In part 1 of our guide to social media for business, we explained how to define your objectives, today we tackle choosing the right social media channels.

When people think of social media channels, they then to think of Facebook and Twitter; however, while these two sites play very important roles in the social media sphere, they are far, far, from the be all and end all of the social spectrum.

In fact, there are thousands upon thousands of social networks out there; pretty much whatever your niche, there will be some corner of the internet for you to target.

The Big Players

socialmediamashupOf course, the presence of niche social channels doesn’t mean you should discount the value the ‘big players’ can bring to you.

Facebook and Twitter:          

I’d recommend that every company at least looks into whether or not Facebook and Twitter will bring them any value. In most cases, they will, and you’re missing a trick if you’re not utilising them. They’re both free, and they both happily let companies use them for marketing, so it’s a bit of a win-win.

Google Plus:

Then we’ve got Google Plus. Whether or not we can call it a ‘big player’ is still debateable, but Google will fight tooth and nail until they achieve that accolade.

The fact is, because it’s Google, it’s safe to say that the network will have some impact on search engine rankings. For a start, we know that usage of Google’s AuthorRank is, or at least will be, pretty relevant to how important Google thinks you are, and your content is. And you need a Google Plus account to use AuthorRank.

So hooray, you better get started with Google Plus. Even if none of your friends or customers are on it…

YouTube:

If you’re not already, you might want to take a look at YouTube too. Video marketing done well can be very effective, and if there’s one place you want to be uploading your videos to, it’s YouTube.

Remember, Google owns YouTube, so they often choose to include it in their ranking results. If your video is ranking in Google, give yourself a pat on the back. Even if your website is still struggling to make headway, the fact that people are seeing your video is a massive plus.

LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is ‘the’ social network for professionals. So, if you’re in a B2B industry and your target customers are high-flying professionals, LinkedIn could prove to be very valuable.

Pinterest:

Pinterest is the fastest growing social network to date, and is showing no sign of disappearing just yet. It’s also being adopted by lots of businesses, who seem to be reaping a lot of success from it.

If you want a bit of inspiration on how to utilise Pinterest for business, take a look at Scholastic, Whole Foods, Parenting Magazine, or Southwest Airlines.

Niche Social Media Sites

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Social media does not start and end with Facebook, Twitter, and their friends. There are thousands more sites, usually dedicated to a specific niche, which you might be able to utilise.

Here’s a big fat list of niche social media networks to get you started.

However, the best way for you to find niche social networks, is to use our old friend Google.

Have a search for the name of your industry, along with ‘social network’. When thinking about the name of your industry, start off by being as specific as possible. If you don’t find anything useful, make your search more general until you find sites that are relevant to you.

You might also want to change your search to say ‘social site’, ‘social website’, ‘social networking site’, ‘social media channel’, ‘social media site’, or ‘forums’.

Alternatively, you can find out precisely which social networks your customers are using simply by asking them.

If you already have quite a large following on Facebook or Twitter, you can ask them there. Alternatively, you could place a poll on your website, or add a quick survey to the end of your buying cycle (I’d recommend only doing this once a customer has completed a purchase).

However, I would advise against only using the information that your current customers give you: this could well alienate potential customers that are hiding away on undiscovered social networks.

Before You Get Started

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Do a bit of research to find out how much value the social media channel will give you

Is the network definitely active? Are the active members using the site regularly (ideally daily)? How many people are using the site?

You should also check the location of the members. Generally a site will have a majority member base from a particular country (though this isn’t true for all sites). If your target market are all in the UK, you don’t want to be spending lots of time on a site with members primarily in the US.

The majority of niche networks will have rules against you joining specifically to promote your company.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t join, and become a valuable member of the community.

Make sure to join up as a person; never use your company name as your username. This is likely to result in instant banishment! Once you are a member, don’t go in and just start talking about your company.

You need to provide value to the community. Join in discussions. Offer your expert industry advice. Before long, opportunities to mention your company will drop in naturally. So long as you’ve taken the time to prove that you’re going to offer more to the community than the knowledge of your latest half-price sale, people should respond well to a well-placed mention of your firm.

When you learn about an amazing, new, growing social network, secure your brand.

Even if you don’t think the site is going to be useful to you. You never know when you might want to use the site in the future, and if you’ve waited too long to secure your brand name, you might find so other sneaky so-and-so has snapped it up.

Watch this space for part three of ‘Boom’s Guide to Social Media for Business’, when we’ll be looking at hints or tips for setting up absolutely awesome social media profiles.