On behalf of yourself and your business, you are not expected to maintain a presence on every popular social media platform in existence.
What matters is that:
- You select and utilize platforms that are relevant to your personality or client(s)
- You use platforms that are relevant to your target market(s)
- You can demonstrate an ability to make an impact on or through the platforms you use
Below are overviews of the social media platforms you are most likely to work with as a social media and community manager. We will keep our introductions short and instead focus on their primary uses from the perspective of someone representing a brand or company. Should you like more guidance on choosing appropriate platforms for each client, visit our guide to choosing social networks that attract your target market.
Being the world's largest social networking site (in terms of registered users), Facebook is an almost-mandatory platform on which most social media and community managers spend significant amounts of time.
Though many brands communicate with fans through Facebook pages, it should be noted that non-sponsored posts only reach 16% of a page's fans on average (in other words, don't invest too much time in a Facebook page; its reach is, by design, limited).
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Facebook
- To communicate with customers, clients, members, and followers who like to navigate the online world via Facebook (by providing information and updates through a company Facebook page)
- To interact with customers (via comment threads on status updates, shared links, images, videos and polls, as well as through private messages)
- For customer support (many customers send messages to companies' Facebook pages rather than through their on-site support channels)
- To establish a more cohesive culture for an online community, educating followers about the brand through unique and non-promotional content that sets a tone and represents a certain lifestyle
- To add a human touch to a brand through exclusive behind-the-scenes content
- To run contests or promotions (there are several services, such as OfferPop, that help companies run contests and promotions through Facebook pages and apps)
- To sell goods (it is possible to sell goods through apps attached to a company's Facebook page)
Though many brands view Twitter as a place to drop links (this is not what the platform was designed for), it is far more useful when regarded as a delayed chat service and forum for active dialogue.
- To reach customers even when they are not on their company's website or using its services
- To tap into discussions about their companies and brands in real time
- To live tweet events (e.g. TV shows, concerts, major events, etc.)
- To host chats related to their products, services, or communities
- To manage customer support queries and complaints
- To share important updates (e.g. to explain why a service is down and when it will be going back up, to announce new features and services, etc.)
- To conduct market research (by observing what people are saying not only about their company and products/services, but also what they are saying about competitors and the industry in general)
- To connect their brands to relevant news stories and hot topics
- To connect their brands with an influential celebrity (e.g. by tweeting a picture of a given celebrity with an employee when he or she visits a company's store, or by retweeting photos celebrities share in which their products make an appearance)
- To run collaborative promotions with other brands (e.g. challenges using a shared hashtag)
- To add a personal feel to a brand (which might have a pretty constrained website) through behind-the-scenes tweets and images
With regard to customer service, Twitter typically serves as a starting point that leads to additional troubleshooting conversations over email. Many customer support issues are not well-suited for public discussion.
Because it has become a significant source of traffic for many websites, Pinterest is not to be ignored. That said, it is not appropriate for everyone. A business offering technical support for air conditioners would have far less to gain from Pinterest than a fashion retailer or seller of geek gadgets.
You should seriously consider maintaining a presence on Twitter if your client or employer:
- Sells products (e.g. publications, gifts, clothing, designs) or services (e.g. interior design, hairstyling, cooking lessons)
- That have attractive visual components
- That would be of interest to adult female audiences
Should your client or employer have a lot of on-site content that is likely to be pinned, make sure that content accommodates rich pins and see our guide to creating Pinterest-optimized images.
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Pinterest
- To showcase products and services
- To drive sales (unlike with many other social networks, many people arrive at Pinterest intending to make a purchase)
- To educate online audiences about how to use their companies' products and services
- To conduct market research (e.g. investigate what inspires and interests Pinterest's community should it overlap with the company's target demographic)
- To search for trends relevant to their industries (especially if they are related to food, fashion, weddings, style, etc.)
- To establish a deeper connection with customers, clients, members, and followers by providing them with inspiration through well-curated Pinterest boards related to their companies' focus (e.g. a hat designing company might have boards to which they pin excellent outfits featuring hats, boards devoted to cool hats from other brands, etc.)
- To share visual guides, recipes, and infographics related to their companies' industries, products, and services
- To comment on content created by their companies that people have independently shared (one can see content posted from a given site by typing "http://pinterest.com/source/YourWebsiteDomainName.com/" into browser's URL bar)
While involvement on YouTube can be extremely time-consuming (planning, shooting, and editing video footage, no matter how informal it may be, is a time sink), it can also be quite fruitful, especially given how much traffic the site gets.
- To host videos externally rather than upload videos directly to their companies' websites (these videos need not even be listed in the company's YouTube channel)
- To make promotional videos (such as commercials or product demos) more accessible to the media and fans
- To share video tutorials and how-to guides
- To share behind-the-scenes videos and give audiences, customers, and clients the feeling that they have a deeper personal connection with their brands
- To post entertaining shorts (related to the solutions their companies provide) intended to build rapport with online audiences and draw in potential clients and customers
- To provide more information about contests and special promotions
- To offer coverage of events (e.g. conferences at which top executives speak, tradeshows at which the company has a major presence, etc.)
- To demonstrate expertise in various industries and establish their companies as the go-to brands to reach for commentary on specific subjects
- To share customer testimonials (often through a designated playlist)
- To post recorded Hangouts for later reference
Because a proper connection with Google+ may bring SEO benefits (which may become more significant over time), it is at least worthwhile to create a Google+ page for every brand you represent (should it not have one already) and connect that page properly with your client or employer's website.
