The purpose of this blog post is to provide deeper understanding of the various social media platforms available and to aid in establishing a social media strategy in order to achieve specific marketing goals.

social media platforms strengths best use

Social media can be used to reach both a diverse and a niche-centric audience. Those who use social media should engage with that awareness in mind, establishing their presence in the outlets that most closely match their engagement objectives.

Some companies will have more visual communication that can be shared in the form of a video or other picture content to intrigue their audience and some might have more conversational or topical discourse where issues within an ever-changing environment need to be addressed. Either way, it is important to choose the right venues and to adapt the marketing message in order to maintain a fresh and relevant presence with a target audience.

Whatever the need, some outlets will work better than others in fulfilling that client’s purposes. In this blog post, we cover the strengths and best-use of a few of the more established social media platform.

Google+

Strengths

One of the cornerstone ‘products’ of Google, the most dominant search engine among web users in the United States, in terms of traffic volume and market share. This also means that profiles and information shared on this platform will likely have favored treatment in SEO as far as keyword searches, especially content which triggers heavy engagement.

Google has continuously developed ways to integrate its other products (i.e. Drive [formerly Google Docs, now serving as cloud storage so users can store and share content in more variety of formats], Talk, Hangouts) into the social platform, as well as Gmail, their email client. The increased integration between email and social has succeeded in increasing participation in social, while making more innovative aspects of the social environment more accessible.

Best Use

Google Plus has taken the most pertinent concepts from each stage in the evolution of social media, from the chat room to the news stream, and built a platform whose foundation rests on those tenets. This means that the most influential and effective people engage very heavily with their audience, more so here than with any other social media platform.

Conversations build quickly and content volume generates at a much more rapid pace. Users and brands seeking to get the most out of this platform should have captivating topics and desire to engage directly with their audience. This could mean hosting webinars, round-table discussions or having enough content to create potentially several posts throughout a given day.

On the other hand, lighter engagers can still benefit from establishing their presence on Google Plus. Some of the benefits were noted in the ‘strengths’ section above. Opting to post fewer, more captivating posts can still generate plenty of discussion and fruitful responses. Faster-paced engagement can also encourage more post shares, which could quickly expand your message’s audience exponentially.

Couple that with the platform’s ability to appeal to customizable niche audiences and you might see a heavier concentration of the message’s intended audience generate more quickly than any other platform.

This actually makes niche brands easier to find, since engaging with those within that niche will more likely open a more direct path to your brand page. Once someone finds your brand page, they will also discover your pages and accounts on other platforms, driving more direct traffic to them and possibly increasing your overall presence in the process.

Facebook

Strengths

Facebook has steadily dominated not only social media, but overall web traffic over the last three years. This venue has transformed the way people use the internet and has left at least a handful of other long-standing online venues (i.e. Yahoo!, MySpace, MSN) lying in its wake.

It has revolutionized the web in terms of how people find their information. Major brands and media outlets, bloggers and entrepreneurs now compete on a level field to convey their messages, sometimes leveraging each other’s strengths as well as those of their supporters. Here is where brands cut past the gimmickry which they would package in a unilateral message, often at the behest of their followers, and ignite the conversation.

Best Use

The conversations could have topical appeal (i.e. issues that affect the product or service, new or renovated offerings) or tertiary appeal (i.e. a tech blog or brand discussing the new season of Doctor Who). This offers the brand ambassador opportunity to discover what resonates with their follower base and become a trusted outlet for those topics. Over time, that trust could translate to increased loyalty for the brand as a whole.

Since Facebook has such prominent presence, it also offers the opportunity to introduce and shared content from outlets on more niche-centric platforms, such as Pinterest or YouTube (which will be discussed later). This could help locate followers who might benefit from the brand that might not engage as heavily on platforms like Facebook.

Twitter

Strengths

About midway through the previous decade (’00s), a rather curious behavioral shift began to develop. The boom in cell phone users, which started a few years prior, ushered in the boom in text message usage, which was relatively new at the time. That same time period also witnessed the beginning of the decline in the popularity of chat rooms and computer-based instant messaging (i.e. Y! Chat, AIM, Internet Relay Chat (IRC)).

It’s difficult to say whether these two events may have correlation, but it gave way to some interesting ideas. One of them was the text-based chat platform, which users could carry on their conversations either via text or the internet. From this sprang a handful of successful early iterations, including Dada.net and Upoc (these two companies later merged; the latter has since ceased operations).

One platform, Twitter (then known as ‘twttr’), conceived the idea to combine the concept of cross-platform SMS community chat with annotations from chat client IRC. These annotations (namely the hash tag [#] and ‘at’ symbol [@]) serve a similar purpose to what they serve in IRC, helping the user identify different “rooms” or topics and address specific users.

While smartphones continue to gain notable share in both the mobile and online markets, some still have older mobile phones. Fortunately, Twitter does not necessitate their app and website for use, making it a more convenient- and customizable- experience for its ever-growing user base.

The one major drawback, however, is that the best way to build your audience on Twitter is by way of another social media outlet. Twitter users have to choose to follow back before they see your posts, whereas other social media platforms start you off with mutual connections who will see what you post in their feed.

Best Use

Short posts that lend themselves to conversation work best. Sparking group conversation is a realistic and optimistic aspiration, but best started by addressing specific users. Non-specified messages will show up in follower’s feeds, but addressed tweets and direct messages will be delivered outside the app and site (if elected by the user).

Bloggers and other content producers could benefit greatly from sharing via Twitter. The posted content links have been known to help search engine indexing, thereby making new content searchable quicker. Popular content will inspire users to share (“re-tweet”), which may trigger social signals to search engines, adding search authority to that content and- by proxy- your site.

LinkedIn

Strengths

LinkedIn has built a solid reputation as a professional-networking platform, much in the way networking events unfold in real life. People shake hands, give their introductions, swap business cards (if they have them) and, hopefully, carry conversation from that point and build rapport.

LinkedIn has solid presence in the social media landscape, but its niche tends to facilitate more sporadic engagement. Its most engaged users are job seekers, usually unemployed (as opposed to transitioning from current employment).

However, the most recent economic recession has also inspired a boom of entrepreneurship. This means the platform has recently adopted a steadily growing demographic of small upstart companies and self-employed business owners using the platform to connect with clients and supporters.

LinkedIn has more recently seen more younger, social media-savvy users joining from other, more familiar platforms like Facebook and Twitter, motivated by the ability to leverage their existing relationships and online presence while projecting a more professional image.

LinkedIn may seem less exciting than its social media siblings, paired with seemingly limited utility. However, businesses, corporations, charities and other reputable public entities of all shapes and sizes have given LinkedIn strong endorsement (in some cases, stronger than platforms like Facebook). Their collective equity all but guarantees that LinkedIn will continue to stand strong for a long time to come.

Best Use

In simplest terms, LinkedIn profiles are the new business cards. They’re cheaper to generate, easier to access and harder to misplace. Let’s not forget that operative term: business.

That means having a product or service is good, but performance is better. What impressions have you left with previous clients, employees or business owners? Never will that be more transparent than here.

Visitors will certainly take interest in your offerings and innovations, but they want to know how others have benefited and how much. If your brand is a bit more green, that’s okay. Just look for opportunities to leverage your relationships and past experience, so people will at least have a scope of your reputability. That will go a long way toward building a more favorable brand image.

YouTube

Strengths

Early users of the consumer web dreamed of a streamlined way of consuming video on-demand. Methods were various and often plagued by buffering, slow connections and poor content quality. That was until 2006, when YouTube burst into the online community, introducing a standardized method of streaming and on-demand high-definition video.

That standard carries on to this day, providing an easy method for including video on a website, not to mention social media. Not only does it minimize web page and content load times with centralized video hosting, it also leverages link juice from views, regardless of what site the visitor uses to watch the video. The leverage has gained an even more favorable effect since Google’s acquisition of YouTube.

Best Use

Since YouTube revolutionized online video distribution, many other popular video sites have emerged, catering to both content generated by studios, like our movies and television shows, and user-generated content. None, however, have ousted YouTube in terms of popularity.

YouTube remains a one-stop source for content from all categories, from entertainment to educational to historical to all parts in between. Suffice to say, the variety of content producers features an equally wide spectrum.

What sets this platform apart is, in many cases, the ability to interact directly with the content producers. This can help build connections with other people well-versed in your niche area, just like any social media platform. This could lead to cross-promoted or even co-produced content that will further strengthen each brand.

Video can also grow your brand’s credibility leaps and bounds, if executed correctly. Such content will literally provide visitors with a face and a voice to associate with your brand. The more engaging your content, the quicker you can build trust with your audience.

