One of the fastest-growing areas of electronic communication is social media. And what started as a fad has quickly turned into a business tool to create value and a venue for marketing. The key part to successful social media marketing is to establish yourself and your business as an expert in your industry or field. Because you can’t control social media, you can only hope to influence the exchanges between members. Over time, you can build a level of authority that can contribute to your marketing efforts.
Some of the more common social networks are:
- Twitter. This site offers social networking by allowing users to send and read messages called tweets. These tweets are text posts with a limit of 140 characters (letters, spaces, and punctuation). Users may read any message (unless it’s protected by sender) and follow other users and see their tweets. Twitter was started in 2006 and has grown rapidly worldwide.
- Facebook. This site was started in 2004, and as of 2010, it has more than 500 million active users. Members must be a self-proclaimed 13 years old to join and use the network. Facebook users create a profile to inform friends about themselves. A popular feature is status updates, which allows users to post a short message mentioning what they’re currently doing or thinking about. Users can also link to news or humaninterest stories or other sites and post them as status updates. Facebook allows members to join networks, which are organized by schools or colleges, for example, to let students get to know each other and the school better. Businesses are now using the network for marketing and to keep their “friends” in touch with industry developments.
- MySpace. This was the first big social network where members could exchange messages with other users. It became the most popular social networking site in the U.S. in 2006, but it was overtaken in popularity by Facebook in 2008. MySpace is currently owned by the News Corp, a large media company.
- YouTube. On this network, users can upload videos for anyone to view. YouTube was created in 2005 by three former PayPal employees, and it has grown exponentially since. Users post amateur music videos and movies, TV clips, and other performances. Google purchased YouTube in November 2006, and it has become the number-two search engine behind Google.
- LinkedIn. This is a business-oriented social network launched in 2003. The number of LinkedIn users is approaching 100 million as of this writing. Users can enter their profile, including their business skills and talents. The network is used for job searching, professional networking, and exchanging professional opportunities. Members can follow companies and join specialized groups.
Some other, lesser-known network sites include:
- AsianAve. Targeted for the Asian-American community.
- Friends Reunited. A UK-based site designed to connect neighbors and friends from school, work, and the armed forces.
- Classmates. Designed for users to find and communicate with past school friends and faculty.
- Last.fm. A music networking site.
- Stickam. A live video steaming and chat network.
- Bebo. A general social network.
- Flickr. A photography-related social network.
- Habbo. A worldwide general network aimed at teens.
- weRead. Network that allows users to rate and review books they’re reading.
- WAYN. A network about travel and lifestyles.
- XING. A business network for Europe.
- deviantART. An art-related network and community.
- MyHeritage. A genealogy-oriented social network.
- Flixster. A network that allows users to share movie reviews and ratings.
- BlackPlanet. The largest African-American online community.
- StumbleUpon. A network that allows you to find websites that match your interests.