In the past few years, the use of social media in the channel has grown at an incredible rate. No-one could have predicted that astoundingly successful sites such as Twitter or Facebook would have the potential to become invaluable marketing tools for businesses of any size.
Today, the problems with online engagement lie not in lack of use – many major channel players now employ a dedicated team within their marketing department – but in developing a strategy that really works.
Balance truly is key. While too many tweets can surely only lead to a drop in followers, sporadic updates leave both partners and clients feeling stranded.
To make matters even more complicated, the number of popular sites continues to grow. Here, we outline the pros and cons of utilising the social media platforms and tools that enable firms to transform their online presence.
A – Addvocate
The first service on our list is one of the most intriguing concepts of recent years. An employee advocacy platform designed to boost relationships with clients and colleagues alike, Addvocate provides an overview of each team member’s social media activity.
B – Blogger
If used correctly, blogging can be a great way of keeping customers in the loop with newsletters and updates too lengthy for a Facebook post. Blogger pages are free (though domain names can be purchased) and customisable, but work best when they are linked with the company’s main site and other social media accounts.
C – CircleCount
Any service that endeavours to streamline effective social engagement ought to be welcomed and CircleCount is no exception. A must for Google+ users, this dedicated tool is designed to track ‘circles’, post performance and engagement.
D – Digg
With the growth of citizen journalism and live reporting through tweets, the internet has changed the way we consume news. Digg seeks to recognise these developments, combining an online community with trending topics to highlight the biggest stories of the day across the web. By posting content and building a follower list, the website allows firms to tap into their target market.
E – Everypost
In an industry that is constantly evolving, apps that enable the user to post company updates to several sites simultaneously are indispensable. But beware of becoming too reliant on Everypost – your followers will swiftly take note if the same content is regularly being repeated across the board.
F – Facebook
Although Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking service was originally intended for personal use, the site is now one of the major online engagement tools for business. With 1.23 billion monthly users worldwide, constant developments in profile functionality and a variety of ways to reach out to consumers, Facebook allows channel firms to interact with partners and clients on a massive scale.
The key to a successful Facebook campaign is tailored content, as load-balancing specialist Kemp Technologies demonstrates with engaging posts and live event reportage.
G – Google+
Google is unstoppable. As if being the number one search engine and conquering email wasn’t enough, the multinational, multibillion-dollar corporation is also a market leader for social networking with Google+.
With more than 48,000 views on its account, cloud specialist UKFast sets the industry bar high with integrated posts and targeted connection circles. Although the platform continues to grow, however, it is certainly worth noting that Facebook users still outnumber those who use Google+ by millions.
H – Hootsuite
For marketing gurus in the channel who feel confident about their current strategy and are keen to find a new way to analyse the raw data, Hootsuite is a great place to start.
Its pro package enables firms to plan and stagger updates, manage activity across several platforms at once and produce reports. However, among comprehensive social media monitoring packages, SDL still leads the way.
I – Instagram
As is the case with the other major platforms, Instagram's popularity exploded in a surprisingly short space of time – thanks, in part, to Facebook's acquisition of the company in 2012. It is easy to see the appeal of a social photo-and-video-sharing site for the individual user, but arguably less so for the marketing professional in the channel.
By all means experiment with Instagram – the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience should not be missed – but do take care to assess whether or not an image-heavy service is right for your organisation.
J – Jelly
Released in January 2014, Jelly is yet another creative social-engagement service from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. This image-based app, which allows users to pose a question to their connections on Twitter or Facebook, is a fantastic way to improve customer engagement.
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K – Klout
Although the web is awash with social media analytics tools, this service is notable for assigning users a ‘Klout score’ – this is a number between one and 100 that reflects the effectiveness of their online marketing campaign.
L – LinkedIn
This website is responsible for revolutionising the way many professionals communicate online. Almost everyone can benefit from having a carefully managed LinkedIn profile. While companies can keep partners and clients happy with regular updates, individuals can build an online CV with direct endorsements from former colleagues.
London-based B2B digital marketing agency, TopLine Communications, demonstrates how it’s done with its SEO-friendly profile, which clearly outlines its services.
M – MySpace
Although MySpace has progressed considerably from an HTML haven, reserved almost entirely for the profiles of teens and bands, the website is still generally geared towards professionals in the entertainment industry.
N – Newsle
Recently acquired by LinkedIn, this social tool shows real promise. The site notifies users whenever their connections are mentioned in a news article, providing a new way to stay updated.
O – oneQube
This monitoring tool has a number of useful functions, including comprehensive hashtag tracking and a single social dashboard.
P – Pinterest
Like Instagram, this popular platform isn’t suitable as a marketing tool for every business. However, if you’re tempted to rule out social mood boards completely, perhaps Pinterest’s incredible potential to drive referral traffic will change your mind. Last year, the website beat Twitter in total overall visitor share, making it second only to Facebook.
Q – Quora
As we have seen with Jelly, a Q&A platform is ideal for marketing. Quora is one of the most successful sites of its kind and boasts a huge community.
R – Reddit
The self-proclaimed ‘front page of the internet’ is a thriving, user-driven social news platform, made up of thousands of small communities, or ‘sub-reddits’. For technology giants such as Microsoft, Reddit has already proven its worth as a means of generating feedback. However, the website isn’t for everyone – the basic design and sheer volume of pages could deter clients from joining the debate.
S – Solaborate
Similar to LinkedIn, but exclusively for technology professionals, Solaborate is a free service that is as versatile as the industry itself. Labinot Bytyqi’s networking platform allows like-minded users to connect, with video-chat capabilities, product demos and categorised firms and services.
T – Twitter
With more than 200 million monthly users, this leading micro-blogging platform provides a unique social engagement opportunity. Twitter forces companies to fine-tune their message – after all, the most successful marketing teams regard the 140-character limit as a challenge, not a hindrance.
B2B distributor Avnet Technology Solutions set a fine example on its UK account with a mixture of links to relevant reports, debates and proactive use of hashtags and questions.
U – Unified
Designed with engagement optimisation and increased return on investment (ROI) in mind, Unified is a publishing, management and analytics social operating platform that aims to bring a team together.
V – Vine
Although this platform has seen some brands getting creative with their strategies, a six-second video may be unsuitable for many channel firms. But, like Twitter, it’s worth rising to the challenge.
W – Wordpress
For a highly customisable site builder with a professional look, Wordpress is one of the best options out there. However, while its open-source framework can simplify the process, it can also leave company blogs vulnerable to security breaches.
X – Xing
A year after LinkedIn launched in 2002, Xing emerged as a potential rival. While Xing allows users substantial control over their page, LinkedIn remains the clear winner with millions more users across the globe.
Y – YouTube
Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has become the first stop for user-generated content. Every day, vloggers and corporations alike upload hours of footage for a potential audience of millions.
Both YouTube and technology has come a long way since the first upload, and generating content gives channel firms, such as Logicalis, an outlet for demonstrating new developments. On its account, the solutions and service provider offers insightful videos that are both well-produced and easily accessible to clients.
Z – Zapier
The last tool on our list is undoubtedly one of the most useful. Seamlessly integrating more than 300 applications, including Twitter, Evernote and Soundcloud, Zapier enables users to automate everyday tasks – such as creating calendar events from notes – that would otherwise be time-consuming. An absolute must for anyone with an extensive to-do list.