Setting the Virtual Stage for Online Business Success

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

There are four core social media platforms, or channels, that are considered responsible for helping prove social media is about more than sharing pictures of your last meal or sounding off with political rants. These include:

Some of these are better suited for promoting an online business as opposed to serving as a vehicle for the business, but all of them play a role in social commerce. In addition to this core group of platforms, several others are also important. For now, just know these platforms also have lots of social currency for a niche business:

By the way, almost all of these social media sites had humble beginnings. Facebook was founded by college kids living on campus, LinkedIn was started in someone’s living room, and Twitter got its start in a small apartment. (Former PayPal executives developed YouTube, so it had a slight leg up as a social media start-up.) Like other (now) giant technology companies born out of garages, spare bedrooms, and college dorms, social networking sites and online communities are experiencing the same opportunities for growth.

Facebook

You are likely familiar with Facebook, the granddaddy of all social media platforms. The public company is now worth billions.

Since its founding, Facebook has bought other share-worthy social sites and applications, including Instagram (a photo-sharing app) for $1 billion, Oculus (a virtual reality company) for $2 billion, and WhatsApp (a mobile communications app) for $19 billion. Today, Instagram has moved beyond its filtered, photo sharing roots to serve as a launch pad for online “Insty” businesses.

LinkedIn

Another of the core social media platforms, LinkedIn, has found great financial success, too. The career- and business-focused social networking platform was the first social media site to go public. Its stocks have performed consistently well, and Microsoft recently acquired it for over $26 billion!

LinkedIn first became known as an advanced career site, a place to network and find new jobs. Because it is based on forming connections with existing contacts and then expanding your circle by asking for introductions to others, LinkedIn has a reputation as being a modern Rolodex for the social-savvy salesperson.

You can also publish and share articles to your network and can participate in “groups” to share ideas and meet others as a way to expand your network. LinkedIn isn’t the ideal social media platform to build a business from, but it is an excellent platform to promote your business.

Twitter

Next up on the list is Twitter, a popular platform that encourages you to follow people you may not know to expand your network (whereas Facebook and LinkedIn are more focused on connecting with people already in your personal or professional network).

Based on the concept of openly sharing information (called “tweets”) in 140 characters or less, Twitter is often the go-to social network for sharing current events, news, and opinions on celebrities, politics, pop culture, and sporting and entertainment events (such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars). Because tweets are shared openly in real-time, you can see trending topics nationwide, and even worldwide.

Even though it’s proven to be a popular platform, Twitter has had a more difficult time boosting new user growth and maintaining its financial worth. Following in the footsteps of its peers, the company went public in 2013, trading at per share highs of more than $70; but recent stock prices are hovering at near-record lows of $17 per share.

Even so, Twitter has had its good moments, and several companies are rumored to be interested in purchasing the company for a hefty sum of money. Twitter also owns the mobile video-sharing app, Vine. Twitter announced it was shutting down the mobile Vine app for users, which prevents new vines from being created. However, Twitter plans to potentially preserve much of the existing short, micro-style videos that people had created and making that content available on a new website. It’s possible that the world hasn’t seen the last of Vine videos yet, so be aware of it — but understand it’s a turbulent social video platform.

YouTube

You may not consider YouTube as a social media platform, but it is truly a powerful social network, and one that has launched many Internet celebrities and online entrepreneurs. YouTube videos are seen by more people ages 18 to 49 years old than any cable television station in the United States. Owned by Google (the company paid $1.65 billion for it, less than a year after it launched), YouTube is a video-sharing network that is equally influential in search engine optimization (SEO). If done well, videos on YouTube can send a lot of organic traffic to your website!