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Social Media Landscape Review

Navigating the social media landscape is enough to make anyone’s head spin.  Where should you put your attention?  Is it smart, or even possible, to use everything that’s available?  Most importantly, which sites and tools are best for promoting your business, and which aren’t worth your time?  In an effort to answer these questions and more, we present the following review of the top social media sites.  This list breaks down which sites help with SEO, Site Traffic, Communicating with Customers, and Building Your Brand.

Twitter

What it’s good for:

Twitter is great for both customer communications and brand-building.  Using tools, such as HootSuite, CoTweet, and TwitJump, you can monitor keywords and keep an eye on what your customers are saying about you – and to you – and respond accordingly.  Twitter allows you to build your brand and stand out from the crowd by integrating your site with theirs in a way that allows your followers to interact with you in a viral way.

What it’s ok for:

You can definitely drive traffic to your site with Twitter, but there’s an art/science to it that requires a bit of a learning curve.  Do it wrong, and you’ll turn people off, having the opposite of your desired affect.  Tweets rank high in search results, so there is some SEO value with Twitter, but shortened URLs, which most people use due to the 140 character limitation, give you no benefit.

Facebook


What it’s good for:

Brand exposure and communicating with customers are both at the top of the list of why to use Facebook.  Using contests and giveaways in conjunction with a Facebook fan page is especially effective, and Facebook is great for giving your customers an opportunity to express their loyalty to your brand.  Facebook’s ad platform is an effective, inexpensive alternative to more costly advertising, and allows you to be super-targeted in your campaigns.

What it’s ok for:

You aren’t likely to see great numbers of unique site traffic from Facebook, but you can generate linkbacks with share buttons that will get passed virally, if done right.

What it’s not good for:

Facebook won’t do much to help your SEO efforts except possibly if blogs pick up your posts, but not too much time should be spent on Facebook trying to help SEO.  Your time is better spent in other ways.

LinkedIn

What it’s good for:

LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals.  As such, using it effectively can help you build your brand‘s professional presence.  If you have employees, get them to each create a LinkedIn profile to help build your company’s reputation.

What it’s ok for:

If you work it, LinkedIn can be good for connecting with customers.  Establish yourself as an expert by joining related groups and answering industry questions.  There are SEO opportunities with LinkedIn, as individual names and company names are sure to rank high in search engine results, but don’t expect to show for any other keywords as a result of your LinkedIn profiles.

What it’s not good for:

While you might get a small amount of traffic to your site from LinkedIn, this isn’t what it’s for.  Use it to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and spend your time elsewhere to get traffic.

YouTube

What it’s good for:

YouTube is fantastic for connecting with customers, SEO, and brand exposure.  Build a channel that either entertains, informs, or both, and you’ll create a loyal following.  If customers like what you post on YouTube, it will go viral, and nothing beats that for getting your name out there.  It’s also a great way to get conversations with customers and between customers going.  Because video results rank high, staying active on YouTube can boost SEO efforts.  You’ll get them to your video channel first, then link back to your site.

What it’s ok for:

Because the SEO benefits are in getting clicks to your videos, you’ll realize more video views than site traffic.  To maximize what you do get, include your site’s URL in the video descriptions and in the videos themselves.  But still don’t expect a flood of traffic.

flickr


What it’s good for:

flickr, an image sharing site owned by Yahoo!, is one of the least utilized SEO tools.  It helps your SEO in two ways: First, photos you upload are indexed toward the top of Google and Yahoo! image searches.  Secondly, flickr results are heavily indexed in search engines, often surpassing other links.

What it’s ok for:

If you tag photos properly, you can put a face to your company by posting pics of office goings-on, company events, and customer interactions, which can help you connect with customers.  It’s probably not worth spending a lot of time on this though.  Thousands of flickr groups include industry groups where you can expect a limited amount of brand-building opportunity.

What it’s not good for:

flickr will not drive any significant traffic to your site.  Click-through rates are notoriously low, even if you get a lot of hits on your images.

del.icio.us


What it’s good for:

When your site is bookmarked on Delicious, it links directly back to your site, which can be a big help for SEO purposes.  This is especially helpful while you’re on the front page of the site.  The key is to get listed often by loyal followers. (Hint: Yet another reason you need to have a blog.)

What it’s ok for:

As “the biggest collection of bookmarks in the universe,” Delicious can drive some traffic to your site.  These will, for the most part, be return visitors vs. unique clicks, but given the alternative, we’ll take it.

What it’s not good for:

While you’re able to see what people are tagging with your brand name, you aren’t able to communicate with them, so Delicious does nothing for customer communications.  Delicious also doesn’t do much for branding, as you aren’t in front of enough people long enough to make an impact.

StumbleUpon


What it’s good for:

Especially if your blog post, video, or article makes it to the top page for its tag, StumbleUpon is great for SEO.  With a user base in the millions, there are plenty of opportunities to have people find your stuff and link to you, as well, so it’s also good for driving traffic to your site.

What it’s ok for:

StumbleUpon has a paid campaign option which can be effective for boosting brand recognition.  You’ll pay $.05 per click ($50/1000) and can set limits on daily clicks, from 100 to 25,000.  With their targeting options, it can pay off, but it can get pretty expensive too, so weigh the cost/benefit against your goals.

What it’s not good for:

While you’re communicating your marketing message with a paid campaign, it’s strictly one-way, and it’s difficult to measure whether you’re reaching existing customers.  For these reasons, StumbleUpon is not good for connecting with customers beyond advertising.

So what’s the bottom line on the social media landscape?  No single solution exists that will give you everything you need, but by combining several or all of theses sites and tools, you can significantly impact your bottom line.  While these aren’t the only possible tools in your social media bag, this should give you a good start.  Other tools to consider learning more about are digg, reddit, and the up-and-coming Google Buzz and Foursquare.  If it all seems overwhelming, don’t worry.  Just focus on a couple at a time until you’re comfortable, then add to or re-focus your efforts to optimize your time and attention.  If you have other helpful tips and suggestions, share with others in the comments below.

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