How Many Social Media Platforms Are There & Which Ones Are Right for My Business Needs?



Finding out just many social media applications exist and the tools to monitor their value for your business!

In PART ONE of this 3-part series on “The Basics of Social Media Understanding,” you had the opportunity to consider how well you understood social media by reviewing a list of 10 questions.

In PART TWO, here are the first five questions with their accompanying answers.

1. What is the definition of ‘social media?’

Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media use web-based technologies to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” (source: Wikipedia.org)

2. How many applications are there considered as ‘social media’ platforms?

Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, Web-ex, webinars, vodpods, Digg, Some social media experts put the number of applications available today at more than 100 if you’re counting bookmarking sites, blog publishing tools, the Ustreams, and the Nings of the world. In fact, just this week news from marketwire.com announced the launching of a new social media application for business called, Engage21:Enterprise. But to be true to answering the question with some of the most commonly used social media tools, here is a much shorter list.

Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, webinars, vodpods, Digg, Ning, Myspace, Linkedin, Biznik

2a. What application would you recommend most suitable to help grow my business?

This can’t be answered simply without understanding what your target market is and what products and services your business has to offer. But to get you started, President of Anvil Media and social media expert, Kent Lewis wrote a great article in iMedia Connection that provides the pros, cons, demographics and more of the top 6 media platforms at a glance.

3. How does social media compare to other forms of marketing tactics currently available?

The cost of print ads, direct mail campaigns, TV commercials, special event attendance, sponsorships and more do not come cheap. But television sets and magazines and radios are all a part of most people’s everyday lives. It’s all in what you have to offer and who you want to reach.

On the other hand, the cost to use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, while developing and maintaining a blog, costs close to nothing. But the time commitment is everything. Remember social media is just that -social! To be social, you must be willing to interact, provide information relevant to your target market and have a never-ending supply of new and useful information.

Simply put, it’s all about time and money:

  • How much time you are willing to spend researching which marketing tools your target market uses/responds to on a daily basis? This changes as new resources are available.
  • How much time you will commit to ‘staying social’ through the various social media platforms and through the personnel resources it will take to maintain these social media outlets?
  • How much money you can afford to connect to as many of your current and prospective customers as possible using more traditional forms of marketing our customers already use in their daily lives?

4. How can I be sure my target audience is aware of social media, particularly the social media application I am considering?

It’s back to research to answer this question. Hopefully by reviewing the company online, you can see if the business has its own Twitter account, Facebook page, linkedin page, blog, etc. Additionally, researching the industry as a whole can help determine what direction the industry is headed and where it currently stands with the use of social media platforms.

Finally, if after careful research of your customers and prospective customers you see the benefit social media can bring to their bottom line, and you are equipped and knowledgable enough to explain:

* What social media is
* What options there are
* Which ones make the best business sense for your prospect

There’s nothing wrong with being the first to introduce a business to the value of social media, yourself.

5. What do I use to monitor and measure my social media success?

It’s not only what you use but knowing how you use what you can, to continually give you more information about your target market, their likes/dislikes and overall perception of your brand.

Make sure to use what is now available while keeping up-to-date with new monitoring tools. It’s all about gathering information and data, seeing how the traffic patterns change from week-to-week and month-to-month and reading any and all comments about what you publish and what is published that includes you/your business in the article or post.

To monitor and measure your social media success, here are some important areas to cover. The short answer regarding what you need to monitor results is people, time and available monitoring tools that make sense for your specific business needs.

People & Time

Staffing: Just as a business should have someone managing new business leads to generate continued business opportunities, social media is going to need someone or ones dedicated to the various social media platforms you elect to use to reach your target market. These individuals must be completely up-to-date on all existing and new products, as well as services your company has to offer. These staff members want to offer a strong reason for your target market to feel that they ‘have to contact’ you! Most importantly, these employees are tasked with keeping fresh content on all social media outlets affiliated with your business. The more information posted about your company and its offerings, the more likely your ranking on the key search engines will grow.

Other important responsibilities these staff members should have, include:

Competitive Analysis – What is your competition talking about through their social media platforms? Do they mention your products and services?

Chatter – What comments are your receiving from your social media efforts? Are they positive or negative? How can you adjust to better communicate what your readers (prospective clients) want to know to change negative comments into positive comments? What comments are your competitors receiving? When researching google.com, yahoo.com and bing.com, where do you see your company’s name and products ranked and also mentioned, and what is being said?

Brand Perception – From the comments you are receiving, what does this tell you about how current and prospective clients feel about your products and services? From this information, what is the perception of your brand?

Social Media Monitoring Tools:

To start, your blogs should be registered on google.com, yahoo.com, and bing.com. Also, each post should have key words listed as tags so that when anyone goes online to search for something, if they are searching for something you have, there is more of a likelihood that your business will pop up in their search. Depending on allocated time and considered value, you can also post press releases (pr.com) and consider additional industry-related blogs as opportunities to showcase your company’s expertise within the industry by submitting articles to these blogs. Caution: Make sure the blogs you submit articles to are indeed reputable as it is your brand you are impacting.

Google Alerts – The Google Alerts is a content monitoring service, offered by the search engine company Google, that automatically notifies users when new content from news, web, blogs, video and/or discussion groups matches a set of search terms selected by the user and stored by the Google Alerts service. Notifications can be sent by email, as a web feed or displayed on the users iGoogle page. (source – wikipedia.com) Remember, if the information is not on google, it won’t show up on Google Alerts.

Alexa – There are varying opinions about Alexa’s value, based on brand awareness. However, Alexa does offer a tool that monitors website and blog traffic metrics, search analytics and demographics globally. If a website or blog’s ranking is over 1 million, there is little to no data available except maybe who owns the site, which can be useful information for competitive analysis. Additionally, Alexa offers a Quick Search feature that you can place on your computer. When you are on the Internet, you will see the website/blog’s Alexa ranking as well as a page ranking if one currently exists. For more information, visit: alexa.com

Additional monitoring tools to consider can be found by reading Micheal Cohn’s article on ‘The Importance of Social Media Monitoring.’

Don’t forget using your own website and blog analysis that offers page views and such from those who go directly to your site.

6. How long will it take before I see some results from my social media efforts?

7. Is there a benefit of using more than one form of social media?

8. If so, how do I decide which ones to use together?

9. What examples do you have of social media growing business for other companies?

10. What do I need to get started?

In the final installment of ‘What Is Social Media: The Basics – PART THREE, ‘ find out what the answers are to questions 6 through 10 featured above.

For more information on business success, visit: Winning New Business or Growing Your Business Strategically

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