At this point, even the most inexperienced Web marketer is aware of the vital role that social media plays in promoting a brand on the Internet. Of course, almost everyone has a presence on at least one of the major social destinations, mainly Facebook and Twitter, but what many people seem to overlook are the seemingly endless amounts of smaller, alternative social networks at their disposal.
In addition to the "Big 5" social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Tumblr), there are a wide variety of different places that users can go to be social on the 'Net. Some of these sites are aimed at specific lifestyle markets, some provide specialized services like user reviews or checking in, and some are simply older or smaller takes on the social network platform that we all know and love.
There are obviously many ways for marketers to approach social media. It would certainly behoove everyone to make their presence felt on Facebook and Twitter, because the number of users and levels of engagment on those two sites are so astronomically high compared to their competitors, but beyond that, the sky is really the limit for companies trying to optimized their Web profiles.
This issue becomes more difficult to address when you consider the very broad defintion of "social media." For some, social networks are only those like Facebook or Myspace that are built around the idea of users having their own unique profiles, which are the focus of the site. Others define social much more loosely, referencing any site that gives users a chance to share and interact with content. Because of this, the opportunities for social media marketing are, in a way, limitless.
Local businesses probably want to seek out services like Yelp or Foursquare, which give users a chance to write reviews or check in to local shops, respectively. Companies that operate in more niche markets by offering products or services most useful to a specific group can seek out social networks that serve the interests of these unique customers. Other businesses have the opportunity to market themselves in unique ways, such as in pictures or video, by jumping on board with specialized social networks that focus on these types of content. Here's a list of some of the best social media sites on the Web today that covers all of these areas and more.
"The Big 5"
As someone who runs (or, in my case, has befriended runners) will tell you, it is a very social activity. This website takes the communal nature of the sport to the next level, by allowing runners to share their experiences with like-minded athletes around the world.
The first is a great site geared mostly towards college and high school students to work together and seek help in their schoolwork without having to plagiarize or turn to the unreliable Wikipedia for answers. The second provides a network for teachers to share and get ideas.
To many users, the Web and music go hand-in-hand. One of the most popular uses of the Internet for many people is to listen to, share and discuss music with others, making it a natural move to create social networks based around the idea of, surprise, listening to, sharing and discussing music with others.
Everyone's always seeking financial advice and/or business information, so why not turn to the Web?
People love pets, and for those people who really love their pets, these sites offer a place to turn to get advice and share stories about their favorite four-legged creatures.
The classic stereotype of "gamers" is that they're all very anti-social, but with the advent of online gaming over the last decade, it has become one of the more social hobbies in which one can particpate. These sites allow users to connect with other gamers while sharing their individual accomplishments online.
Food and Cooking
Yum! This is the digital-age equivalent to your grandma sharing recipe cards with her friends.
This popular art-hosting site has become a haven for those wanting to share their original content with the world.
Social networks based around travel allow users to seek out information about potential destinations based on actual user feedback, which provides practical information for trip planning.
Another group that isn't usually seen as the particularly social, readers now have a variety of places to visit online to share with like-minded individuals about what they're reading and what they've read, as well as get recommendations for new books.
Like music fans and readers, those among us obsessed with movies also love to talk about them and share ideas and recommendations, and this site allows users to do just that.
There are plenty of other great social destinations that offer a variety of options and services for users, as well as great opportunities for marketers to spread their message on the Web.
A Small World