A good article from Joe Linford….

The social media cloud is a burgeoning one, expanding at a steadfast rate with the launch of new platforms and a series of complicated algorithms, all designed to increase your social engagement with existing and prospective customers. As a business owner, you have your fingers tied up in too many pies – some get baked right, others not so much. So, when your email announces the launch of yet another social media platform, it’s okay to get flummoxed.

Here’s some food for thought – you DO NOT need every social media platform for promoting your business, but you must be willing to spend time on the ones you choose. Before determining the best social media platforms for your business, answer this short questionnaire:

  • Do you sell products or services?
  • Is your business local or national/international?
  • Is it an online business or a brick and mortar store?
  • What demographic segment are you targeting?
  • Are your clients’ internet-savvy?
  • Is it a B2C or a B2B business?
  • Are you a one person operation or do you have a marketing department?

We’ll provide answers to these questions when dissecting the most important social media platforms for 2012 and how you can use them to get better sales, more clients, and greater visibility.

Facebook – The unbeatable Big Daddy of social media, Facebook has over 700 million users worldwide. It brings in the maximum percentage of referral traffic when compared to channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, and StumbleUpon.

It is also among the most versatile social channels, catering to all demographic segments. Whatever be your answer to the social questionnaire above, Facebook can be used to market all kinds of businesses – online, local, global, mom and pop stores, home services, and so much more.

What can you use Facebook for? Here are some ideas –

  • Announcing a sale event or a special deal for Facebook fans.
  • Include updates about your business.
  • Engage and communicate with fans.
  • Getting feedback on products and services.

Twitter – Twitter may not be as ubiquitous as Facebook but the platform certainly provides its share of benefits to local businesses, especially those in the food industry, entertainment, and real estate.

By finding and following Twitter users in your area, you can connect with them instantly and spread word about your business, increasing foot fall to your store and networking with your followers.

Pinterest – Although infantile compared to Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest has experienced rapid growth, making it one of the top websites for referral traffic. It has surged ahead of LinkedIn and Google+!

Pinterest has a mainly female audience and the channel relies on visual appeal. This is a must use social platform for businesses like:

  • Home restoration, furniture, and furnishings
  • Interior design and architecture
  • Wedding photography and videography
  • Bakeries
  • Food blogs
  • Handmade crafts

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a professional network that is ideal for business to business interaction. It does not require frequent status updates and information sharing, instead it gives businesses an opportunity to connect to their preferred target segment easily.

Join business specific groups on LinkedIn and participate in discussions led by members. This helps in building trust and aids in your networking efforts.

There are many industry specific social media platforms as well, although we recommend starting out with the ones that are most relevant to your business. Once you get a handle on these and start seeing positive results, move on to experimenting with other platforms.

Written by Joe Linford, writer for Broadband Genie, the social shopping and consumer advice site for broadband and mobile broadband.