There are so many different social media platforms out there that choosing the best ones to use for your business can be tricky. Each platform is a little bit different and requires a different content approach so here is some background on the different social networks and some tips on how to choose the right ones for your business needs.

Facebook: The largest social media platform in the world, Facebook is great for products in a commoditized market segment and consumer oriented brands; however, it can work for B2B companies as well. Facebook is great for building relationships with customers, whether you’re in the B2C or B2B space. Intel (an onDemand CMO client!) has had great success engaging with customers on their Facebook page.

LinkedIn: The “Facebook for professionals,” LinkedIn is designed for business. Besides the obvious networking and recruitment benefits that LinkedIn offers, LinkedIn is a good place for thought leadership—especially in the groups. Get involved in groups relevant for your business and you can reap some great rewards.

Twitter: Twitter is also a good platform for thought leadership. Share your wisdom in 140-character bites (or link to larger nuggets outside of Twitter). Twitter is also great for lead generation—indeed, some studies find that Twitter outperforms LinkedIn and Facebook when it comes to lead generation—which is another reason why Twitter is great for businesses. Twitter is also a great place to do some social media listening for market research.

Google Plus: Like Twitter and LinkedIn, Google+ is a great place to showcase your thought leadership and get some serious SEO mojo for your business. Remember, Google owns G+ and it ranks G+ posts highly in its search results. Posting your articles and blog posts is a great way to get started on Google+.

Pinterest: One of the fastest growing social media platforms Pinterest is a photo-based platform whose user base is overwhelmingly female. Pinterest is a great place for consumer brands with creative appeal. This is not to say that B2B companies can’t use Pinterest though—Hubspot’s infographic board on Pinterest consistently ranks at the top of the Google when searching for “marketing infographics.”

Instagram: A mobile-based photo-sharing platform, Instagram is also best suited for consumer brands who can tell their story visually. Also keep in mind, the crowd on Instagram is a bit younger than on most social networks. Fairleigh Dickinson University (where I teach graduate courses in social media marketing!) does a great job of connecting with students and building school spirit on their Instagram account.

YouTube: The big granddaddy of social video, YouTube is a great channel for brands to be on—whether they are B2C or B2B. For starters, YouTube is the second largest search engine (behind only its parent company, Google) in the world. All that traffic means it is a great place to post your company’s videos. Plus, even if you don’t use YouTube as a social platform, it has the benefit of being a free video host!

Blogs: Blogs are no longer the next big thing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful (You’re reading this blog after all). A corporate blog can be a great place to post articles and other content that you can then share on other platforms. Plus, it is always good to own some of your online property, and unlike social media accounts, you will always own your blog, meaning you can do whatever you want with and you are not bound by the capricious wills of the Zuckerbergs of the world.

Using social for social media’s sake does not make strategic or marketing sense. When you are ready to start using social media (or improving existing channels) your first step should be to define a plan on how you will use social media and what your goals with it are. Having a plan with defined goals will save you a lot of time and headaches as go forward.

Also, before you go and create pages for your business on different social networks, make sure you understand how to use the platforms. Practice personally before you jump in professionally is a good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to business social media.

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