Chapter 1. The Social Media Landscape

It’s impossible to list every social network that exists. New ones are popping up all the time. Some of them fail quickly and disappear, while others fail slowly and linger for years. The sites that are on top right now were at one time niche networks that spent a lot of time in the second tier before overtaking their rivals. Within the span of only a few years, the mighty have fallen and even mightier have risen to take their place. Social media is a volatile industry.

This chapter is intended to categorize social networks not based on size, but on their value to you as someone who is selling something online. The smaller and emerging social networks are almost certainly a waste of your time and money—from a business perspective, anyway. From a personal perspective, feel free to explore the Web and sign up for whatever interests you. Making money off of social media participation is a completely different game.

Tier 1 Social Networks

If you have limited resources, then don’t concern yourself with smaller social networks; just concentrate on the sites that are actually going to make money for you. The three sites explained in the following subsections are the most important now and in the near future, though each of them is good for something different. If you can branch out to all of them, great; if not, then pick the one that will have the most benefit to you and begin to map out your strategy. If you aren’t sure which site to concentrate on, the next few chapters will help you sort that out.

Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging site that asks participants: “What are you doing right now?” Indeed, most of the communication on Twitter is of the “what I’m doing right now” variety. That is to say, it’s pretty mundane, and the 140-character limit forces some interesting language shortcuts. However, Twitter’s tagline is only a suggestion, not a rule. As you participate more on Twitter, you’ll discover that the most successful and popular users have a strategy for releasing small but interesting bits of information.

Microblogging is the practice of making frequent, short, unedited, unrefined message posts. This is not limited to Twitter—you could easily do the same thing on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram—but it is the most popular and profitable platform dedicated to this task. Twitter users refer to these posts as tweets.

Typical tweets tend not to question reality or pontificate on lofty topics such as ethics, religion, or politics, nor do they dare ponder the ironies of the universe. Twitter microbloggers merely write something quick (140 characters or fewer) to explain what they’re doing. You should explore Twitter for an hour or two and find active users, just to see how they use the site. You can see someone’s whole day play out for you, one sentence at a time.

When you mention someone in a tweet who has a Twitter account, the protocol is to include his or her username with an @ in front. For example, you might send out an update like “Checking out Twitter at the suggestion of @sspencer.” (And if I’m following you on Twitter, I’ll see that you mentioned me; I can also search for my username and see everyone who’s mentioned me recently.) If you want to talk about a certain topic in which other people might be interested, you can put a # symbol before it. This is called a hashtag, and it turns a word or amalgamated short phrase into a topic that can easily become its own community. For instance, if you are attending the SXSW conference and are microblogging about your experiences there, you would include #sxsw somewhere in your tweet so that other people who are interested in that topic can more easily find tweets relating to it. Twitter offers documentation that covers all of its features; we won’t duplicate that effort here.

Twitter starts with sending out updates, but it doesn’t end there. You can also use it to engage in conversations with other Twitter users, almost as if using an instant messenger client. Granted, some of it is idle banter, but fascinating discussions can take place on Twitter in this way.

For instance, what does that person do when he sees your tweet mentioning him? It’s not unusual for him to respond to your tweet by posting his own tweet publicly as a reply. If you are following him, then he could alternatively send a response privately by direct message, but Twitter users rarely do that.

Many businesspeople use Twitter to share links to interesting web pages with their friends or colleagues, to meet or keep in touch with industry contacts, or to promote blog posts. A significant number also use Twitter to engage in dialogue with customers/prospects. This isn’t something you can jump into and figure out quickly, though; it takes knowledge and skill to use Twitter effectively.

Even if you don’t intend to use Twitter much for marketing, you should still establish a Twitter account so that you can track conversations that mention your brand. The Notifications tab in Twitter shows you all of the tweets that include your username, but you should make an effort to look up related hashtags as well.

Twitter “espionage” is one of the easiest ways to gain insight into your target market, to see what the individuals it comprises are talking about, and what they’re sharing with their peers. You can use Twitter’s search functions to look up what people are saying about you, your company, your products, and your competition. You can also see what your customers’ other interests are on Twitter—information that can help you to really fine-tune your marketing campaign.

