Meet the Platforms: A Quick Overview of the Top Social Media Sites

With so many social networks taking up popular bandwidth, it can be difficult to keep up, or frankly, even know where to start. It can be overwhelming to have a grasp on so many platforms at once, especially when they’re always changing. Through this overview of the top social media platforms, we hope you’ll come away a bit more knowledgeable and empowered.

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Pinterest
  5. Instagram
  6. Vine
  7. YouTube
  8. Reddit
  9. Foursquare
  10. Snapchat
  11. Yelp
  12. Google My Business


The Power of the Crowd Growing Your Influence on Facebook

What Is It?

Facebook has held the title for the most-used social media network for the past several years. A site that started out as a network for college students has become the most popular platform for multiple generations.

In January 2013, Facebook announced a new functionality called Graph Search. Using Graph Search, people can search Facebook data for businesses and brands that their friends like. This new functionality makes Facebook a new type of review site and increases the need for brands to build a following and engagement on their Facebook brand pages.

How Does It Work?

Facebook has personal profiles, groups and business pages. For a location, business pages will be the most effective. Business pages let you connect with current and potential customers, increase your following, nurture your audience, and show up as a rated location in Facebook search results.

[bctt tweet=”Facbook business pages let you connect with current and potential customers”]

How Can I Use It?

Of all the social media networks, Facebook is the most all-purpose tool of the set. You can use it to do a variety of things, such as share content, promote events, advertise your page, create apps and advertise special offers.

Along with their normal post and offer types, Facebook has an event post type. For grand openings, campaigns, community events or other specific dates, events can encourage people to take their engagement offline and in the store.

One of Facebook’s most powerful features is its ad management tool. With the robust ad manager, you can grow your following, sponsor a post, or even send people to your website and track whether they filled out a form. They make it easy for businesses to advertise whether they are beginners or advanced advertisers.  

Key benefit: Foundational platform for local social media

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Post updates, links, images and videos
  • Share content from other social networks such as Instagram, Vine and YouTube
  • Set up and promote events
  • Increase your audience through like campaigns
  • Reach specific demographics based on age, gender, location, interest, schooling and other parameters


140 Characters Effectively Communicating on Twitter

What Is It?

Twitter is a short-form communication platform. Each tweet, or post, can only be 140 characters long.

How Does It Work?

On Twitter, you can share images, videos and links, or just a sentence or two. Some have said Twitter’s strength is the flexibility to connect with anyone, even calling it the “cocktail party of the internet”. That means it can be a useful tool for generating new customers and leads.

How Can I Use It?

For a local business, Twitter could be the most difficult platform to weigh success. However, Twitter can help build brand awareness and the conversation about your business. Many customers go to Twitter first when voicing their complaints or sharing a negative brand experience.

[bctt tweet=”Twitter can help build awareness about your business”]

Because tweets are continually being posted and the lifespan of a tweet is only about 18 minutes, you need to be on top of what’s being shared. You also should be tweeting on a consistent basis to stay top-of-mind on other people’s news feeds.

You can also connect with and follow influencers in your industry. Consistently sharing their content, known as “retweeting,” is a great way to build authority in a specific area and to encourage influencers to do the same for your tweets.

Key benefit: Tight-Knit community and lead-generation platform

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Tweet interesting links about your main subject
  • Follow industry leaders
  • Retweet what they’re sharing
  • Post images with a quick comment
  • Favorite other people’s tweets
  • Engage in conversations with other people online


Not Only Business Connecting with Professionals on LinkedIn

What Is It?

LinkedIn is the platform for business professionals to connect to and follow other people in their network. It is also a place to stay up to date on companies, business trends, groups/organizations and corporate thought leaders.

How Does It Work?

LinkedIn, like Facebook, has personal profiles, groups and pages. Personal pages are for individuals, while pages are for businesses or universities.

How Can I Use It?

A LinkedIn company page can serve as the professional social space for your company. Your LinkedIn business page will be most visited by potential partners, franchisees and employees to review your business. Providing industry-focused information, updates and announcements will build up your company expertise and increase opportunities for well-qualified leads.

One disclaimer: LinkedIn works well for the brand as a whole or a small business. But LinkedIn doesn’t have any pages for multiple locations under a single brand. Due to this, most brands don’t create location- and address-specific LinkedIn pages.  

[bctt tweet=”LinkedIn works well for the brand as a whole or a small business”]

Feel free to participate with your personal page in relevant groups, but don’t overemphasize “selling” products and services. Promote yourself too much, and they’ll kick you out of the group. Answering questions and participating in the discussions will earn you credibility and encourage people to talk with you about the questions you’re answering.

Key benefit: Professionally focused platform

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Connect with people on your personal page as the owner of the franchise location
  • Post company- and industry-related content to your specific company page
  • Engage in relevant groups without being “salesy”


Ideas and Inspiration Creating Boards on Pinterest

What Is It?

Pinterest is an idea and information-sharing platform based around imagery.

How Does It Work?

Let’s say you want to create a board about coffee. After creating an account, you’d pick an article with an image or an image that you want to share and “pin” it to a board. If you name your board “The Java Jive,” you can pin enticing pictures of coffee and coffee-making tips on this board.

Understand that you have to share an image. If you have an article or a quote to share but there is no image attached, Pinterest won’t work.

How Can I Use It?

Pinterest is a great way to build awareness of your business and reach a new audience through viral content. You can use it to showcase the ins and outs of your business visually, such as event boards with pictures from it, product imagery and pictures of the storefront. Use appropriate phrases and hashtags to increase your pins’ reach.

Like all social media platforms, though, don’t be “salesy.” People will want to see the products and services you’re offering, but they’ll also want to see the culture of your business and learn about your core values.

The fun and unique part about Pinterest is that users can create community boards. That means your business and similar ones can all post to one community board, increasing the chance of people seeing your pins and connecting with you. Finally, don’t forget to verify your Pinterest account with your website. Doing so will count your page as a business page and let you see the analytics about your pins.

Key benefit: Image-based platform for sharing new ideas and cool concepts

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Create themed boards about your products, your events and your store, as well as topics that connect to your messaging, audience and atmosphere
  • Post frequently
  • Use hashtags
  • Don’t be “salesy”
  • Collaborate on boards with other locations or businesses in your community
  • Verify your Pinterest account by connecting it to your website


Pictures and Filters and Hashtags, Oh My! Being Awesome on Instagram

What Is It?

Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform. People follow each other and can search hashtags for trending and similar topics.

How Does It Work?

On Instagram as on Pinterest, imagery is the medium. Accounts can only post images on Instagram from a mobile device, and that has helped to build a strong community on this social network. The included filters can make anyone look like a top photographer, another reason for its success. Take or upload a photo, apply a filter, and then post it with a witty comment and a few relevant hashtags. Done!

#DoubleAdWednesday here we come! (? by: @mojito_the_havanese)

A photo posted by Sprouts Farmers Market (@sprouts) on

How Can I Use It?

Many times, businesses say that their store isn’t that interesting and there’s nothing to share.

Nonsense! Every store has its own story, whether it’s the process, the employees, the customers or the location. Find a new and unique angle, and share the happenings at your store.

Make sure to share your photos to other platforms, too, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you see a picture that someone else took at your store, post it to your account and tag the person in the description and photo.

[bctt tweet=”Every store has its own story to share on Instagram”]

Key benefit: Everyday image-based branding

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Share pictures of your products and stores
  • Post frequently
  • Use popular and related hashtags so people can find you
  • Favorite other people’s photos
  • Feature customer photos of their experience at your store and tag them in it


The Art of Limitations Telling Your Story on Vine

What Is It?

Vine is a video-sharing service that lets users upload videos from three to six seconds in length. People use Vine to share responses to hashtags, create stop-motion pictures, hold contests and provide a glimpse into their lives.

How Does It Work?

After you’ve downloaded the app and created a user account, simply hold down on the screen to start recording. Lifting your finger pauses the recording, so you can take several shots in a few seconds’ time.

How Can I Use It?

Have a quick announcement to make or want to show a behind-the-scenes clip? Use Vine to capture your message and share your short story. You can also effectively use Vine to record short answers to interview questions, but the sky’s the limit in creativity. Feel free to think outside the box and do something weird and wacky. These videos loop if you don’t pause them, so share something simple that people can rewatch and share with others.

[bctt tweet=”Use Vine to capture your message and share your short story”]

Key benefit: Short videos to inspire creativity and share messages

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Make announcements
  • Feature customers and their answers to interesting questions
  • Show behind-the-scenes videos
  • Take a tour of your store
  • Answer questions
  • Be creative


Influence and Virality  Connecting with an Audience on Google’s YouTube

What Is It?

