Social media is everywhere: home, schools, churches, restaurants, airports, clubs, you name it. And while some use it personally, others use it commercially. Whether for personal or commercial reasons, the common reason is connectivity; being able to cross a virtual bridge in order to communicate with friends, family and strangers anywhere in the world. And social media tools make this connectivity possible.
On a commercial scale, virtually every business with internet access has at least one social media account. Looking at numbers, it appears that every other person in the world has a social media profile. Thus, it would only be natural for businesses and individuals to capitalize on the social networking trend by developing social media marketing strategies to maximize their potential.
What are Social Media Tools?
Social media tools are channels that enable a business or individual to push their brands digitally. These tools are a means by which businesses and individuals can distribute important brand-based information, which can be redistributed by members or users. Users can share brand information from one channel to the next through special share buttons or either cutting and pasting a link from one channel to the next.
URL shorteners are commonly used by converting long links to shorter, more attractive links. It is virtually impossible to browse the Internet without approaching links or social media buttons to either share the information you’ve just read or to follow/fan the business or individual of the content you’ve read.
Can Social Media Tools be used as a Marketing Tool?
Social media tools are the ultimate marketing tool for businesses and individuals, given the highly digitalized age we live today. While many businesses and individuals may still use traditional marketing techniques, social media marketing trumps traditional marketing for several reasons:
- Social media marketing is significantly more cost-efficient.
- The strategy is much faster in terms of interacting with fans/followers/customers/clients.
- It significantly widens the target market by presenting opportunities for maximum exposure and expansion.
- It allows businesses and individuals to better research and follow competition.
Through the various social media tools available, the effects of social media marketing transcends those of traditional marketing based on the technological advances that TV or print cannot compete with on every level.
What are the Ten Best Social Media Tools?
This is by no means a comprehensive list and there are a number of social media tools on the Internet that are powerful and effective. This list represents what we feel are the ten best social media tools:
1. Social Networking Sites–Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn are among the top social networking platforms, numerically.
Facebook alone claims 800 million users and offers businesses and individuals free and paid solutions to promote their brands.
Google Plus, with 90 million users hosts some very impressive functionality features such as the simplicity of the template that keeps its format on mobile phones and its hosting of high-quality resolution of images and videos that Facebook can’t match.
Finally, LinkedIn stands out as being a social networking platform for professionals and allows companies and individuals to post and find jobs and possibly form partnerships.
2. Blogs–These more personalized websites allow a business or individual to interact through the posting of comments based on the blog owner’s content. Like a website, a blog establishes a company’s or individual’s online presence and brings awareness to their brand.
Blogs include the functionality of allowing users/members to share information on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, which helps to further expose the brand. Blogger, WordPress and TypePad are among the top blogs used by individuals and many businesses.
3. Social Bookmarking–What better way to help a business’s or individual’s page rank high than with the power of social bookmarking. Users of these sites help to rapidly spread content by voting on or sharing it. Google algorithms work favorable with social bookmarking. Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious are among the top four social bookmarking sites.
4. RSS–Really Simple Syndication is a format allowing users to receive information from a site without having to directly visit the site. Once users sign up for a site’s RSS, it can be accessed via email or managed along with other RSS subscriptions via an RSS reader. Bloglines and Google Reader are two of the most popular web-based RSS readers.
5. Photo Sharing–Pictures speak volumes and can work to the advantage of businesses and individuals. Posting images puts a more personalized emphasis on social media interactions. Even with businesses, online users like to put faces to names or brands.
Simply posting images of the company community involvement or a group picture horse playing around the office is more attractive than only posting content. Like blogs and other content-based sites, photo sharing sites allow for ease of sharing with the click of a share button. Flickr, Photobucket and Google’s Picasa rank highest among these sites.
6. Video Sharing–This type of marketing is extremely popular and effective as people seemingly would rather watch content rather than read it. With the mega success of video sharing sites like YouTube, there is virtually nothing you cannot find in terms of content on the site, whether it’s a tutorial, cover for a song, or discussion of something importance to the video owner. Thus, businesses have also jumped on the bandwagon by submitting their promotional content in hopes of gaining a massive number of hits. With hits come shares.
7. Podcasting–This social media tools works by the live streaming of audio over the Internet and listened to by either computer or an mp3 player. As with video sharing, users would rather listen to content rather than reading it. In contrast to reading, podcasting allows users to do other things (shop, work out, travel, do laundry, etc.) while listening to the content. Popular directories include Podcast Alley, Digital Podcast, iTunes and AllPodcasts.
8. Microblogging–Sites such as Twitter are microblogging platforms where users can publish mini updates throughout the day. Updates can be made via computer, text, email and instant messaging. Twitter was one of the first of its kind to allow users to interact through the publishing of informative 140-character “tweets” in a live feed. Tumblr is another popular microblogging platform.
9. Forums–Arguably forums are a form of social media. Forums precede social media platforms and allow for socialization among members/users. Even the major social media platforms have either official or unofficial forums where users flock to when they can’t find answers to their questions regarding a specified social media site.
Users also use forums to exchange information, thus extending the social networking beyond the site. Thus, businesses and individuals can learn a wealth of information and even further promote their brand (when and where appropriate) in these forums.
10. Instant Messaging–IM, or chat, whether via video or online texting is readily available through some social media sites (Facebook) and via email (Yahoo and Gmail) and is an excellent way to communicate with other users on a more personal level. Businesses could use IM in a more professional way with an IM handle for customer service or to message deals, coupons, etc.
What’s the Best Way to Use Social Media Tools?
Ultimately, the best way to use social media tools is to proactively seek feedback from friends/fans and followers. Businesses and individuals should post questions after regular posts to engage their audience. These questions should focus on thoughts, ideas, strategies, or anything else relevant to help the business or individual progress.
Social media tools should be used to serve the business’ or individual’s purpose: connect, interact, promote and inform. These tools should not be used to spam. Finally, social media tools should be used to learn tricks and techniques to maximize any social networking efforts.
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