Twitter’s website is not the only way to interact with the service. There are several other options: instant message services, text messages, web browser extensions, and standalone Twitter clients. You can also set up an RSS feed that will deliver relevant tweets to other, non-Twitter-specific tools. Two Twitter management tools that we recommend are Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

Aside from marketing and sales, Twitter is great for networking at industry events such as conferences and trade shows. By following that conference’s hashtag (and related hashtags), you can see what other conference-goers are up to, and learn about parties and various other related events that aren’t on the official schedule.

Like many online services, Twitter can also become a distraction and a time-sink if you actively follow the tweets of a large number of Twitter users. So exercise caution when you start using the Follow feature to subscribe to folks’ Twitter streams.

Related to Twitter is Vine. With Vine, you create short, looping videos that you can post directly to your Twitter feed. Any serious Twitter strategy should consider including Vine videos in some way. Nordstrom partnered with top 100 Vine user Zach King to create a series of sponsored Vines that featured department stores and closets. The Vines were then featured on Zach King’s Vine feed, Nordstrom’s Vine feed, and hosted on Vine sharing websites across the Internet to achieve a sizeable amount of views.

Facebook

Odds are very good that you already have a personal Facebook account. There are more than 1 billion Facebook accounts. That’s a seventh of the world’s entire population!

At first it may seem strange to try to use Facebook to sell anything. Maybe you’ve already tried and failed miserably, probably by posting some kind of ad to your personal Facebook timeline. If that’s what you did, whether you realize it or not, you’ve spammed your friends, family, and colleagues. It’s extremely poor form to do this.

In sociology there are concepts of “place.” Your first place is your home; your second place is your office (assuming you work outside of your home). However, one of the essential ingredients in both a healthy community and a healthy social life is the “third place.” That’s the social environment outside of your home where you gather with other people for things non-work-related. There is a decent explanation of it on Wikipedia.

The Web has digital third places because today’s society is inherently more mobile and transient. In that, Facebook is the clear frontrunner in terms of number of active members, ability to share, ability to connect, and accessibility to targeted advertising. That last point is what makes Facebook a top-tier social network as a sales and marketing tool.

Facebook enables you to share just about anything, from raw information (such as your age, birthdate, or relationship status) to messages of varying length, to photos and videos. Virtually every other major app, service, or site connects to Facebook in some way so that you can share what you are doing in those apps (such as what song you are listening to in your music player, or what movie you just paid to stream, or what item you just bought from a store). Many sites and apps outsource their login procedure to Facebook, requiring you to have a Facebook account just to sign up.

For business use, the first thing you do to branch out from personal Facebook behavior is to create a page for your business. Make it professional and friendly. Explain your business—not in cold, boring marketing terms, but in more social and interesting ways. Think of your “elevator pitch.” What do you tell people about your business when you have to communicate it in less than 30 seconds? Your Facebook page should be more like your elevator pitches than your press releases.

Secondly, you have promotion options available to you through Facebook Ads. You can either promote your page (get more likes) or promote a certain post that you’ve made. We have a whole chapter dedicated to ad design later in the book. For now, just start with the Facebook page and think about the kind of content that you can post there.

And post you must! Every day you should post something that is interesting and shareable. Don’t start just yet; for right now, just think about the subjects you can post about, who will write the posts (you or someone who works with/for you), who will monitor the site for replies and other feedback, and the best time of day to publish your posts. This is just an initial plan; some of this will need to change later on once you’ve got a page, content, and ads up and running.

Also think about how much you want to spend on a daily basis. Facebook Ads is designed to enable daily spending limits, so determine the budget you want to dedicate to promoting your page accordingly. You may need only $5 or $10 per day, though it may take some ramp-up time to build a community around your brand.

LinkedIn

You probably think of LinkedIn for professional networking, but this social network’s potential goes well beyond that. The company has nearly two dozen products aimed at everything from recruiting to advertising. It even has its own conference. Not that networking with other professionals and potential clients isn’t important; it’s just that LinkedIn can deliver so much more, provided you have the budget and the right product, service, or event to sell.

LinkedIn was developed in 2003, and has been growing rapidly since then. It is a perfect place for professionals around the globe to search for jobs, employees, joint venture partners, and compatible business partners.

Small-business owners like us need help and support. We need contacts, connections, groups, and networks that help us get further than we would on our own. People in our networks can provide information, advice, support, and help. Sometimes, we can make connections that can double or triple our business.

