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Dividing Social Media into Channels

The phrase social media marketing applies to the use of two-way, online communication for relationship marketing ― a topic you already know about. Social media channels, which are categories within social media, make innovative use of new online technologies to accomplish various familiar communication and marketing goals. Within a channel, you usually find several types of social media services.

The channels in the following list have fuzzy boundaries. They may overlap, and some sites can be classified in multiple channels (for example, some social networks and communities allow participants to share photos and may include blogs):

  • Social content sharing: The services in this channel facilitate posting and commenting on text, video, photos, podcasts (audio), and other types of multimedia:

    • Blogs for letting readers easily post their own opinions or reactions to your content

    • YouTube, Vimeo, and Ustream for video sharing

    • Sites such as Flickr or Picasa for photo sharing

    • Audio sharing for lectures, music, plays, and interviews on sites such as Podcast Alley and BlogTalk Radio

    • Other media sharing sites, such as Slideshare

  • Social networking: Originally developed to facilitate the exchange of personal information (messages, photos, video, and audio) to groups of friends and family, these full-featured services encourage participants to interact with others who share their interests or objectives. From a business point of view, many networks support internal groups with the potential for targeted marketing:

    • Full networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, or myYearbook, which facilitate communication between customers and companies. Squishable, a company that markets giant, plush stuffed animals, uses Facebook to interact with its customers via weekly contests.

    • Microblogging (short message) networks such as Plurk or Twitter. Liberty Bay Books, an independent community bookstore, uses its Twitter account to provide information about its products and to promote events.

    • Professional networks such as LinkedIn and Plaxo. These B2B social networks are used primarily for establishing expertise, obtaining referrals to vendors and partners, making introductions to dealmakers, hiring, job searching, and acquiring sales leads, not for direct sales.

    • Other specialty networks within vertical industry sectors, demographic segments such as Bebo for college students, or activity clusters, such as Xfire for gaming.

  • Social bookmarking: Similar to private bookmarks for your favorite sites on your computer, social bookmark services are publicly viewable lists of sites that other people have recommended:

    • StumbleUpon, Delicious

    • Social shopping sites such as Kaboodle and ThisNext

    • Other bookmarking sites organized by topic or application, such as book recommendation sites

  • Social news: These peer-based services recommend articles from news sites, blogs, or web pages, and users often “vote” on the value of the postings.

    • Digg, Reddit

    • Other news sites

  • Social geolocation and meetups: For a change, these services bring people together in real space instead of in cyberspace:

    • Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla

    • Other GPS (global positioning system) applications, many of which operate on smartphones and tablets

    • Meet-ups and tweet-ups

  • Community building: Text-intensive, comment-sharing sites, usually devoted to a particular area of interest, have been around the online world for several decades. Sites offering forums, message boards, chat rooms, Yahoo! Groups, and Google Groups were social media long before the world made up a name for it.

    In the “olden days” of the web — say, ten years ago — sharing was generally limited to text with an occasional photo. The explosion of multimedia content, better production tools, faster transmission speeds, and greater bandwidth enabled the rapid proliferation of social media channels. This channel also includes

    • Ning, a community-building site with multiple sharing features

    • Wikis, such as Wikipedia, for group-sourced content

    • Review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Epinions

Use Quantcast or Alexa to research the demographics of social media services, just as you do to profile your competitors.

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