The Four Pillars of Social Networking
By Patrick Clinger, ProBoards
Social networking has dramatically evolved over the past few years. A truly successful brand strategy must embrace the new opportunities presented by this changing landscape, while still conforming to the established expectations of the users of these social networks. To reach maximum effectiveness, a social media strategy must embrace the four key pillars of social networking: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums. Each pillar plays a distinctive role in enhancing your online presence, and correct usage of each of them can massively increase the profitability of your online networking efforts.
Facebook is the most popular social network by far. With more than a billion monthly active users, it’s a great platform for casual customer interaction. However, your ability to reach customers on Facebook is largely limited by how many “Likes” you can get on your Facebook Page. When you post to your Facebook Page, only users that have liked your page can see your updates. You receive free, repeatable advertising once you have attracted a user’s like. This makes Facebook a great platform for developing brand recognition and passively retaining customer attention.
In many ways similar to Facebook, Twitter is a platform built on short conversations with an emphasis on informality. Mixing in humor and lightheartedness with your tweets helps humanize your organization and builds loyalty. Tweeting concise, impactful messages is a great way to build your brand. However, don’t be afraid to engage in conversations with users over Twitter. Replying to posts and retweeting useful or interesting information can help build important relationships. The better the quality of your tweets, the more followers you will attract; and since only users that follow you will see your status updates in their news feed, the more followers you have, the greater reach your tweets will have.
Blogs provide the ideal place for in-depth company information and announcements. If a visitor to your website wants to know the latest and greatest news about your company, this is the resource they will look for. Product releases, software updates, and new events can all be promoted through a blog post, giving a central location for this information that users can be directed to from other social media networks. In addition, having an active blog on your website shows a commitment to your product or service.
As the original social media platform, forums make up the last pillar of social networking. Forums provide a platform for in-depth communication with your customers. Rather than simply posting information to customers who at some point in the past demonstrated a minimum amount of interest in your product or service, a forum provides the ideal platform for back and forth communication. This communication builds loyalty by providing transparency and openness to your company. Since content is not lost rapidly on forums in the same way as other modern social networks, over time you can build a vast database of useful content for your visitors.
Each of these four pillars of social media is important for establishing a well-rounded social media strategy. Facebook makes them like you, Twitter makes them empathize with you, blogs inform them about you, and forums help them understand you. All of these platforms provide valuable ways to connect with your customers and clients, but beware of putting too much emphasis on any one pillar. There’s a big push for cross integration among these platforms, but the brevity of a good Facebook post or tweet, makes for a poor blog post or message on a forum. Over-saturation of any social media platform risks alienating its users and negatively impacting your effectiveness there. The best social networking policies are balancing acts, sharing your resources out across all four pillars, while simultaneously being as open and receptive to communication from your users as possible.
:: About the Author ::
Patrick Clinger is founder and CEO of ProBoards, the world’s largest host of free forums on the Internet. ProBoards was recently named “Best Hosted Forum” for the second consecutive year by Forum-Software.org. The company boasts over 3.5 million forums created, 22 million registered users, and more than 15 million unique monthly visitors on the web: www.proboards.com.