• 6 Social Sites Sitting On The Cutting Edge

    Your company’s Facebook and Twitter presence are established, but don’t rest there. Consider these other social sites…some familiar, some less so–that you need to have in your sights.

    By now, your company likely has an established presence on the 800-pound gorillas of social networking, Facebook and Twitter.  Maybe you have even developed custom Facebook apps or are using Twitter as a customer service tool.  You’ve created policy around the use of social networking and have budgeted staff and other resources around social business initiatives.

    In short, you’ve got it going on and can sit back and relax a little.

    Not so fast. There are dozens of social media sites popping up every day.  Not all of them are worth your time and attention, but the ones that are catching the eye and the mindshare of your customers and business partners are the ones that you need to have not only on your radar but in your test lab (even if that test lab is a couple of socially savvy employees setting up accounts and seeing what’s what).

    The BrainYard has compiled a list of six social media sites that companies should consider the next frontier of social networking.  Some are familiar and rising in popularity and/or usefulness, others are less well known, but quickly gaining traction. We recommend that companies experiment with presence on these sites and start to develop a blueprint for how they could be integrated into social media marketing, customer engagement, and customer service initiatives.

    When deciding which new platform or platforms to embark on, there are some questions you should be asking.  Most importantly, are your customers and business partners on the platform?  For example, if your customers are mostly older and male, then Pinterest–which is currently leaning decidedly younger and female–may not be the right social platform for your business.

    Next, is the platform’s community active?  You might determine that a social media site’s demographics match perfectly with the customers you have (and the customers you want to have), but if you hear crickets chirping when you go to the site, move along. It’s likely not worth your time or money.

    This brings us to the next questions you should ask:

    • What kind of resources will be required for my company to develop presence on the site?
    • Will you need to delegate a person or people to the site?
    • Will extra content have to be created?
    • Will developer resources be required?

    Speaking of resources, before jumping into a new social media platform, you’ll want to determine what kind of ROI you can expect.  Return may come in many different (and sometimes unexpected) forms, including referral traffic to your website, direct sales, increased brand awareness and decreased help desk calls.

    Pinterest is a kind of visual bulletin–or inspiration–board. Users, who currently must request an invitation to join Pinterest, create boards with categories like “Books I Love” or “Beautiful Places” or “Products That Save Me Time.”

    Users can then link images from websites (using a Pinterest browser bookmark) or upload images from their computers and “pin” the images to the boards. As with Twitter, users can follow other users, and Pinterest images can be repinned and shared.

    Pinterest is rapidly gaining users and mindshare, and it is becoming a huge driver of referral traffic.

    Tumblr is essentially a blogging platform on which users can easily share other blogs, images, and videos. In fact, like Pinterest, Tumblr lends itself to visual content. As a blogging platform, Tumblr is easier to use than, say, WordPress, and it very effectively allows others to interact with your content.

    Presence on Tumblr will require a fairly significant commitment to producing an ongoing supply of new content–especially images and video–so it’s not for every company. It also tends to attract a younger demographic, which may or may not suit your organization.

    However, Tumblr is a place where people tend to stop and stay a (long) while, a plus for any business.

    Google+’s popularity has waxed and waned a bit since the network’s debut, but the integration of all things Google makes Google+ much more compelling for users and businesses alike.

    And, while Google may have put the cart before the horse in terms of telling people how they should interact (instead of letting the community pave the way), Circles and Hangouts are making more sense to more people.

    FourSquare, the mobile application that enables users to “check in” their locations, is more a social network complement than a social network.

    It has been around for a while (in social networking terms, at least), but with the rising interest in and use of location-based services–not to mention a smartphone in every pocket–FourSquare is a service that businesses should be evaluating.

    YouTube? Isn’t that just a site for videos showing dogs playing the piano or people performing crazy stunts? Yes, it’s still that, but it’s become a lot more as video has increased in importance and as technology has evolved to enable quick and easy access to video from pretty much anywhere on pretty much anything.

    Savvy companies are leveraging YouTube channels and new social collaboration features–as well as customers’ rising expectations for video–to offer how-to’s, product demos, interviews, webinars, and the like.

    Again, producing video is not a trivial task, but it’s certainly not the prohibitive task it was not so long ago.

    The real trick is to determine what makes sense in video form–and, especially, what doesn’t.

    LinkedIn isn’t exactly the sexiest of platforms, but having an updated presence on the site has become as important as having an ad in the Yellow Pages was years ago.

    Where do potential employees and business partners go when deciding whether they want to work with your company? LinkedIn.

    How can you get the word out about opportunities at your organization? LinkedIn.

    But what’s new is that the site has been increasing its collaboration capabilities (including LinkedIn Today, the shared news service launched about a year ago), and it is the place people are going to see (and be seen as) subject matter experts.

    Winnie Ng-Schuchman is the VP of Marketing for UBM TechWeb’s InformationWeek Business Technology Network. UBM TechWeb is the global leader in technology media and business information.  UBM TechWeb Marketing Services deliver integrated marketing campaigns and programs including media solutions, lead and demand generation, events, online communities, content development and custom solutions.

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