YouTube is a video-sharing platform that lets channels upload any type of video. The social networking site allows people to connect to influencers and ordinary people. Many of the top video types are music videos, vlogs (video blogs), video game let’s plays and how-to videos.

How Does It Work?

With your Google account, create a YouTube channel for your business. Then upload a video or create one through their recording software (they even have an app!).  Google uses the information on the video and people’s responses to it–how long they watched, what action did they take after watching it, and more–to recommend it to others.

How Can I Use It?

While many are aware of YouTube as a website, they don’t see it as a social media networking site. In fact, many marketers and businesses seem to leave YouTube out of the social marketing discussion (I almost left them out of this article.) But to leave out YouTube would be to neglect a channel of engaged users and a source of potential leads.

[bctt tweet=”People forget YouTube is a social media platform and miss out”]

If you want more people to find your business, create videos around popular search topics for your industry. Make sure you focus on the topic or answer the question in an informative and engaging way; the worse thing you can do is get someone to watch your video and leave a few seconds in because its not what they were expecting.  Then create a compelling title and description, add some key tags, and include a video thumbnail that encourages people to click.

Unlike Vine and Instagram, YouTube lets you upload long-form content. While you still should be creating quality content, you have more flexibility to take a deeper dive into a subject matter. In a couple minutes, you could splice together several shots to show a-day-in-the-life of one of your employees. Or if your business is service-oriented, you could answer a frequently asked question with best practices and examples.

Key benefit: Video content with high search ranking and share potential 

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Create a channel for your business
  • Look for popular search terms in your industry for your video
  • Record a video that gives a solid answer to a topic
  • Optimize your title, description, and video thumbnail
  • Take a tour of your store
  • Record a-day-in-the-life video
  • Answer frequently asked questions
  • Be creative 


The Front Page of the Internet Participating in the Reddit Conversation

What Is It?

Reddit is a message board where users can submit links and images or start conversations on topical channels (aka subreddits).

[bctt tweet=”Engage with the industry subreddit for your business”]

How Does It Work?

Which posts make it to the first page of Reddit and which are never seen is based on a voting algorithm. If enough people “upvote” a post, it gets moved up in the rankings. If more people “downvote” the post, it moves down the rankings or won’t be shown at the top of the list.

Subreddits or channels for different topics divide the social network into thousands of different communities for Reddit users. These are wide-ranging, with some more popular than others and moderated by members of the community.

How Can I Use It?

You can participate in relevant subreddits for your industry, to a limit. Redditors have a very low tolerance for self-promotional content, and spamming a subreddit with this kind of posting could quickly get you banned.

Create a Reddit account for your location and clearly state that you work at that company. Then share helpful and interesting links on these subreddits. If people have questions about your industry, answer them as the owner of your store. Your expertise will bring you lots of respect; but don’t be salesy and promotional unless asked about yourself.

A popular way to reach people is to host what’s called an AMA (Ask Me Anything) or AMAA (Ask Me Almost Anything). Professionals such as business owners, actors and people who’ve had life-changing experiences make a post and let other people ask them questions. Look into hosting an AMAA as expert on your industry subreddit–like the President and CEO of Allen Edmonds did on the /r/malefashionadvice subreddit–to see if people want to ask you any topical questions.

View post on

Key benefit: Crowdsourced discussions around topics by an engaging community

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Post relevant links to subreddits
  • Upvote helpful posts
  • Answer questions related to your business
  • Engage with your industry’s community
  • Host an AMA (Ask Me Anything)


Personalized Recommendations Find What’s Best on Foursquare

Foursquare Main Screen

What Is It?

Foursquare is a location-based app where users can find recommended restaurants, events and stores.

How Does It Work?

Previously, Foursquare’s functionality centered around check-ins, or when a person posted on the app that they were currently at a place. However, in May 2014, Foursquare broke out the gamification and check-in functionality into its own app called Swarm. Swarm uses the location pages on Foursquare for confirming where you’re checking in, but you can’t look at the location pages from the Swarm app.

Essentially, Foursquare acts as a recommendation service for businesses. As Foursquare starts to get to know a customer’s interests and tastes, it will give them tailored restaurant and professional service suggestions.

[bctt tweet=”Foursquare acts as a recommendation service for businesses”]

How Can I Use It?

