By Dave Golokhov

For many businesses, social media is like that amazing party happening in the apartment next door: you can hear the lively music, you can pick up the laughter and you know everyone’s having a blast. The only question is how do you join the party?

 

Not to worry; we’ve got you’re invite right here. Below you’ll find an introduction to the 14 biggest social media networks with the basics of what you need to know, how it can benefits your business along with some great examples of businesses that have done a great job.

 

 

What You Need To Know: It’s the central hub of social networking…however, it’s not a shopping network. A lot of businesses might shy away from it because they don’t see how they can make direct sales through Facebook. This type of marketing is about establishing and strengthening customer relationships.

How Facebook Can Benefit Your Business:  Facebook is an opportunity to create another outpost for your business on the internet. In other words, you can engage your users and the community, add some personality, promote your products to a wide fan base and drive traffic to your website. Using Facebook is not only important to fortify customer relations and acquire new ones, there are some significant benefits for SEO as well.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Facebook: Every type of business. There’s over one billion users and it’s important to understand how to leverage that marketplace.

Good examples: MTV, Disney

 

LinkedIn

What You Need To Know: There’s a misconception that LinkedIn is solely a place to create a profile and set up an online resume. The reality is that there’s nearly 300 million users that are looking to do business in this “professional” social network. There’s a world of opportunity here but the marketing message here has to be more B2B focused than B2C.

How LinkedIn Can Benefit Your Business:  LinkedIn is a great place to show you’re an expert in your realm. Create thoughtful content to put your expertise on display, dive into LinkedIn Answers and leverage the crowds in the LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn is great for social proof (recommendations from others) and done right, will generate more leads.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From LinkedIn: Like Facebook, LinkedIn is a big fish. Almost all types of businesses would capitalize on it. Just like Facebook is ideal for B2C networking, LinkedIn is crucial for B2B marketing to businesses you might work with in the future.

Good Examples: Adobe, Kellogg

 

Pinterest

What You Need To Know: Pinterest is an online pin board incorporated within a social network. Just think of it as a digital scrapbook that you get to share with the people you’re connected to. You can like other peoples images, re-pin them and share mutual interests.

How Pinterest Can Benefit Your Business: Think of Pinterest as a way to let the customer visualize what you offer. Define your boards so that you can organize your products and services by category, then think about how you can use your services to visually engage and teach the consumers about your brand. Check out boards that are already up as you might find customers who are already talking about what you offer.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Pinterest: Wedding planners, interior designers, restaurants/chefs and nutritionists.

Good Examples: Lowe’s, Petplan Insurance, Wall Street Journal Graphics

 

Twitter

What You Need To Know: Twitter is a fast-paced social network where user talk about what’s happening right now. Think of it is a public forum where anyone care read, write and message. The difference here is that users are bound by their interests. So when good topics come up, they can spark conversations and spread like wildfire. Done right, Twitter can provide your business with great exposure.

How Twitter Can Benefit Your Business: It allows you to listen, learn and inform your customers. For starters, you can see what your competitors are doing, hear what your customer base – or potential customers – are saying and gather market intelligence. The next step is to participate. Get involved in the conversation, interact with customers and put your brand’s expertise on display.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Twitter: Business that want a direct line to their customers. If you sell a car, a food or some clothing, you can interact directly with your customers. Some will share their criticism, some will share suggestions and some will just show you love. However, the more you interact and show that you care, the more they’ll be involved with your brand.

Good Examples: Delta Assist, Victoria’s Secret

 

Slideshare

What You Need To Know: Slideshare is a way of spreading your message, just in a different way. Sometimes users get tired of reading articles, so slideshare offers you a way to engage them in a more interactive fashion.

How Slideshare Can Benefit Your Business: Allows you to narrow down your key message and present it in a visual format. Think of the ‘About Us’ page on your website. It’s a paragraph-style description of who you are. With Slideshare, you’ll be boiling down the essence of your message, adding some graphics to make it a visual package, and making it easily shareable. Some people like to feel, some people like to read and some people like to see. Slideshare gives you the opportunity to share your expertise with an entire community in a different fashion.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Slideshare: Businesses that have a ‘dry’ look to them. Think of something like Information Technology. Writing out what the business does is one thing – explaining the networking, the database management strategy – but boiling it down to just a few lines, then overlaying it over slides makes the company’s message far more palatable.

Good Examples: KPCB, Hubspot

 

Google+

What You Need To Know: Google+ is essentially Google’s version of Facebook. It has more than a billion registered people, more than 540 million active monthly users with more than 800,000 new users joining per month.

How Google+ Can Benefit Your Business: Google+ has a host of benefits. It’s great for collaboration, you can chat – and even video chat – with customers, allows you to get your message to the right audience (circles) and improve your search engine ranking.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Google+: Pretty much every business. It’s a great public relations tool that allows you to control your message, interact with customers and promote brand awareness.

Good Examples: HootSuite

 

YouTube

What You Need To Know: YouTube is the video kingpin. More than six billion hours of video are watched each and every month with more than 100 hours of video being uploaded every minute. Previously, video marketing was deemed an afterthought for small businesses as TV commercials were one of the few avenues. Now video marketing is a must thanks to YouTube’s easy and free accessibility.

How YouTube Can Benefit Your Business: While our first thought is to use YouTube to kill a couple of minutes and watch a viral video, the flip side of it is that if you can be the one creating the video, you can gain mass exposure. YouTube is the best-in-class platform to feed your customers videos and attract new ones. There’s a flood of text on the internet; users love videos because they’re easy to consume.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From YouTube: It has to be lights, camera, action for every type of business. Make an animated movie to show what your business does. Create a viral cat video to get people’s attention and generate brand awareness. Build a 30-second ad that introduces users to your business. The opportunities are endless.

Good Examples: BestBuy, Cisco

 

Instagram

What You Need To Know: Want to be where your consumers are? You’ll want to hit up Instragram, which is one of the top photo sharing sites around. Companies like Chobani, Nike and General Electric have thrive with their Instragram accounts, sharing creative, artistic and visually appealing photos. This social network allows you to tell a broader story about your business with more than just words.

How Instagram Can Benefit Your Business: Show your consumers what your brand has got. For example: with General Electric, you might think you’re going to see a bunch of images showing light bulbs and washing machines. In reality, you find gorgeous photos of fighter jets and locomotives that they help construct. The combination of Instagram and the power of creativity allows you to present a brand in a whole new light.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Instagram: Almost all companies should have Instagram as part of their marketing toolkit. Stuck on what type of photos to display? Give your users a behind-the-scenes look of your business or let them window shop through photos of your products/services.

Good examples: Chobani, General Electric

 

Vimeo

What You Need To Know: Vimeo is a video sharing network, similar to YouTube. While Google’s giant has the quantity on it’s side, Vimeo prides itself (and presents itself as a sturdy competitor to YouTube) thanks to quality and customization. You can brand your videos with your logo (opposed to YouTube, which is always in the bottom right corner) and customize the player to your heart’s content.

How Vimeo Can Benefit Your Business: Like YouTube, Vimeo offers companies and brands a way to present their ideology, products and services in video form. You can also network, start groups and organize your own channel to be part of a community of nearly 20 million users.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Vimeo: Same as YouTube: almost every type of brand. For the most part, any videos that go on YouTube can also be hosted on Vimeo. That way you’re covering both ends and reaching out to even more users.

Good Examples: Scott McFarlane, Visual Traveling

 

Flickr

What You Need To Know: Flickr is a free photo sharing community filled with nearly 90 million users. Users can communicate, interact and comment on the photos posted.

