Note: the following is a guest post from expert researcher and freelance writer Heather Johnson on how businesses can effectively use social media as a component of PR efforts, and efficiently focus their efforts on the most productive sites.
Social media sites, no longer relegated to just teens and college students, are now the most cost-effective way for a company to drum up international attention. In fact, social networking serves as a great equalizer for small businesses, as anyone with an Internet connection can now launch a successful, global marketing campaign.
With so many sites to choose from, however, one can easily become overwhelmed. Small businesses have neither the time nor the manpower to cover every major site. Instead, it is best to strongly focus on several and then let the viral nature of social media take over.
Below, I have listed the five best social media sites for small businesses, as well as related tips for each one.
1. StumbleUpon - A recent post cited StumbleUpon as the best social media site for driving B2B Web traffic. Indeed, it is currently the reigning champ for promoting many types of Websites. Not only it is easier to gain attention on StumbleUpon than many other bookmarking sites, the tail of traffic is much longer.
Tip: After your business is "discovered" on StumbleUpon, give your site a little boost by starting a StumbleUpon ad campaign. For just 5 cents a visitor, you can drive a specifically targeted audience to your businesses' homepage.
2. Twitter – Twitter is a great way for business owners to network at their own convenience. With this tool, you have 140 characters to answer the question, "What are you doing?" People on your Twitter friends list will see each of your posts (aka "tweets"), which can be used to promote new ideas and features for your business.
Tip: Don't promote your site with every tweet, lest you become labeled a spammer. Point out other sites that interest you or something amusing that is really affecting you that day. With those tweets, you can sprinkle in a link to your latest blog entry or a special feature offered by the company.
3. LinkedIn – Everyone is truly connected in the business world and LinkedIn offers a way to visualize this massive network. By starting a professional profile on this site, you will be able to add real-world business contacts to your friends list, as well as the contacts of those people. And so on.
Tip: According to Guy Kawasaki, those with 20 or more connections on LinkedIn are 34 times more likely to be approached about business opportunities through the site.
4. Wikipedia – It is a boon to your small business to be mentioned on Wikipedia. The site's many entries are highly ranked in Google and read by millions each day. One caveat: Wikipedia editors can be ruthless about removing external links from the site, so it isn't an easy feat to make your small business "stick."
Tip: Before you go bounding for the world's largest wiki and adding a link to your business, start an account with the site and become active for a few weeks. Only after you educate yourself on how to contribute to Wikipedia should you attempt to start your own page. This will increase your chances of remaining on the site.
5. Wetpaint – Wikipedia isn't the only wiki on the map. With Wetpaint, you can create your company's own wiki for free. This wiki platform is attractive and easy to create. A "What You See is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editor, even technical novices can customize the site, upload articles and widgets, etc. No programming knowledge required.
Tip: What Wetpaint offers is a way to get direct feedback from customers, as well as high Google ranking. If you don't want the public to edit the pages on your Wetpaint site, as administrator you can lock each one.
Rather than starting a blog and tirelessly plugging your entries on Digg or Reddit, you should use the sites above to create long-term business contacts and continuous traffic. These five sites require less commitment and cost little to no money for a successful marketing campaign. Small businesses will truly be on an even playing field.
Heather Johnson is a freelance business, finance and economics writer, as well as a regular contributor at Business Credit Cards, a site for best business credit cards and best business credit card offers. Heather welcomes comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom