Things were so different, then! George W. Bush was still the president. The very first iPhone hadn’t even come out yet. U2 won album of the year at the Grammys, and now, they literally can’t GIVE an album away without people rolling their eyes. (And you wonder why I’m in love with my Android!)
The other big thing in 2006? Facebook opened itself up to anyone, and all of a sudden, everyone under the age of 30 was getting emails from their great aunt asking them to help set up their account.
But like I said – times change! Now, everyone and their dog is practically given a Facebook account at birth. If you’re a business, having a Facebook account just plain isn’t optional. You may as well not even exist.
Other social networks have joined Facebook in the sort of A-list of must-join social networks: Twitter, LinkedIn, heck, even Google Plus. Most people have at least SOME presence on these networks – they’re big enough that they can’t be ignored.
But there are a LOT of other social networks out there. Which ones should you be on? (If any?)
You know me – I’m all about the “do what works for you” sort of approach to social media. Yeah, there are some networks – like the ones I mentioned already – that you probably can’t afford to skip out on. But there are plenty of others than you just don’t need.
Maybe the way they work isn’t a good fit for your business, or the audience you’re going for doesn’t really use them. Maybe they just don’t fit into your already-insane schedule!
But how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Wait, what IS chaff, anyway? Ah, forget it – today, I’m giving you a closer look at some of the lesser-known social networks that SOME businesses are using for their social media marketing. Some of these are networks you might already use, and some of them might be ones you’ve heard a little about but don’t really feel like you “get” – and that’s okay!
Just consider this your crash course in the social networks that are picking up steam and not slowing down – who knows, maybe one or two will be on that A-list in the near future!
We’ll start with an easy one. With 200 million active monthly users, it’s very likely that Instagram already counts you among its photo-snappin’ fanbase.
The short version: Think Twitter, but with photos instead of words. Instagram allows you to take, edit, and share photos & 15-second videos with anyone, and other users can follow your account so that your content shows up in a newsfeed-like stream.
Pros: Extremely user-friendly interface allows you to create and share gorgeous images with just a few finger taps. Instagram is also owned by Facebook, which makes sharing between networks a cinch, and continues to add exciting new features like Hyperlapse – perfect for all you creative types. If you’re interested in experimenting with paid advertising, Instagram recently unveiled a host of analytics tools that are sure to come in handy, too! (Oooooh, data!)
Cons: Not every business lends itself as easily to visual marketing as others. (Sorry, septic tank installation experts of the world.) The community engagement aspect can take a little more getting used to than the image-sharing side of things, but a starter guide like this one can put you on the right track.
Who’s doing it right: Fashion is right at home on Instagram – just take a look at Warby Parker’s profile.
Remember last week’s guide to using Pinterest analytics? (Um, of COURSE you do!) Pinterest is very quickly becoming a major contender in social media marketing – it started out as a bit of a sleeper, but this baby’s gaining more and more traction all the time.
The short version: Pinterest is an image-based content-sharing platform. Every user creates themed “boards” that function like virtual scrapbooks, which they use to share images that link to relevant content. For example, my “Quick and Easy Desserts” board may include photos of my favorites, each of which links to a recipe on another website.
Pros: Sharing content – including your own – is easy. The more content you add, the more OTHER people can share that content, too, just like they might retweet something on Twitter. Analytics are relatively easy to use, so you can track your performance.
Cons: The interface and vernacular may be confusing to newcomers, so don’t be discouraged if it seems more complicated than it’s worth, at first. 80% of all Pinterest users are female, which may or may not work in your business’s favor (sorry, luxury jockstrap designers). Also, it may be tempting to focus on the wrong data – popularity on Pinterest doesn’t necessarily translate to good business (that’s why you have to understand what the data means).
Who’s doing it right: The ice cream geniuses at Ben & Jerry’s use Pinterest for sharing a huge variety of content, from quotes and behind-the-scenes peeks to recipes and good-old-fashioned ice cream porn. (Warning: Do NOT visit their profile on an empty stomach!)
On the non-edible side, Penguin Books USA has a Pinterest account that shares book recommendations by genre, gorgeous cover designs, and plenty more to satisfy your inner word nerd.
If you’ve never heard the phrase “Do it for the Vine”… well, that probably means you aren’t living recklessly, and that’s a good thing. But this video-sharing app isn’t just for people who want to document themselves making bad decisions!
The short version: Vine allows you to shoot, edit, and share 6-second looping videos from your phone. Sound ridiculous? It is – but since hitting the scene in 2012, it’s caught on, and big time. (Go figure, right?)
Pros: You don’t have to be a big deal already to make a big splash on Vine – not unlike YouTube, this network has a certain degree of notoriety simply because it’s enabled people to leverage their web popularity into actual careers. At just 6 seconds long, Vine videos don’t necessarily have to be particularly polished, either – the handmade aesthetic that’s so prevalent on this network gives you a lot of leeway. Vine is also owned by Twitter, so if you have an established Twitter following, your audience is ready and waiting. (Convenient!)
