From humble beginnings, the Social Media revolution has become bigger than anyone could have ever expected. Everywhere you look on (and off) the web, there are people Tweeting, watching YouTube, or using Skype to call for free. Even billboard and TV adverts now have links to the companies facebook page. With so many options then, how can you make Social Media work for your business?

Social Networking

For most, the best place to start is with Social Networks. Everyone has heard of them: Myspace, Facebook and Twitter are all households names, but what does a Social Network actually do?

Each one has its own subtle nuances, but they generally share the same basic features:

1. Profile: This allows the user to provide information about themselves and also shows who they are linked with within the network.
2. Friends/Followers: This feature forms the basis of the network; it links profiles together, allowing a web of contacts to develop between each user.
3. Status: Intended to be short and sharp, this feature gives the user an opportunity to broadcast their thoughts across the network.
4. Comments: Commenting differs between each network, but across the board it allows communication between network members.

These websites are free to join and offer businesses access to millions of people, but how? For the most part, it is best to stick to the two most popular sites, Facebook and Twitter, as these give the most amount of exposure with the least energy. If your company or business relies more on B2B (business to business) marketing then LinkedIn is perhaps a better starting point.

Twitter

Since 2006, Twitter’s popularity has exploded and now boasts 200 million users. These users are able to post their thoughts, compressed into 140 characters, across the network, whenever they want. Its as simple as that. In fact, its the simplicity, combined with the fact that anyone can ‘follow’ anyone else, which has given Facebook some competition over the last 5 years. A Twitter account is very easy to maintain and for most businesses should be the first port of call for Social Networking. Having set up an account, the only challenge is getting people to follow you!!

Set one up here and follow us here: Flare Web

Facebook

The other major player is Facebook. This is the most used Social Networking site on the planet, which since 2004 has gained over 600 million users. Structured in a different way to Twitter, to add someone to your Facebook network, you must make a request to be their ‘friend’. They must then accept your request before you are linked. This makes the experience more exclusive, but poses a problem for businesses who want to reach everyone. This problem was solved when Facebook included ‘groups’, which can be set up and then followed, without having to be ‘accepted’. Like Twitter, the Group feature’s only challenge is getting people on board.

Get started here.

LinkedIn

For businesses such as restaurants, bars and tourist attractions, who need to attract attention from the general public, these major public sites are really useful. However, for businesses who need to be connected with other professional people, such as plumbers, niche service providers, or graphic designers, there is a specific network which aims to promote your business. It is called LinkedIn. This works in a similar way to Facebook in that you need confirmation to be connected to each user. However, this is great way of building your business contacts and getting referrals online.

Start by adding us here!!

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So there you have it. Social Networking in a nutshell. Why not use it? Its free!!

Building it back in to your website.

Websites can also act as a companies social media hub and tie in all of the different marketing that a company is using to promote themselves. Once an account is set up it is not overly difficult for a web designer/developer or someone with a cursory knowledge of HTML code to install the various social tools from each application back in to the website. You may have seen websites that contain a “Twitter feed” or are able to tell which of your facebook friends like a particular web page that you may happen to be reading. It can be quite funny to see that someone in your facebook group also likes a particular news item or topic.

Linking to social media.

Another aspect is linking your web site pages to social media, you might have seen that a friend on facebook “likes” a particular link in their facebook wall. This link can then be clicked on to take you to the web page that they were reading from facebook. Twitter feeds often have “mini-urls” in them that, again, takes someone to the web page. All of these things can be added to a web page to further promote your website.