Published in Sep-Oct 2012
When identifying your company’s social media goals, one of the first questions to consider is which social networks to use as outposts for your communication. And while the easy answer would be Facebook and Twitter, with perhaps Google Plus and LinkedIn thrown in for good measure, the reality is that this one-size-fits-all approach may neither be optimal or enough.
A lot of social media predictions were made for 2012, and one of the most interesting was that businesses would increasingly stop trying to be everywhere and start focusing on being where it really matters. This means supplementing mass market social networks with more focused, relevant niche networks.
New social networks are emerging faster than the number of bakeries selling cupcakes in Karachi. However, not all networks are equal; so how do you decide which networks to put your marketing efforts in and which ones are a waste of time? Here is a look at some of the new social networks and what they have to offer.
With over 11 million unique monthly visitors, Pinterest seems to have come out of nowhere to grab the number three position (after Facebook and Twitter) as one of the largest social networks in the game. However, this photo- (and video-) based network has been around for two years. It was set up by three men, although ironically, it has captured a mainly female audience who share images of fashion, cooking, style and more by using virtual ‘pin’ boards.
Marketers can use Pinterest by ‘pinning’ visually pleasing images of their products and coming up with creative board categories. Examples of brands that are pinning very successfully and have a large number of followers are HGTV, Mashable, Perfect Palette and Whole Foods.
Pinterest can be used to drive online and offline sales. According to HubSpot.com “any business that relies on driving a high volume of website traffic to increase sales, should consider joining Pinterest. Here’s how: when you pin an image or a video, you can provide a link back to the source website for that content. Therefore, Pinterest users can visit your website with one click. Through the power of social sharing (the ‘pin it’ button), your content can then be shared with multiple users.
Pinterest works best when it is not purely self-promotional. Pinterest has become the de facto lifestyle board. For example, if you sell clothes, rather than just pinning your ensembles, showcase events where these ensembles can be worn, what accessories go with it and so on. Creativity wins on Pinterest, so the more visually appealing your content is, the more people are likely to share it and follow your brand. Now, isn’t that ‘pinteresting’?!
Quora is a crowd sourced Q&A site, much in the vein of Yahoo Answers, except with more useful content. According to its founders, the objective of Quora is “to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.”
Launched in 2009, Quora is somewhat exclusive (invite-only membership) and all encompassing (with an impressive collection of resource pages and topics). Because of these traits, Quora typically attracts executives, journalists, industry experts, entrepreneurs and analysts as, well as regular folk to its numbers.
####A lot of social media predictions were made for 2012, and one of the most interesting was that businesses would increasingly stop trying to be everywhere and start focusing on being where it really matters. This means supplementing mass market social networks with more focused, relevant niche networks.
The site, founded by the ex-CTO of Facebook, went big in January 2011 when it became a hub for tech experts to share and show off their knowledge. Questions and answers on Quora range from the intellectual (What should Marissa Mayer do as CEO of Yahoo?) to the incredulous (Given our current technology and with the proper training, would it be possible for someone to become Batman?) to the just for fun (What restaurants in the world have the best views?).
What is unique is that most of these questions are answered by people who actually know what they are talking about versus people doing a Google search and looking up the answer. For example, the question about Batman is answered in an extremely interesting way by a real Hollywood screenwriter.
Individuals can benefit by becoming thought leaders and experts in their field. For example, if you represent a health foods business, you could answer questions on Quora in the categories of nutrition, health, fitness, healthy living, etc. The more questions you answer accurately, the higher the chances are that people will start viewing you as a trusted source in that field. Once people trust you, they are more likely to follow you on the network and eventually buy your products.
You can also use Quora for market research, following competitors and identifying questions that prospective customers are asking. All this makes Quora ideal as an intel-gathering network.
However, Quora is still nascent and has a few drawbacks. Firstly, the content, although indexed by Google, cannot be accessed from the home page without an invitation from an existing Quora user. Secondly, Quora does not accept business accounts so you have to sign up as an individual and use your real name. Thirdly, the questions are viewable to all Quora users – which obviously results in privacy debates.
Quora maintains its social network status by being fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter – in fact at the time of signing up, Quora will ask you to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, so it can determine what your interests are and match them to Quora boards. However, with competition heating up from LinkedIn Answers and others, we have yet to see whether Quora develops its long term sea legs in social media.
When people start searching for the word Tumblr more than the word ‘blog’, you know you have a social network with a lot of potential. Tumblr is a fun micro-blogging network which has become the internet’s hotbed for memes, funny pictures, and super-cool brands. A Tumblr blog can be set up in minutes and the interface is simple and intuitive to use for creating, sharing and curating content. Everyone from Barack Obama to Lady Gaga is using it. Tumblr boasts gender equality in its users and counts creatives such as photographers, filmmakers, musicians, comedians, artists, fashionistas and journalists as part of its network.
Founded in 2007 and based in New York, this cool social network has 39 million users, most of whom are in their early 20s. With a young vibrant demographic, how can you, as a brand, establish a presence on Tumblr?
The key to using Tumblr for business seems to be visual content (not unlike Pinterest). However, where Tumblr differentiates itself from Pinterest is in its friendly micro-blog platform, where users can easily add captions and snippets of text to their images and videos, thus increasing the value of the visuals posted. For example, Entertainment Weekly, an online entertainment news site, posts ‘large’ celeb pictures on their Tumblr account with a short newsy caption, whereas on their regular site, they would post a text-based news item with an accompanying ‘small’ photo. See the difference?
#### With over 11 million unique monthly visitors, Pinterest seems to have come out of nowhere to grab the number three position as one of the largest social networks in the game.
Brands are using Tumblr to display the fun and creative side of their brand identity. For example, Mashable’s Tumblr site showcases the latest internet memes about the Mars Curiosity Rover landing – from a NASA technician sporting a red Mohawk to the epic first picture sent by the robot!
So if you think your brand can laugh at itself and you have the ability to curate some funny stuff, then Tumblr is an awesome social network to have a presence on.
SlideShare isn’t exactly a new network (it’s been around since 2006) but its recent acquisition by LinkedIn places it back in the game as one of the premier business networks your brand should be focused on, especially if you are a B2B marketer. I mention it because it’s a seriously underutilised network by most marketers and it should not be.
SlideShare is the web’s standard for sharing PowerPoint presentations (hence why LinkedIn acquired it and why it makes so much sense). Ideally, businesses should be using SlideShare to create presentations that share the vision of your brand in story form; hold webinars; address frequent questions clients/customers ask; repurpose existing content (articles, marketing brochures, etc.,) in presentation form; use keyword tags to define presentations for better SEO; embed presentations on your website, LinkedIn, Facebook page and other web assets, and add audio to static presentations for more impact.
SlideShare presentations help you get social with your presentations; build brand awareness and loyalty; share industry insights and unique content; make visual content sharing easier; track new clients and customers; become thought leaders in your field; network and measure reader responses to presentations (number of views, downloads, etc.).
SlideShare has maintained its position as one of the web’s fastest growing marketing networks. Its stability and size (over 60 million monthly visitors) as well as its audience (professionals, business owners, industry experts) position it as a platform that can help with SEO, social networking, lead generation and brand building. With so few of your competitors using SlideShare, it is the ideal platform for differentiation and gaining a competitive edge!
Here are some other social networks to watch out for in the coming year which may or may not become big.
Airtime – real-time video chat.
Instagram – unique photo filters and image sharing.
Glassdoor – anonymous sharing of confidential job/company info.
Path – location-based social service.
When choosing social networks for your company, remember bigger isn’t always better!
Salma Jafri is the founder and CEO, WordPL.net. firstname.lastname@example.org