Cons: Just how easy is it to create a shareable story in 6 seconds or less? Maybe not as easy as it sounds! It’s simple to whip up a 6-second commercial, or even a 6-second joke, but finding the balance between the two – a video that represents your brand AND makes people want to watch and share – takes a lot of creativity.
Who’s doing it right: Home improvement store Lowes actually has one of the best business Vine profiles in town – their super-duper clever #LowesFixInSix campaign takes advantage of Vine’s looping video to share bite-sized tips for completing everyday tasks.
On the goofier side of things, Dunkin’ Donuts uses Vine to show off its personality and announce new products (it’s pumpkin everything season – CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH).
I’m not gonna make the obvious joke about Snapchat’s popularity for sending pictures of your jingly bits. (Even though that would be HILARIOUS.) While this photo-sharing app may have a reputation for, let’s say, scandalous socializing, it’s also turning into an increasingly popular marketing tool.
The short version: Snapchat allows you to post and/or send photos and videos for your followers/contacts. Those photos and videos don’t last forever, though – once they’ve been opened by their recipients, they may remain visible for only a few seconds before they disappear (hence the service’s popularity for sharing images that you maaaaay not want people to save forever).
Pros: Snapchat is a relatively young network, both figuratively and literally – it’s only a few years old, and with 77% of college students using it every day, it’s popular with a younger crowd. It’s a useful service for sharing promotions like coupon codes, because it emphasizes quick reactions and short expiration periods.
Cons: For new users, navigating Snapchat’s interface and understanding its rules is about as easy as untangling Christmas lights. The onboarding process is virtually nonexistent – coupled with the somewhat complicated conceit of the network’s various functions, Snapchat isn’t necessarily an easy nut to crack. (Not to mention that as of right now, there isn’t an official platform with which businesses can track their analytics/ROI – you just have to kinda hope for the best.)
Who’s doing it right: Clothing retailer Karmaloop has been killin’ it on Snapchat for more than a year now, sharing snaps that take followers behind the scenes, preview upcoming products, and offer short-term coupon codes. Other brands, like Taco Bell, take advantage of Snapchat’s popularity with younger demographics to show off their silly side (not unlike what they do on Twitter).
Tumblr is more popular than Facebook. (Among 13-25 year-olds, but hey, that’s still a BIG deal.) This blogging platform grew by 75% in 2013 – no wonder Yahoo shelled out a cool BILLION dollars to buy it up last year!
The short version: Tumblr functions like a cross between Twitter and a blog – you can quickly and easily share original content, as well as share (or “reblog”) someone else’s content to your own feed. You post something that resonates with people, and you can rack up a TON of shares (I’ll show you in a second).
Pros: While Tumblr offers sponsored post options that will put your content in front of more non-followers, you don’t necessarily need it – the network’s organic sharing model can be more than sufficient, as evidenced by some of the brands that are doing a rad job. The interface and lingo are super user-friendly, even for beginners. Oh, and like I mentioned, this network is GINORMOUS. Users upload more than 70 million posts per day – for comparison, WordPress.com users upload about 44 million per MONTH.
Cons: Tumblr is a very visual network (78% of posts have at least some kind of image), so if you don’t know how to make a GIF, you might want to learn. The simplistic interface may seem lacking in features to those used to more complex platforms, but can be supplemented with extensions like XKit – you may need to experiment a bit to see what combination of features you want and need. Tumblr may not offer a lot in terms of short-term ROI, but it can do a LOT for building and maintaining a fanbase.
Who’s doing it right: Denny’s has tapped into Tumblr’s quirky side by regularly posting offbeat GIFs and goofy photoshopped images, and while posts like this one may seem more than a little bizarre, they score America’s diner thousands of likes and shares per day while reinforcing a loveable, self-aware brand identity.
NPR takes full advantage of Tumblr’s abilities for sharing multimedia, posting videos, audio clips, photos and GIFs, and links to related news stories on other social channels – if you wanna learn how to cross-promote on Tumblr, they’re a GREAT example to follow.
Don’t worry – there’s only a MILLION more
Remember, there are more social networks popping up ALL THE TIME. Literally every single day. Do NOT get sucked into that trap of, “I need to have a presence everywhere,” because you’ll be snapchatting pictures of yourself chugging coffee and sharing vines of you ripping your own hair out.
Hopefully, though, this little intro has helped demystify some of those networks that are really picking up steam, and made just how they work a little clearer – that way, you have the information you need to decide whether or not you might want to give them a try!
Any other social networks you want to learn more about? Not sure how they work, or what’s the point, or if they actually make sense for marketing your biz? Let me know in the comments below, so we can give them a look right here on the blog!