The best results come when you know exactly what your objectives are, and you are presenting to exactly the right audience. You can achieve this by designing targeted messages delivered to targeted groups of people. In the past, this was a costly exercise with tons of research, trial and error, and wasted money. With LinkedIn, this process is fast, easy, and cheap.

LinkedIn is best for these kinds of businesses:

  • Those that are building a community
  • Those that are searching for sales, connections, joint venture (JV) partners, and investors
  • Those that want traffic to their blog, website, or social media profiles
  • Those that are searching for jobs/employees
  • Those that are promoting a product/service/event

Your LinkedIn profile is an integral part of your marketing. The power lies in your ability to easily connect with like-minded business professionals. If someone views your profile, and your only connections are your mother and your husband, that person may get the impression that you’re not very well connected. Aim for a solid group of relevant contacts, all linked to you and your business. No profile is complete without a recommendation or two, so encourage your clients and customers to write recommendations for you, and provide valuable recommendations for others when asked.

You should also set up a page for your company (this is different than your personal LinkedIn profile). To do this, you must first have at least a few connections, and your personal profile must be complete. Company pages offer public information about your business, and function much the same as Facebook pages. You can use your company page to post company status updates, advertise jobs, interact with employees, and promote valuable articles or resources on your website.

To make the most of LinkedIn, use all of the tools and features that are relevant to your industry to your advantage. Use the LinkedIn search feature to find people and groups in your industry, and potential customers. Search for your biggest competitors, or a similar business in your market. Take a close look at what they are doing well, and where they could improve.

LinkedIn is particularly good for advertising B2B (business-to-business) products, services, and events. If you have a line of kids’ toys, a series of novels, or music festival tickets to sell, this is probably going to cost you a lot of money and get you nowhere. People go to LinkedIn for professional reasons, so you should speak to their professional lives with everything you do there. Be wary of the cost of LinkedIn ads, though. We’ve seen it cost two to four times as much as a Facebook ad campaign with a similar reach. If you have a big budget and a national or international appeal, and your product is delivered digitally (software, IT solutions, change management consultations), then LinkedIn ads are worth experimenting with. The most successful advertising on LinkedIn involves creating an ad that sends traffic to a targeted landing page to collect opt-in leads. You’ve got to provide good, relevant content here, such as a short video or a really good short article.

One thing LinkedIn is very good for is finding people to fill difficult-to-find job openings. You can do this through the LinkedIn Jobs service, or through clever digging on your own. If you’re in search of a job, LinkedIn is also a great place to look for one, especially if you’ve expanded your professional network to the point that you can find a first- or second-degree contact at the company you want to work for. Then you’re just two emails or phone calls away from a personal connection who can get you an interview.

LinkedIn recommends that you connect only with people whom you actually know. In general, this is a good idea for your personal account on any social media site, but LinkedIn intentionally straddles the boundary between personal and professional.

There are people who flagrantly disregard this recommendation; they are called LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs). LIONs will connect with just about anyone reflexively, just to build their network. If you connect to one or two of these people, you can greatly expand the reach of your job postings. You can find a list of the most popular open networkers on TopLinked.com.

You can push the boundaries of LinkedIn’s connection recommendation without going over the top. It will help increase your company’s, brand’s, or individual professional exposure with LinkedIn by searching for relevant companies and people in your field, then connecting with them. When you contact them, include a personal note with your request; explain how you met, describe where you know them from, or mention your reasons for connecting with them.

Unless you pay for a monthly Premium subscription, LinkedIn allows you to send InMail (in-network messaging) only to people with whom you’re already connected. That means if you want to contact a particular engineer for a job opening you have, you can’t contact her directly unless you pay for LinkedIn Premium on a subscription basis. The best way around this is to search other social media sites for her name and contact her there. You can prevent this from happening to you by adding your email address to your LinkedIn profile headline. Or, just spring for Premium, keeping in mind that this gets you only five free InMail responses per month.

There is a decent amount of community participation on LinkedIn. You can post a question to LinkedIn Answers that serves your own purposes, and get some great responses. For instance, you might find people to hire this way instead of posting a job listing. Your question can be posed as a thinly veiled job advert, or you can subtly market your services and products by asking people what their preferred solution in your industry is, or what technologies in your field they are interested in playing with. Always add value to the community with the anticipated answers.

If you really want to go the extra mile, get a URL specifically for your LinkedIn profile, and redirect it there. This can be easier to remember than your LinkedIn profile URL, and is useful for business cards, your website, and email signature.

Tier 2 Social Networks

We define a “tier 2” social network in terms not of traffic or reach, but of how easily you can make money by participating. Certainly, a site with a ton of traffic is going to lead to some kind of success, but how much will it cost you to achieve that (in terms of time and money)? A second-tier site may have tremendous value for certain industries and businesses, and little to no value for others.

Sites can move from tier 2 to 1 pretty easily over a relatively short amount of time. No site starts out in the first tier.

Google+

If any social network ever started out with a superior advantage, it was Google+. With industry examples to follow, the support of one of the world’s smartest technology companies, and an almost unlimited pool of resources from which to draw, Google+ was launched with high expectations.

Despite all that, it is really a “distant third” in terms of the top social networks. It hasn’t been around for nearly as long as Facebook or Twitter, but it has a significant membership that includes many celebrities and politicians. Star Trek actor William Shatner, for instance, has an enormous Google+ following—so much so that he’s pushed the limits of the service. Barack Obama had a campaign presence on Google+, and even did a “hangout” (video chat) that drew a huge audience.

Google+ is a direct competitor of Facebook, and both companies have taken this battle very seriously.

If you have a Google profile, then you have a Google+ account, even if you never post anything to it. One of the benefits of having a Google+ page is authorship credit for all articles, videos, and blog posts that Google has in its index that it can positively identify as having been written by you. Google offers step-by-step instructions on how to claim authorship. However, Google may have thrown in the towel with the departure of Vic Gundotra, previous head of Google+.

YouTube

You probably don’t think of YouTube as a social network, but sharing, rating, and commenting on videos is certainly a social activity. You probably also didn’t think of YouTube as a search engine, but in terms of the overall volume of search queries, it’s second only to Google.

YouTube is an excellent “supplemental network” for a campaign focused on a more monetizeable social media site. Unless you’re selling a video, show, movie, or song, YouTube may not make sense as the social network to concentrate on. Certainly though, use YouTube as a way to enhance your main marketing efforts.

There’s nothing that you can’t make a video for. It may not be obvious at first, but if you think about the industry, the product, and your customers, you can come up with some ideas for good videos. Like everything else, you want to create compelling content that reinforces the message of your brand.

By the nature of its social networking capabilities—which show the most viewed videos, favorites, channels, likes/dislikes, comments, and video replies—YouTube is a far more effective venue for posting videos than your corporate website, if you want your videos to spread virally. Therefore, videos should be on YouTube as well as embedded on your company website.

It’s all about the content, though. If your video content is mediocre, it doesn’t matter how much you optimize it; it won’t become popular. Nor should it. Mediocre content doesn’t deserve the rankings or the attention.

It’s not enough to post a great video; you also must know how to take advantage of the social nature of YouTube. As with all other social networks, you need to build up friends and subscribers on YouTube so you can leverage them to increase your video’s reach.

Don’t get too caught up in achieving a certain number of views, a certain number of links to the video, or a certain ranking in the YouTube search results. What matters is the impact the video has on the bottom line. Quick and easy videos to make are how-to or FAQs; these not only offer customers additional information but can impact your conversion rates as well.

Pinterest

According to Experian Hitwise, as of the publication of this book, Pinterest is the third most popular social network in terms of traffic.

You’re likely already dabbling in using Pinterest to drive traffic to your ecommerce site. Perhaps you have the basics down: adding “Pin it” buttons to your product pages, and creating neatly organized boards for your customers and potential customers to browse through. What you may be missing is an overall strategy for how Pinterest can not only increase your traffic and engagement, but generate sales as well.

As with all social networks, engagement comes first. There is no valid path to quick and easy sales, especially on Pinterest. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to capitalize on Pinterest’s highly loyal user base of more than 70 million people (as of July 2013).

Unlike other social networks, Pinterest is primarily product-based. For this reason, it has surpassed Facebook and Twitter in terms of generating referrals to product-based ecommerce sites. According to Adam Audette of Rimm-Kaufman Group, Pinterest converts 22% more than Facebook does. Additionally, Pinterest users spend 60% more than Facebook users do. And unlike Facebook and Twitter posts, pinned images tend to have a long lifecycle. Whereas tweets and Facebook posts may generate a lot of discussion and interaction when first posted, pinned images may resurface with much fanfare, weeks or even months later.

The virality of a pin on Facebook should also not be underestimated. Once a user authorizes Facebook integration, his pins can be automatically published to his Facebook timeline. This integration with Facebook greatly increases the viral effect of pinning. You can also connect your Pinterest account to Twitter so that your new pins are cross-posted along with the Twitter hashtags that you’re targeting (though Pinterest treats hashtags like normal words, so if you’re not cross-posting or encouraging others to tweet your pins, don’t bother with the hashtags on Pinterest).

Many ecommerce businesses are also using Pinterest as a way to do cost-effective, low-risk market research. By pinning a product (in some cases, even before it’s launched), business owners can gauge interest levels in the product, and even ask for feedback or votes.

As shown in Case Study: Will It Blend? Yes It Will!, increased interest in your products will ultimately lead to increased sales.

Food photos do very well on Pinterest, especially for cookbooks and restaurants, and to appeal to people with specific dietary preferences or limitations.

If you’re selling some kind of service, Pinterest is a much more difficult site on which to capitalize. Unless you can think of some interesting and unique ways to represent your business with graphics, the time spent curating photos on Pinterest should probably be redirected to sites that can more effectively engage with potential subscribers.

Figure 1-1 demonstrates a successful way that a salon represents its service with imagery.

A salon posts a picture of its new Hollywood-style mirror on Pinterest
Figure 1-1. A salon posts a picture of its new Hollywood-style mirror on Pinterest

Tumblr

Tumblr is one of those social networks that, although not as inherently useful for ecommerce as some others, can be tremendously useful for certain types of ecommerce businesses. It certainly has a lot of reach and a high level of engagement:

  • There are more than 100 million Tumblr blogs.
  • Almost half of Tumblr users are between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • The average user stays on Tumblr for 14 minutes each visit; the average Facebook user spends only 12.5 minutes.

A Tumblr blog can be set up in a few minutes, but there is no option to self-host, which makes customization much trickier. Altering themes, widgets, and plug-ins often means heavy code editing, making major changes unfeasible. However, there are commercial options that enable businesses to easily customize Tumblr for ecommerce, such as Shopify and BlkDot.

Figure 1-2 is an example of an ecommerce site done entirely on Tumblr.

A Tumblr-based ecommerce site
Figure 1-2. A Tumblr-based ecommerce site

Once you’ve decided to use Tumblr for your ecommerce business, it’s not hard to get the hang of using it. Regardless of whether you plan to actually sell on Tumblr or simply use it as another method of marketing your business, here are some fundamental tips:

Set up your Tumblr blog right the first time.
The process of setting up a Tumblog is extremely simple. However, once created, it can be difficult to delete. Of key importance at this stage is choosing a name that accurately represents your business or brand. You’ll likely want to immediately redirect your Tumblr blog to a custom domain. So, for example, rather than having them access your blog by going to http://socialecommercebook.tumblr.com, you’ll send your visitors directly to http://socialecommercebook.com.
Post good, Tumblr-friendly content.
Once the basics of your blog are set up, you can start posting. You can post an image, video, link, or quote. If you don’t want to have to log into your Tumblr dashboard to post content, you can install and use a Tumblr app (such as the Tumblr bookmarklet) that allows you to post and share content from any sites you’re visiting. When you post something, make sure you use tags. This will enable other Tumblr users to search for and find your posts using tag-based keywords. Lastly, post content that speaks to your customers, whether it’s inspirational images, quotes, or some other evocative content that will generate discussion. The most successful brands on Tumblr post images of all kinds, not just photos of their own products.
Connect with other Tumblr users.
As with any social network, connecting with and following others is the key to success on Tumblr. Start by searching for posts related to your products or business, and like or reply to them. If there’s something you particularly like, you can reblog a post, which essentially reposts it to your own feed with attribution given to the original poster. You can also track down people who are influential in your niche and follow them, ensuring you stay connected with what’s going on in your industry.
Use Disqus to enable commenting.
Part of what makes Tumblr so simple to use is that it doesn’t include any extra features. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add whatever you need; one thing you should definitely add to your blog is a user comment function. One of the best ways you can expand your reach as an ecommerce business and increase engagement on your Tumblr blog is to actively encourage commenting. Although commenting isn’t native to Tumblr, it’s easy to implement via Disqus. Once Disqus is installed, commenting will be automatically enabled. In the absence of comments (there are many large ecommerce Tumblr blogs that don’t have commenting enabled), you’ll simply see “notes,” which is a list of all the people who have “liked” or reblogged your posts.

Although there’s much that can be said about effectively using Tumblr for your ecommerce business, the essential first step is deciding whether Tumblr is right for you. For businesses with access to high-quality, inspirational imagery, and the ability to post engaging, humorous, or pithy commentary, Tumblr can be an excellent addition to a solid marketing strategy.

Tier 3 Social Networks

Tier 3 is reserved for sites that are popular and interesting, but not particularly profitable for most people. With the right monetization strategy, a third-tier site can easily make the leap to a second- or top-tier social network.

reddit

reddit (yes, it’s a lowercase r) is a social link aggregation and discussion site, organized into topical communities that are self-organized and independently moderated. There are millions of visitors each day, and reddit has hosted Ask Me Anything interviews from many celebrities and a few politicians, including Barack Obama.

So it’s got a lot of traffic, a lot of users, and a lot of discussion. Sounds like a great place to be if you have something to sell, right? Not necessarily. You must be a member of reddit in order to advertise there. It isn’t difficult to create an account, but the targeting is not very good because there is little capacity for users to provide revealing demographic data about themselves. In general, ad results seem to be less than stellar for any product or service that doesn’t specifically appeal to self-described “geeks,” and redditors are generally hostile toward self-promotion of any kind. If you try to guerrilla market by posting links to your site or Facebook page or anything that looks remotely promotional, redditors will slap you down very, very hard.

If you have high-quality photos of some action shots of your products or related topics, you might host them on imgur (see imgur) and post links to appropriate photo-oriented subreddits (such as /r/pics or /r/earthporn). They must be valid photos in their own right, not just marketing materials. Even if you’re successful, it will be difficult or impossible to convert that attention into sales because reddit and imgur don’t provide an easy way to link to your site without it being called out as spam.

The only consistent, reliable, and ethical strategy for marketing on reddit that we’re aware of is giving away free products or samples on /r/freebies. Offer a certain number of free giveaway items or samples, and hope that your product appeals to some of the communities on reddit. If you’re successful, you might focus some reddit ads on the subreddits that find the freebies most appealing.

In general, reddit is a site you should be aware of and familiar with. If you want to try to participate there, you must give yourself some time to learn the site and the reddiquette before attempting to contribute any material related to your business.

Regardless of how you choose to participate, one thing you probably do not want to do is reveal your real name and contact information. If you become disfavored on reddit at some point in the future, this information can be used to terrorize and threaten you in person, over the phone, and certainly over the Internet. Women are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying on reddit, and should avoid revealing their name and gender when participating there. Doxxing, revealing another redditor’s real-life identity, is against reddiquette and hopefully will never happen to you.

imgur

imgur (yes, it’s all lowercase, like reddit) is a social photo-sharing site that offers community voting and commenting on pictures. It was originally created by a redditor who was fed up with spammy, limited, and slow free photo-sharing sites. For most of its existence, imgur has been closely associated with reddit, but it has reached the point where it offers much of reddit’s core functionality in terms of voting and commenting.

If you intend to have both a reddit and an imgur account, and you want to use imgur for photo hosting and sharing outside of reddit, then you should register different usernames on both sites. If you use the same username (or if you use the same username on reddit that you do on any other social network), then you risk revealing your identity and contact information.

imgur has few rules; you can post pretty much anything there privately, but if you share something publicly that is illegal or copyrighted by someone else, it can be reported and taken down.

While imgur is an interesting photo-sharing site with a lot of traffic, its content is mostly temporary and ephemeral, whereas Pinterest is about curating collections of high-quality images over time, and Instagram is much more personal and stylized. It could be a good social network if you’re planning to focus on viral photo content. Memes (pictures combined with words, in the style of Meme Generator and quick meme, and which we’ll cover in more detail later in this book), however, are best left to meme-generation sites.

Quora

Quora is a place to ask questions, and hopefully get responses from experts in the Quora community. It doesn’t offer much of a direct advertising benefit, but you can do a lot of inexpensive research here. If you’re trying to figure out what the most important questions and issues are for your as-yet-unreached prospects, Quora is an excellent place to start.

The community is pretty big, and includes a lot of tech celebrities. If your question doesn’t gain much traction on its own merit, you can pay a fee to try to get an expert to offer some comments.

It may also raise your professional profile to provide answers on Quora. You can make limited use of your Quora byline to mention your business or product; if your answers are highly ranked, everyone who reads that question will see your byline and your insightful response.

Instagram

While Pinterest focuses on collections of curated pictures uploaded and modified through a desktop computer, Instagram primarily relies on mobile devices with integrated cameras. That means that it tends to include more candid, less curated photos. Instagram has built-in photo filters, and restricts the picture size to a prescribed square size; you might find this entertaining or constricting, depending on your attitude toward photography and how you share it socially. Instagram is also a bit more one-directional than Pinterest; it’s much easier to share other people’s pins than it is to pass around someone’s Instagram posts.

Visual content has begun to dominate the Web. More and more people prefer visual content such as videos, images, and infographics to replace, or to break up, a wall of text—and for good reason. You can potentially communicate a lot more information in a shorter amount of time with one good picture than with a typical text-only company blog post. Instagram makes it incredibly easy for other users to share that graphical content, and thus increase your brand and product visibility online.

Once you have an account set up, here are some ideas to get you successfully started on converting visitors and leads with Instagram:

Showcase new products.
Providing visitors, leads, and customers with “sneak peeks” of your upcoming hot new products only on Instagram will give a sense of exclusivity (and who doesn’t like to feel like a VIP?). If you announce on your other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that you have a special new “sneak peek” announcement on Instagram, your Followers number is sure to increase.
Showcase current products.
Not only can Instagram enable you to show everyone how to use your product and showcase its features and benefits, but if you have some creative uses for your products, it’s ideal for sharing those as well. Keep an eye on your other social media sites to learn how customers are using your products, and share their ideas—and make sure you give those customers a shout-out on Instagram. That’s a great first step to creating a brand loyalist!
Give behind-the-scenes shots.
To take pictures of one’s company in action is to build trust among visitors, leads, and customers. Take snapshots of your employees having fun at work, packing and shipping orders, or receiving a new shipment of stock. Show everyone how you roll—Instagram allows you to engage people like never before.

These are just a few ideas for using Instagram to help build your business. No matter what images or themes you create on the site, however, be sure that you provide context for the images and include #hashtags to help categorize them as you’re posting.

Figure 1-3 shows how Converse creates brand loyalty with creative images on Instagram.

Converse’s Instagram page combines colorful pictures of shoes with art and flashy graphics
Figure 1-3. Converse’s Instagram page combines colorful pictures of shoes with art and flashy graphics

Niche Social Networks

In a few other chapters, we explain niche social networks and how to best use them. However, there may be niche social networks that we’ve never heard of, or that apply to your specific industry, product, or field. By all means, look for them!

For instance, if you are selling products or services for pets, there is Dogster and Catster. If you’re selling books, there is Goodreads, LibraryThing, RedRoom, and Shelfari. Are you selling products that appeal to artists? Then deviantART is the social network for you.

If you don’t know of any niche social networks for your industry, ask some of your colleagues or friendly competitors where they’re spending their time online.

If there aren’t any niche social networks in the modern sense—sites like Facebook, for instance (which used to be a niche social network for college students)—then there are probably forums and/or groups on larger sites. For instance, LinkedIn has many groups that people can join, each with its own discussions and events.

Summary

While you’ve probably heard of most of the social networks in this chapter, hopefully you learned something new about each in terms of how it can be useful to your business.

You probably also learned about a few lesser or niche social networks that could be useful to your overall social media strategy. There are a few more that we’ll discuss in other chapters, and some of the ones that we mentioned only quickly here will be explained later in the proper context.

In essence, this is Act One: we’ve introduced you to the characters. In the next chapter, we’ll frame the “problem” and how you might think about solving it.

Head over to the Social eCommerce site to post your burning questions to us authors, and for access to exclusive offers, discounts, and coupon codes on various social media tools and services.

To get exclusive access to instructional videos related to the concepts in the chapter, simply send a text with your email address to +1(213)947-9990 and prepare to have your mind blown!

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