Are you new to social media? Well, welcome to the internet! In the twenty-first century, it’s common for people to be “on” constantly, especially with the growing pervasiveness of the smartphone. Did you know that the processors in our cellphones today have more computing power than the computers used for the Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Amazing, right? Our cellphones can double as cameras, calculators, notepads, clocks, books, etc. And what do we do with them? We post pictures of our pets with cool filters. And that’s okay.
If you’re looking to use social media for your businesses, then that’s okay too. In fact, 93% of marketers are using social media for business purposes as of December of 2014. Forbes suggests that the depth in which connections can be made with an audience or with customers through social media is far greater than it can be with any other medium. But it’s important to understand where to start.
You’ve heard of it, I’m sure. Most people have. You probably even have one, even if you don’t use it. Facebook is actually the most popular social networking site on the web with an estimated 1.15 billion active users! Most people use it as a way to keep up with old friends, or distant relatives, or even close relatives who live in different parts of the country or the world. Facebook makes it easy to show that aforementioned grandma in Hawaii that you climbed the Great Wall of China yesterday. It even makes it easy to tell your friends that you got that job you’d been coveting for months.
As of June 2014, there were 30 million small businesses active on Facebook. That’s a five million jump from the 25 million in November of 2013. With the ability to post ads through Facebook, many businesses use this as a strategy to reach a broad range of customers. It’s also not uncommon for businesses to allow customer feedback through Facebook. Communicating with businesses through Facebook can make some customers feel like they have a more personal connection with a company.
Twitter is ranked the third most popular social networking site on the web with over 500 million users (third only to Google+ and Facebook). It’s considered the fastest growing network, with a 44% growth from 2012-2013. You’ve probably even seen the pound, or “hashtag” symbol (#) followed by a word or a phrase on the TV screen during your favorite shows. #ScandalThursday? No? Well, this serves as a way to connect communities based on shared common interests. It’s quite revolutionary, actually. Not only doesn’t it allow a dialogue between people in New York and Tennessee with a simple shared hashtag, but it also allows for the closing of the gap in between “regular” people and celebrities. It’s not uncommon for a celebrity to engage in a quick Q&A with his or her fanbase through the Twittersphere.
Twitter, like Facebook, allows for businesses to connect intimately with customers. It allows for customers to give quick feedback and it allows businesses to share news, promotions, and coupon codes. Although Twitter forces you to be succinct with its 140 character word-limit, don’t doubt the power of a few retweets. A simple hashtag can carry your brand from California to North Carolina in seconds.
As a mobile photo and video-sharing site, Instagram hasn’t made quite as much of an impact as it predecessors. However, in the five years it has been active, Instagram has generated over 300,000,000 active users, equally spread across both Android and Apple devices. The Instagram community is steadily growing with our continued dependence on our smartphones. This site allows for us to share our visual representation of our world with the click of a camera and the addition of a few cool filters. This app, like Twitter, is popular among celebrities who are open to sharing photos and videos of their personal and professional lives with their fans.
Businesses like Audi, Taco Bell, and Ben & Jerry’s also use Instagram. This site allows for a business to show its creative side through captivating visuals. Instagram too makes use of the hashtag, and the added photo caption, which has can foster company-customer communication. Businesses can post about promotions, coupons, news, and if your company sells a product, it can be displayed through both photo and a 16 second video.
It’s amazing that social media has had such an effect on us that now there is a social media site used strictly for business purposes. The rules of this site are a little bit different though. But you’ll find that some of the concept, such as the imperative profile picture, the small “about me” section, and the idea of “friends,” under the name “connections.” While Twitter and Facebook and Instagram may be used as popularity contests, LinkedIn is not such a site. It’s important to keep it professional.
Many businesses can gain followers thorough LinkedIn, and job seekers can keep up with those same companies. Like the aforementioned sites, businesses can share updates on new products and practices, but with the added feature of employment seeking. With a network of over 300 million users, LinkedIn makes it easier for business and business professionals, or potential business professionals, to connect with each other.
Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.
These are some of the sites with growing popularity on the web. Tumblr is a blog site used for a variety of purposes. Being completely customizable with HTML and CSS, Tumblr is often used showcase creativity, whether it’s showing off web design skills, or posting pictures of your art, such as with a personal portfolio. With the ability to “reblog,” you can help share other peoples’ photos and posts, which could help the individual as well as the business. On the other hand, you can customize your blog to look like a completely different webpage if you are familiar with HTML and CSS (there are tools on the site that help with this). Tumblr isn’t used as much for social reasons, but can do quite a bit for a new or small business.
Vine is a relatively site, so it isn’t as popular as those aforementioned, and it’s only accessed through mobile devices, like Instagram. In fact, it isn’t even mentioned in most articles for the most popular sites on the web. But I’ve mentioned it because of its growing popularity. Owned by Twitter, this app allows the posting of six-second videos. Some individuals use the app to show off their creativity, whether it be through music, art, or comedy, while some businesses take advantage of the apps six-second video for promotions and news updates. Many even prefer six-second Vine over the sixteen-second Instagram video.
Snapchat is used for similar purposes as Vine and Instagram, except with a little twist. This too is a mobile-sharing site, but the photos and videos are only available for a specified amount of time. The “Post to Story” option allows for followers and friends to see your photos and videos for up to 24 hours. Many events have been sponsored by Snapchat, such as the 2015 World Cup, the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, and even selected college campuses. Sponsored Snapchat events work a bit differently, in that the users in the area of the sponsored event are the contributors to the story. However, a small business could use Snapchat, posting short videos and pictures to a 24 hour story. Businesses can even gain followers, like they can with Twitter and Instagram.
Other notable sites include YouTube, Pinterest, Goolge+, Yik Yak, and many, many more. Whether you’re looking to use social media for personal reasons, or for business purposes, it’s important for you to know the demographics of the sites you plan on using. Here is a pretty useful social networking fact sheet so that you can stay on top of things. And remember, these numbers are always changing. As new social media sites come into the picture, some will eventually fade away (remember Myspace?). Here is a more extensive glossary of the different social media sites provided on the web.