Many social media services and tools exist that businesses can use to build an effective online marketing strategy. Nearly 70% of adults who use the internet use some type of social media. Social media services and tools allow content sharing in various forms across the Internet. Which services will make the best marketing tools is influenced by your target customer.
The general profile for social media users is that they are more likely: women than men; younger people than older people (mostly those under 50, but especially those under 30); people whose household income is extreme (either low under $30,000 or high over $75,000); college educated; and spread equally across all races (white, black, and Hispanic).
Listed below are several different types of social media in popular use, the general user profile, and how businesses might use them to build an effective online marketing strategy.
Social Media Networks
- Facebook is the world’s largest personal social media network, making it especially good for B2C marketing. To use Facebook for a business, create a business page. Use the business page to attract customers who “Like” your business. Post status updates and content that will interest your customers, such as sales and special events. Facebook users fit the general profile, except they include the median range of income, between $30K and $75K.
- LinkedIn is the world’s largest business social media network, making it especially good for B2B marketing. To use LinkedIn, a person or a business may create a profile. Through a LinkedIn profile, you can connect with other business professionals in your industry, participate in discussion forums, and establish yourself or your business as an authority in a particular field. LinkedIn users differ from the general profile and is more likely male, more likely middle-aged (between 30-64 years old), and more likely to have income greater than $75,000.
- Google+ (pronounced Google Plus) is a relatively new social media network designed to customize Web search results for its users. For business users, the best benefit exists today if your business is currently well represented in Google+ public communities, for example, one that relates to photography, dogs, or gaming. To use Google+, create a Google account, and then create a Google+ profile. G+ users fit the general profile, except they are overwhelmingly male.
- Skype is primarily a free internet phone service that appears to be declining in use as a social media tool. It is useful for people who need to work together from different physical locations.
Social Media Cloud Sharing Tools
- Instagram is an online or cloud sharing service for photos. To use Instagram, download the free app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store. Share product and business photos on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare. Instagram users fit the general profile except most users have median ($30-$50K) or high income (over $75K).
- YouTube is an online or cloud sharing service for videos. To use YouTube, create a Google account and then upload videos. Share how-to and product demonstrations. YouTube users do not fit the general profile, being overwhelming young, male, with no college, and more likely not Caucasian (African American, Asian or Hispanic).
- Dropbox is an online or cloud sharing service for digital content of any type, including documents, photos, and videos. To use Dropbox, download the application a computer or smartphone. Use Dropbox to share content with clients. Dropbox users do not fit the general profile, being more likely older (35-55 years of age), males with graduate degrees, with incomes less than $100,000, and Asian or Hispanic.
- Flickr is another online or cloud sharing service for photos that appears to be declining in use.
Social Media Blogging Sites
- Twitter is an online texting or microblogging tool that anyone can use. To use Twitter, you create an account by establishing a “handle” (such as @MyBusiness) that enables you to connect and engage customers via Tweets (short text messages of up to 140 characters, including spaces), over the Twitter network. Tweets can include hashtags (such as #fastfood) that enable you to group related information. Your Tweets are read by followers and you can read texts by those you are following. Twitter users do not fit the general profile, being overwhelmingly younger, with incomes spread equally across all levels, slightly more likely to have no college education, and overwhelmingly African American or Hispanic.
- Tumblr is another micro-blogging service that appears to be declining in use.
Bookmarking and Digital Curation
- Pinterest is a bookmarking tool for content on the Internet including photos, videos, and other visual objects. To use Pinterest, as a business, join and establish an account profile, Create pinboards to organize content that you pin (post). Pinterest is a highly visual bookmarking site best suited to sharing recipes, fashion, wedding ideas, and furniture. Pinterest users fit the general profile strongly and are overwhelmingly female, young, and college educated.
- Reddit is a bookmarking community that works best as a two-way street where you actively participate, engage in conversation, and help others, while promoting your business. Reddit users do not fit the general profile, are more likely male, and spread more equally across all age groups, incomes, and education levels.
- StumbleUpon is a bookmarking tool for locating web pages, videos, photos and other content on the Internet that match your interests. It works best on Firefox and Chrome browsers which fully support it. To use StumbleUpon, create an account, and visit recommended pages. “Like” or “dislike” recommended pages to “train” StumbleUpon to better recommend content that matches your interests. StumbleUpon users do not fit the general profile, are more likely male, as likely to be under 25 as over 55 years of age, with an income up to $100,000, no college, and not Caucasian (African American, Asian or Hispanic).
- Del.icio.us is another bookmarking tool for photos, videos, tweets, blog posts, or articles, but appears to be declining in use.
Social Media GPS Tools
- Foursquare is a geosocial or location-based service for mobile devices equipped with a global positioning system (GPS). If you’ve used your smartphone to find directions or locate a nearby restaurant, you’ve used GPS. Foursquare shares GPS location with other services such as Twitter and Facebook or adds location information (called geotags) to content such as photos, which is especially useful to brick-and-mortar retail locations. Foursquare users do not completely fit the general profile, being more likely men and more likely Asian or Hispanic.
Customer Loyalty Mobile Apps
- LevelUp is a free mobile phone app for iPhones and Android-based phones that businesses can use for a customer loyalty program. The LevelUp app is free. To use LevelUp, businesses don’t pay the usual processing fees associated with debit or credit card transactions. Businesses only pay a percentage of the profits when customers use LevelUp to pay for services or products, or redeem rewards.
Using Social Media Services
All of these online marketing tools offer basic social media services that are free to set up and use. Paid services with enhanced features and paid advertising are also available from some services, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google.
Be sure to carefully read the guidelines for each of the tools you plan to use. Cloud services in particular may transfer ownership rights for any content that you post on the Internet using their service.