In days gone by, the decision about which marketing methods (or marketing ‘channels’ as we in the business like to say) to use to best communicate with your target customers seemed easier. A little direct mail perhaps, advertising in a relevant trade publication, sending out a press release or two…Then along came email and websites, and suddenly the shop window got a little bigger.

The explosion of social media over the last five years however has knocked clean through your shop window and dumped the traditional marketing model on its head. Suddenly it’s about two way engagement with your clients. You can talk to them and they can talk to you; and they are expecting you to listen to what they have to say. But, with literally hundreds of social networking sites out there, where to start?

Where do your customers hang out?

Any business using social media must first go through the same thought process that they’ve always had to when it comes to communicating with their target customers. Where are their customers most likely to be found and what method of communication will they best respond to?

So let’s start with (arguably) the ‘big five’ beasts in the social networking jungle: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. Each site serves a different purpose and it’s important to realise which is most appropriate for a particular marketing campaign or customer.

Taming the big five

Here are some tips to help you make the most of the big five social networking sites:

  • Facebook
    A great forum for running a fun marketing campaign. Particularly useful if you’re selling to individual consumers. Some companies have even launched new products exclusively on Facebook such as Ford on their Explorer Facebook page. Facebook is great for building communities (fans) and also communicating to friends of Fans.
  • Twitter
    Good for customer service. Keep an eye on your presence in the Twittersphere for company mentions and respond where relevant. Make sure you have a Twitter feed so your customers can communicate with you…and you can communicate with them.
  • Pinterest
    A picture still tells a thousand words and Pinterest can be a great forum for showcasing your products if they have visual appeal. A designer for example might see it as an opportunity to share their portfolio. Click here for more ideas on how to use Pinterest.
  • YouTube
    Can be good for bringing your products/services to life. How about a video showing how to use one of your products? Technical advice? See how the British tech company Dyson uses YouTube to explain its latest products.
  • LinkedIn
    It’s not just job hunters who use this site – although it’s a good tool for freelancers and contractors to remind prospective clients that they’re available. It’s more about business to business marketing here. Small businesses can use the opportunity to contribute to relevant forums and build their credibility.

 

Whichever and however you use them however, always think about your target audience and what you’re trying to achieve. Also remember that the popularity of different sites waxes and wanes. Your customers will move around and today’s networking hotspot could be old news tomorrow.