You joined Facebook to catch up with friends, Twitter to follow celebrities, LinkedIn to get a job, and YouTube to watch funny videos. Guess what? All of your customers are out there doing the same thing. Social media has become a hugely popular marketing tool, but does your small business really need to be on all of them? The answer lies in identifying what kind of company you really are. Successful approaches to marketing between a brick-and-mortar, community-oriented business, an online-only ecommerce site, and a business-to-business service provider are likely to direct you towards one or two specific social platforms, and that's without even considering your target market. Here are a few observations about the most popular sites.
Facebook: The first place to start. More than 1 billion people worldwide use Facebook, and its consumers are fairly equal between genders, with women skewing slightly higher than men. The platform also gears itself to direct interaction with customers, companies seeking to build brand awareness, and visually driven marketing strategies.
Twitter: Easily the most dynamic of the social media platforms, Twitter is great for companies that are serious about engaging with their customers, which recommends it equally to business-to-business models, consumer-oriented companies, and publishing outlets. But it's a fast-moving train where the average tweet only has a life of a couple of hours. Even 140 characters may require more time than the money it earns.
LinkedIn: The most serious and professional of the social outlets, and a good starting point for B2B companies, recruiters, and professionals working in technology, finance or marketing. It has a far more robust sign-up process than other platforms, but many companies have reported that actually finding new customers is more likely on LinkedIn than other sites.
Blogging: There are some who say that blogging is dead, but it depends on the nature of your business. If your business is about creating things, engaging with customers as part of a community, or explaining complex subjects to a specific audience, blogging can be a beneficial part of an overall marketing strategy. It also demonstrates that your website is a living entity that pushes fresh content regularly. But if you're just trying to sell products, blogging could be too time-intensive for its cost/benefit ratio.
Pinterest: This is a fascinating outlier in social media because the vast majority of the more than 70 million Pinterest users are women, and more than half report that they visit the site for “shopping inspiration." A gold mine of visually-oriented users with disposable income, oriented towards fashion, jewelry, and DIY home improvement junkies.
See also: Google Plus, YouTube, Instagram, Yelp, Tumblr, Flickr, Vine, Meetup, and Friendster, among others.