the time needed to maintain the company page, although the time needed here is considerably less than on platforms like Twitter.
Twitter – As mentioned above, much time and energy is required to successfully manage a Twitter account. With 27.3 million tweets per day, keeping track of who is talking about your company, your product, or who might need to know about you can be overwhelming to say the least. Additionally, one must keep in mind various factors such as the need to “retweet” or reply quickly, maintain an appropriate “follower to following” ratio to ensure better optimization, and a host of other variables.
On the upside, Twitter allows users to use programs such as TweetDeck to monitor tweets or schedule tweets for distribution. Twitter can be an extremely innovative and relevant way to reach customers, but this tool will only work for certain industries, in certain instances, and must be maintained regularly with a good strategy in place in order to be successful.
YouTube – Yes, YouTube is considered a social media platform. What’s more, it is also the 2nd most-used search engine following Google. Yes, we did say “search engine”. For the record, YouTube is used in this fashion primarily by the younger generation, and not as frequently as those who might actually have the resources to become a customer. However, with a trend this large, companies should not be quick to overlook a branding and informational tool such as YouTube, especially considering the average time on site is 23 minutes. The benefits of maintaining a YouTube presence include a potentially huge audience for companies on a tight budget, and the ability to “tag” keywords to videos so that you will have a good chance of being seen when your terms are searched. Of course, as with the other platforms we have discussed, various factors play a role here, but if your company has already produced video creative to be used on your website or blog, it is easy to create a YouTube Channel and cast a much wider net, especially considering YouTube’s time constraints are also much lighter on company resources than with the other platforms.
As with all social media platforms, what is hot today might not be in the future. Companies need to be able to accurately determine what to allocate their time and resources in to increase brand awareness and maintain a positive reputation on- and offline. This conservative and well-thought-out approach will help prepare these companies for the next phase of social media, or whatever type of media becomes the “next big thing”. Search engine marketing companies and their clients must consider these factors when making decisions about how and when to further marketing efforts.
Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations