Top 10 Social Networking Sites for Businesses

Social networks have become increasingly important to both individuals and businesses in recent years, as they’ve drastically impacted the way we communicate and share information. Businesses in particular have benefitted from social networks as they offer new ways to inform users of their products, as well as opportunities for drumming up strong word-of-mouth recommendations.

With the vast array of specialist social networks out there, it can be hard to pinpoint the right ones to start marketing your business, but there are a few key outlets where it can be best to press the flesh.

Facebook

Currently the go-to for friendships online, Palo Alto, California-based Facebook has become nearly synonymous with the term ‘social network’ – even Hollywood thinks so! It seems Facebook has long outgrown its ‘phenomenon’ status and looks to be a force to be reckoned with in social marketing for years to come. And it makes sense: Businesses are welcomed to set up ‘Fan’ pages for their subsidiaries and products, making it easier to contact the nearly 600 million Facebook users online.

In addition, Facebook has expanded its reach steadily, and now offers ‘social plug-ins’ allowing web browsers to ‘Like’ things on corporate websites, which can be reflected to a user’s Facebook profile, as well as the new Facebook Places feature, a geographically-based system offering rewards for visiting businesses.

Twitter

Twitter offers nearly instantaneous exposure to a wide user base approaching 200 million. Users of the site ‘Tweet’ messages 140 characters in length or less, which are immediately posted to their friends and connections on the site. Messages can easily be spread by ‘Retweeting’ – or reposting – a message, making it easy to multiply your audience exponentially in a matter of seconds.

The service has also recently become an even more lucrative marketing tool for businesses by its Promoted Tweets, which can put announcements about products more prominently in search results pages on the site.

Foursquare

Though social media big dogs Facebook have recently jumped on the location-based bandwagon, it’s smaller start-up Foursquare who basically refined the concept to profitability. Under the Foursquare system, subscribers can ‘check in’ to local businesses when they visit. Over time, check ins are tallied and the individual with the most check ins is crowned ‘mayor’ of the destination, whether it be a restaurant, shop or beauty salon.

Businesses can choose to offer special offers to mayors of their establishments, which are determined at regular intervals, so that more customers can share the title over time. In addition, many businesses also offer incentives merely for checking in, including money off purchases.

StumbleUpon

Social bookmarking is another function supplementing the widespread use of social networks. With StumbleUpon, users can basically channel-surf the internet, finding news stories and web pages relevant to their interests. Users are then encouraged to ‘stumble’ these articles, recommending them to friends in their network.

Using the interests of their members, StumbleUpon can be great for delivering targeted ad campaigns, meaning display ads won’t be wasted on those who may not have any interest in particular products.

YouTube

YouTube, the ubiquitous online video streaming service, offers users the chance to view visual media of their choosing, also incorporating small advertisements into its interface. The benefits for business can be two-fold: Traditionalists may wish to feature advertising on videos relevant to their products, but more intrepid users of the platform could also choose to upload product demonstrations, testimonials and how-tos for consumers to reference when considering a purchase.

MySpace

Once the king of the hill of the social media scene, Tom and Co have taken a bit of a hit in recent years, but remain a top dog when it comes to streaming music. Many musical groups and artists still rely heavily on MySpace to connect with their fans, presenting a great opportunity to market products in related fields. And, while it gears up for a major redesign, it’s not yet time to count out this venerable contender in the social media market.

Digg

Another social bookmarking utility site, Digg allows users to browse news feeds and offers easy integration with Facebook. Users of Digg rate stories, ‘digging’ them in a fashion similar to liking something on Facebook, and can browse for material according to their own specific tastes, allowing targeted advertising techniques. While the main site’s recent refurbishment has been met with a lukewarm reception, Digg has recently announced potential reintegration of older features in a bid to keep its foothold in the market.

Bebo

Though it’s experienced its fair share of turmoil in the past few years – a marriage with AOL saw it neglected and falling into disrepair – a recent change of ownership could provide reinvigoration to the social media site that was once a top contender in the UK market. Bebo still proves very popular with younger users as it integrates several instant messaging programmes into its interface.

Orkut

Google’s own social media site has had very limited success in the Western world, but has been a runaway hit in developing markets such as Brazil and India. Orkut’s community of over 100 million users worldwide can create specific groups for their interests through the site, and by being overseen by top dogs in advertising Google, businesses can market their products to like-minded individuals in the emerging markets where Orkut popularity remains strong.

Windows Live

Taking advantage of the sheer number of people using Microsoft’s web products, such as Bing, Messenger and Hotmail, the tech giant has incorporated profile pages for its registered users, creating a network of millions of users worldwide. While not a service to rival leaders Facebook – it actually works hand-in-hand with the ubiquitous social site – Windows Live still has the potential to reach a fair number of web users, and lies in the hands of another major internet advertising player, Microsoft.

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