This can also do a remarkable work with site metrics, such as longer visit times, lower bounce rates and even increased raw conversions. Few things will increase visitor confidence better than a well-placed video that can address visitors’ typical points of interest.

Picasa / Flickr

Strengths

Posting and sharing photos have been a staple feature of even the earliest iterations of social media. Pictures can communicate ideas that words fail to capture. They can freeze moments in time that video might miss. Simply put, they create the quickest way to link an idea, concept or even an emotional state of mind with your brand.

Picasa: Among the variety of photo-hosting/sharing platforms, Picasa is probably the most dynamic in terms of being able to edit and put finishing touches on your pictures within the application (think Photoshop). It also rests in the Google umbrella of cloud applications, which means Google Plus integration, not to mention the SEO advantages.

Social media has profoundly impacted the trend of search users seeking format-specific content, given their exposure to such diverse and openly-available content on a daily basis. This means more inbound site traffic has generated from video and photo searches in the last few years.

Like YouTube, Picasa makes a great way to leverage and capitalize on user traffic and trends. Photos posted to the site can be easily search-optimized with relevant keywords. It also provides a dependable host which keeps load times minimal, as well as a great archive for visual material that has been rotated off the main site.

Flickr: While lacking the in-app editing features of Picasa, Flickr does boast more social aspects within the platform. Visitor comments, tagging users, categories, the potential to have your photo included in topical collections curated by users and location-tagging play notable roles in Flickr.

It also has the advantage of a long-existent user base, including those whom Yahoo migrated when they bought Flickr a number of years ago.

In more recent times, Flickr has re-branded itself in effort to become more brand-builder-friendly. While many of those brands cater to more creative endeavors, other niches such as technology and food service have adopted the platform, as well as professions entailing a lot of interpersonal interaction.

Best Use

Each of these platforms offers a solid photo hosting/sharing with a long, upstanding track record. Each of them have certain SEO advantages with simple methods to post either to your main site or any major social media platform. The main decision would be determined by either your content/business niche or sharing preferences.

Pinterest / Tumblr

Strengths

These photo-centric platforms offer visitors immediate access to scores of visual content. While visitors will occasionally see video posted, it caters predominantly to pictures. People who post and share on these sites draw visitor focus to niche categories or themes, perhaps more niche than any other platform listed in this literature.

Best Use

Pinterest: Various statistics implicate that Pinterest’s most habitual users are women, gauging by length of visits and frequency. The population has started to balance a bit, especially since the site recently went from invite-only to open registration.

This has also increased the diversity and overall presence of brands on Pinterest. Some may question the effectiveness of how well Pinterest can build a brand, as much of the focus lies in the visual content, rather than its originator. However, brands that consistently put out fresh content will have increasing potential for recognition over time.

Some might even call it “Twitter for photos”, since increased recognition involves consistent posting, content visitors can easily re-post and the option to follow favorite content producers and sharers. In fact, any time you post or share, you can even share your finding as a Twitter post with whatever hashtag optimization you deem appropriate.

While Pinterest activity hasn’t been as integrated in Facebook, recent developments could increase its visibility significantly, including the ability to see more posted and shared photos in a fashion similar to photos posted within Facebook.

It also allows you to discover and consider very specific niches created by users. Perhaps these niches could lead you to consider innovations in your product or service. Perhaps it could help you learn more about your follower’s longings and personal tastes. The possibility for new discoveries are quite literally endless.

Tumblr: Tumblr shares common ground with Pinterest, in terms of its photo-friendly layouts and niche-specific appeal. It combines the ease of posting both original and shared content with a modified blog format. Tumblr would work best for clients aspiring to make a visceral, emotional connection with their audience through the use of photos, art and audio/visual media.

Tumblr combines the blog format with various aspects of social media, including shares, follows, hashtagging (similar to Twitter, which organizes topical posts for the visitor) and a blog post stream (similar to the news streams of other social media sites). Those with accounts can easily coordinate their content with their other social media accounts.

Similar to Pinterest, Tumblr also has an audience of concentrated demographics, most notably teens and young adults whose affinities lean more toward creative/expressive or motivational endeavors. Entrepreneurial, cooking and technology enthusiasts have also been known to populate the platform.

Tumblr users tend to focus toward ongoing themes and seek out content that relates to that specific theme. Those who find content published by others within that theme will often share favorite postings and follow those blogs. The shares and follows could make a great outlet for SEO leverage.