How Flickr Can Benefit Your Business: If you’re business has some good visuals, Flickr is great for you. It’s indirect marketing; you can’t post an advertisement saying “hey, come visit us”. However, you can create an account with your company’s name, post nice images related to your business, gather a following and indirectly introduce users to what you’re all about. Done right, it’s another source of potential leads.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Flickr: Companies that are creative, transparent and visual. Some examples could be a skateboard shop showing images of new apparel and satisfied customers in the store. Or photos from a soft drink company’s charity event. Or even a car or tech company’s behind-the-scenes look at their factory. Those are a few ways Flickr can catch the eye of the community and potential lead to customers.

Good Examples: Ford,  WestJet

 

StumbleUpon

What You Need To Know: StumbleUpon is a unique network, which allows users to – as the name suggests – stumble upon new content. When you sign up, a stumble button is added to the browser and anytime the user clicks it, they’ll stumble upon a new site. It’s not completely random, though. Users can ‘like’ pages they’ve stumbled upon and then the more liked pages get stumbled upon more frequently. Each user can fill out a checklist of their interests, so in the end, clicking the stumble button can be addictive, fun and useful.

How StumbleUpon Can Benefit Your Business: With this tool, it just so happens you can have a ton of new people ‘stumbling’ over to your site each day. If you can manage to create some fun content that is frequently liked, then you’ll find your brand on the receiving end of steady stumblers.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From StumbleUpon: Brands that create informative, intriguing or entertaining content on the regular. It can be something as simple as lists, infographics, studies or videos. The more you feed your users, the more they are likely to like and then stumble.

 

Foursquare

What You Need To Know: Foursquare is a unique social media network that allows users to “check in” at certain locations, such as events and bars. With a community of over 45 million, it can help get your company’s name out there as more and more visitors check in at your spot and recommend it to others. There are tools to engage your fans and reward your loyal customers.

How Foursquare Can Benefit Your Business: Every time someone checks in at your location, that’s free exposure. It posts it to their Foursquare account, which can be tied into Facebook and Twitter, which means their friends can get introduced to your business. Think of it as a personal endorsement. From the business perspective, you can offer special discounts when people check in (to encourage them to promote) and it allows you to track customers for marketing purposes as well as loyalty.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Foursquare: Places that have a physical storefront and deal with customers in the flesh. In other words, an online IT business won’t benefit from Foursquare as much as a cupcake store in Times Square.

Good Examples: Empire State Building, Le Bernardin

 

Tumblr

What You Need To Know: Tumblr is massive blogging and social platform that hosts over 130 million blogs. It allows you to create a fully customizable blog where it’s simple to share posts, photos, music, links and much more. It’s approaching six billion page views per month, so it’s a community that you’ll want to be a part of to get a piece of that big pie.

How Tumblr Can Benefit Your Business: By joining Tumblr, blogging and interacting with other users, you’re showing that you’re in the community. You can play a bigger role, by sharing images, your own writings and communicating with visitors, or you can play a low-key role, simply by sharing related content of others while indirectly introducing yourself to potential customers.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Tumblr: Businesses that can present users with great photos or GIFs tend to do well. That’s because photo posts get reblogged the most. That means companies like restaurants, florists, tattoo parlors and designers will do well. Even if your business doesn’t have a lot of image candy, you can simply curate content from other posts that relates to your topic, so that people see you, follow you and start to view you as an authority.

Good Examples: Whole Foods (Dark Rye), Adidas

 

Vine

What You Need To Know: Vine is a video social media network that allows you to post short (six seconds), looping videos. While it sounds a bit kooky, it allows – and maybe forces – users to be very creative with what they do in their limited time. Made by Twitter, who shortens your thoughts to 40 characters or less. Now they shorten your videos too.

How Vine Can Benefit Your Business: Vine is a good way to put your company’s personality on display. You only have six seconds to work with, so you have to make every moment count. However, those six seconds allow you to be very innovative, unique and original. Done right, Vines are a great marketing tool as they’re passed around.

Businesses That Would Best Benefit From Vine: Done properly, Vine can be useful for many companies. A before and after video, showing how your brand improved a product, a display of your workplace/products, animation…it’s a good tool. The key is to be imaginative.

Good Examples: Samsung, Malibu Rum