There are over 500 social media platforms on the web today, give or take a few. No one knows the exact number for sure. It's totally unrealistic to think that you can (or should) join all of these social networks, unless you have an inordinate amount of time on your hands. Thus, you should know which social media sites are worth your time and effort. Here's your guide to choosing the right ones.
Social Media Domination Tips
- Choose Five. You should pick a minimum of five social media platforms to join. First, join the four listed below. Then, you can choose at least one niche site, as relevant to your needs and industry.
- Choose Big. The bigger the social site, the better it will serve your needs. There are well over a billion social media users on the planet. You'll never have a billion connections, nor do you need that many. In order to maximize the benefit of investing time in social networks, however, it's smart to choose the big ones. These will provide the greatest reach, to help you get what you want and need from a network presence.
- Choose Niche. Although big is good, there is also value to being part of a niche social media site. For example, there are 1,748,365 members on the social networking site, VampireFreaks.com. Should you join? Only if you consider yourself a Goth/Industrial fan. This is a niche site, serving a subculture. Unless you are part of that subculture, the site will be of little use to you. Instead, focus on a niche site that provides you the networking opportunities directly in line with your occupation, lifestyle, or hobby.
The Four Social Must-Joins
I consider the following four sites to be important for the best social media presence. Each one is distinct, and has its own unique advantages. Each one is large. And each one provides a great blend of social interaction and tools.
- Facebook. Mark Zuckerburg's brainchild and rise to stardom is a familiar tale. Now, Facebook reigns supreme as the preeminent social network. With over 1 billion users (though more than 8% are fake), Facebook is a critical part of our connected culture.
- Twitter. Those who are not part of Twitter "don't get it," thinking it's supposed to be some sort of second Facebook. Part of Twitter's distinctiveness is its simplicity, though its simplicity is somewhat deceiving. Twitter has successfully embedded the phrase "140 characters or less" into common parlance, but the impact of this microblogging platform is vast. Even, dare we say, revolutionary? Twitter is important for establishing your voice of authority within your industry.
- LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the ultimate professional network. LinkedIn overtly caters to the workforce, as opposed to teens or hobbyists. To gain an online record of your professional progress and achievements, LinkedIn is the answer.
- Google+. Google+ is on a meteoric rise to place it at the forefront of social networking. That's kind of how Google rolls. Already, one's presence on Google+ translates into improved personal branding, higher SERP results, and overall good feelings. This network is something you need to join.
Joining a social network is not optional for today's Internet worker. It's an important part of being present in the workforce and contributing in a valuable way. Your current job, any future jobs, and success at your present task have a lot to do with how connected you are to a network. If you aren't on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+, now is the time to get active.
Niche Social Media Sites
But beyond these common-knowledge networks, there are others. The social media experts know that a truly robust online presence must go beyond common knowledge. Here is a list of seven social networks that will help to enhance your online presence, professionalism, and reputation.
Who it's for: any professional
In a day of the dwindling endurance of paper business cards, most professionals need a digital alternative. About.me is as good as it gets. About.me provides a scaled-down version of LinkedIn, while allowing users to create their professional presence in an easily-accessible presentation. It's easy to set up an account, and doesn't require much management. About.me also does very well in the search engines, giving you higher SEO results when people Google your name.
Who it's for: Anyone interested in goal-setting
If you've ever made a goal and been sidetracked from it — which would be 99.93% of the human race — than you'll connect with the idea behind 43Things. Their premise is simple: "Changing your life is hard. Doing it by yourself is harder." Thus, 43Things introduces the social power of goal-setting.
Who it's for: graphic designers, web designer, illustrators, photographers, artists
Behance provides a broader exposure for visual creatives. In this social network, artists can post online portfolios, and encourage discussion. The site is surprisingly simple, which helps to focus attention and interaction upon an artist's work. It's the perfect place to keep a collection of your website designs.
Who it's for: Professionals who present information, marketers, managers
Have you ever wondered why you spend so much time and effort on a PowerPoint presentation, only to have it last for a short meeting? Slideshare allows you to save your slideshows, and allow others to learn from them. Saving your slideshows and presentations for public access is a great way to bolster your reputation as a thought leader, and to demonstrate your value. Slideshare also integrates with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social sites.
Who it's for: anyone who wants to find answers or provide them
Quora is the leading Q&A site. Based on your interests and social network, it provides you with relevant questions and answers. Self-labelled as the "best source of knowledge," Quora crowd-sources answers to user's questions. It's a helpful places to not only get answers, but also to give them, thus demonstrating your own expertise in a particular niche.
Who it's for: people seeking answers, marketers, advertisers
Another Q&A site is ChaCha, which functions via test messages, mobile apps, and the website. ChaCha is primarily a search engine, but it provides moderation and answers to questions in such a way that gives the site unique value. By becoming "guides," many marketers and advertisers have been able to gain better inroads with their target audience.
Think of StatusNet as a Twitter alternative that you can make yourself. It's a free and open source written in PHP that you can install on your own network or website. The idea behind StatusNet is simple — to help people announce their status among their social network. It's customizability and portability is one of its greatest advantages.
What other lesser-known social networks have you found to be useful?