The first step is to make sure the location has been secured for your business and optimized for people perusing the app. That can be including your address, a menu (if applicable), hours open and other relevant information. Once you have control of the Foursquare location, set up deals and discounts for people who check in to your location.

Key benefit: Location-based recommendations and real-time activity

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Manage your location page
  • Optimize your location page
  • Set up deals and discounts for check-ins


Self-Destruct in 10 Seconds  How Disappearing Videos Changed the Game

What Is It?

SnapChat is a messaging service with a focus on photos and videos. The one difference is that once an image or a video is viewed, it is permanently deleted. While this seems counterintuitive to how we perceive files, pictures and other notifications, SnapChat users perceive content as consumable and with no shelf life.

How Does It Work?

After taking a picture, you can write or draw on it and then send it to multiple phone numbers or usernames. When these people open it, they can only view it for the length of the snapchat, or they can click to view it again.

6 Snapchat Hacks Too Easy To Ignore from Gary Vaynerchuk

Instead of sending it to individual people, you can add it to your Snapchat Story. If you add something to your story, it can be viewed an unlimited amount of times for up to 24 hours.

How Can I Use It?

While many people scoff at SnapChat as an app for teens, Gary Vaynerchuk, the co-founder and CEO of a social media brand consultancy agency, called it his “most valuable marketing tool right now.”

Only a few years old, SnapChat is becoming increasingly popular with people of all ages, not just teens. Think about things that current and potential customers would find valuable. One way to use SnapChat with your customers is adding them onto a secret exclusive list after they’ve been a customer for a certain amount of time or have bought over a certain amount from you. Now you’re creating an exclusive club that will gain attention and traction through word-of-mouth marketing.

[bctt tweet=”Share unique snaps to your customers on Snapchat”]

Snapchat offers video advertising options and sponsored filters as well. While a number of facial recognition filters and image filters are already available in the app, you can create your own geo-filters for your location and brand.

Key benefit: Disappearing messages that make recipients feel close and connected

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Connect with customers’ usernames
  • Send discount codes to frequent customers
  • Share private, exclusive content with frequent and valuable customers
  • Create geofilters for people to use around your location


Reviews and Ratings the Power of the Community on Yelp

What Is It?

Similar to Foursquare, Yelp is a directory of local stores, restaurants and professional services that people can review.

How Does It Work?

Many people use Yelp to vett whether they want to use a business or a brand for their services. Their strength is the community of reviewers on Yelp who’ve built up the number of reviews. That total impacts people who look to Yelp for recommendations and insights.  

[bctt tweet=”Customers look to Yelp for reviews before making a purchasing decision”]

Yelp has had a number of controversies regarding their use of filtering reviews. Regardless of the accuracy of all the reviews left on the site, Yelp is a powerhouse for location-based reviews and should be treated as such.

How Can I Use It?

People can leave reviews on your location whether you’ve claimed it or not, so it’s important to claim your location page on Yelp. Then optimize your page information with your address, a menu (if applicable), hours open and other relevant details. You can also set up a check-in deal or advertise on Yelp with an additional spend.  

Key benefit: Community-based recommendations for local businesses

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Manage your location page
  • Optimize your location page
  • Set up deals and discounts for check-ins
  • Reply to people’s reviews

Google My Business

Search and Location Marketing Google Maps and the Location Pages

Google My Business

What Is It?

Like Yelp and Foursquare, Google My Business is a directory of local stores, restaurants and professional services. However, the strength of Google My Business rests on the usage of and the Google Maps app for location-based search results.

How Does It Work?

With the influence of Google Maps, Google has location pages listed in their search directory. People who are looking for a certain kind of business or the name of a business will see those results through Google Maps.

While looking up directions and store information, people can also read reviews or leave their own for the location.  

How Can I Use It?

Similar to the other location-based pages, it’s key to claim and optimize your Google My Business pages with the right information. Having these pages will also let you reply as your business to positive and negative reviews.   

[bctt tweet=”Claim and optimize your location pages on Google”]

Key benefit: Google’s search directory with location-specific information and reviews  

Best Things to Do On It:

  • Manage your location page
  • Optimize your location page
  • Set up deals and discounts for check-ins
  • Reply to people’s reviews

Which platforms do you use for your business? And which ones are you thinking about working with? Let me know in the comments!

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