Do not mistake a Google+ page as just another feed that needs updating. In addition to acting as an additional means through which brands can passively connect with followers through original content and links, Google+ offers a rich communication channel in the form of Hangouts, which make it possible to host live, face-to-face meetings with various groups of followers.
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Google+
- To gain better presentation in search results and through Gmail
- To give their companies additional annotations in their AdWords ads
- For internal company meetings (remote employees can be brought into a live conversation via Hangouts)
- To host Hangout-facilitated user testing sessions
- To host Hangout-facilitated in-depth interviews with customers for market research and product development
- To field questions and answers about new products and features via Hangouts
- To give fans, customers, and clients the opportunity to tour a company's offices and meet the staff via Hangouts
- To hold webinars via Hangouts on Air that are recorded and then posted to YouTube
- To broadcast live events via Hangouts on Air that followers can attend as a group
- To post updates on products and services
- To post behind-the-scenes content via photos and video
While some demographics are entirely absent on LinkedIn (merely using it as a place to host their online resumes) other demographics seem to only be present on the site. Whether it will be more appropriate as a placeholder or a place to actively engage with fans and followers depends entirely on your client or employer's target market.
- To maintain a company profile for the purpose of showcasing its various products and services
- To maintain a company profile that employees can link to from their own profiles
- To provide important updates through the company's LinkedIn profile
- To create and maintain LinkedIn groups
- To establish thought leadership through insightful status updates, links to relevant news stories, and links to content created by company employees providing interesting industry-related information
- To get on the radar of potential partners, clients, customers, and even competitors by leaving insightful comments on their status updates and shared content
- To drive internal morale-boosting campaigns by encouraging coworkers to leave kind recommendations for their colleagues
- To keep tabs on other companies within their industry
- To post job opportunities
Because LinkedIn has also grown to become a powerful recruiting and hiring tool, many social media and community managers are also teaching members of their clients' HR departments how to optimally use the site when hunting for new employees.
Like Pinterest, Instagram is good for companies with a strong visual component, and can also be a good platform for exploring and broadcasting a company culture that can be inserted into customers' personal feeds.
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Instagram
- To share behind-the-scenes photos
- To share sneak peeks of new products and features
- To post photos of their products in use
- To post photos of their services in action
- To post photos in line with a certain type of lifestyle of mindset with which their companies would like to be affiliated
Though not utilized by many businesses, Tumblr offers a fun hybrid between a traditional blog format (e.g. Blogger or WordPress), image-based formats (e.g. Pinterest and Instagram), and microblogging formats (e.g. Twitter) and may be particularly relevant for businesses tied in with fashion, pop culture, fan cultures, and music.
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Tumblr
- To share content related to their brands
- To answer questions from followers
- To share a lighter, more personal and informal side of a business that might come across as more buttoned up on other channels
- To reblog content from followers
- To accept and post content submitted by followers
- To share teasers for stories shown in-depth elsewhere (a very common practice amongst media companies with a presence on the platform)
- To share regularly-posted behind-the-scenes or product/service related photos that followers would likely find interesting
- To post short blog posts that might look anemic on traditional blogging platforms (but are perfectly appropriate for Tumblr)
Flickr only makes sense as a platform to companies that intend to upload a significant number of photos, but for those who do, the site can serve as an excellent branding tool.
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Flickr
- To host images for storage purposes (and so that any employee can get easy access)
- To give company-related images broader coverage by making them visible to the public
- To increase the odds that the company's brand name is mentioned on other sites (this can be done by giving images Creative Commons licenses, which enable others to use them so long as they name and link back to the source; Flickr makes it very easy to apply Creative Commons licenses to images and is a popular starting point for those looking for CC-licensed photos to use)
- To share behind-the-scenes images
- To showcase product images and product demo shots/videos
- To share photos and video of a relevant event, meeting, or conference
- To create groups to which community members can contribute photos
- To contribute images to existing photo groups (thus establishing a stronger relationship with the Flickr community)
One's business does not need to have a radio show to benefit from podcasts as a format, though effectively providing podcasts does require a significant and long-term time commitment (podcast series that get attention typically release new, high quality episodes on at least a weekly basis).
How Social Media and Community Managers Use Podcasts
- To summarize content shared by their company (an excellent example can be seen with the Stuff You Should Know podcast produced by HowStuffWorks.com)
- To syndicate radio shows previously shared across other channels through iTunes and other podcast listings
- To share audio transcripts from webinars
- To provide recorded guides and tutorials related to their companies' products or services
- To provide audio shows related to their industries to establish thought leadership
- To share interviews with company employees or key customers/clients/members
Blogger is the ultimate low maintenance platform for businesses that would like to set up a blog with a minimal amount of thought and effort.
- To publish posts on product, service, and feature updates
- To publish posts on what is happening behind the scenes at company headquarters
- To publish posts on community programs, promotions, and success stories
- To share insightful, detailed articles related to their industries to establish thought leadership
- To publish press releases (more and more companies are beginning to use blogs as fully-functional media centers)
WordPress is an ideal blogging platform for companies that either already run their sites using WordPress or want a bit more control and customization.
How Social Media and Community Managers Use WordPress
- See the above points for Blogger
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