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Top 5 Social Media Sites for Businesses

Social media (SM), also known as Web 2.0, has grown increasingly popular with Internet users. In July 2009, the SM giant Facebook reported a 150% increase in its active user base since just one year ago. Twitter has similarly reported a huge increase in unique visitors to its site.

According to a Cone Business SM survey conducted in 2008, 60% of Americans already use at least one social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). Also, of those 60% of Americans, 59% interact with businesses through one or more social media channels. Because SM has attracted and continues to attract record numbers of consumers, businesses can take advantage of this emerging trend in order to improve relations with and gain customers. Many businesses do use and have benefited from SM through improved customer outreach, online reputation, and product sales. However, there are so many SM channels in existence now that it is difficult knowing where to begin. For a business just starting out with SM, one of the obvious pitfalls is getting involved with an SM outlet that is not very popular or user-friendly. Since the setting up of a user profile, attracting followers and/or subscribers, creating content, and formatting posts all require a significant investment of time and resources, it pays to know which SM sites will be of greatest benefit to the business.

Social media outlets typically fall into one of five different categories. There are social community sites such as Facebook and MySpace, where users interact with a group (or groups) of friends. There are blogging sites, such as Blogger and Twitter, that allow users to create posts and/or links to relevant content.

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Bookmarking areas like Del.icio.us and Mixx rely on members posting links to interesting content. Finally, SM can also delve into multimedia posting, through video posting sites like YouTube and picture posting sites like Flickr and PhotoBucket.

The following is a list of the top five social media sites that have existed for several years now and have emerged as leaders in their respective category.

1. Facebook

With over 250 million reported users, Facebook stands as one of the fastest growing social media community sites on the web. Facebook allows users to connect and interact with each other via posts, comments, and video/photo downloads. A growing number of Facebook applications, such as games, surveys, and quizzes, encourage users to return to the site and stay there for extended periods of time.

2. Twitter

Twitter is a social micro-blogging site that has recently been attracting unique visitors by record numbers. Users of the site set up profiles, post short (140 characters or fewer) comments and links, and gain followers. Many companies have taken advantage of Twitter’s traffic by setting up business profiles and posting regular entries, links, promotions, etc.

3. Digg

With the social bookmarking site Digg reporting over 4.5 billion page views per month, this site stands as a clear leader in the SM scene. Digg members post links to articles and other content that they find relevant. Other members then vote on the content, clicking buttons that either “digg” or “bury” the link. If a link is “dugg” many times, it becomes prominently displayed on the site’s main web page. Popular links experience an incredible amount of web traffic and click-through rates.

4. YouTube

One of the best known video posting and viewing sites, YouTube receives hundreds of millions of views per day. The site allows members to upload and share, vote for (or against), and comment on video clips. Businesses may use YouTube as a creative outlet for innovative and dynamic videos that market certain products or services. Depending on the popularity of posted content, YouTube videos have been reported to receive over 55 million hits and over 60 thousand comments.

5. Flickr

Launched in 2004, Flickr is one of the oldest media-sharing sites on the Web. Flickr garners 2% of global Web users on a daily basis according to statistical tracking records from Alexa, a Web metrics tracking site. Flickr allows members to upload, share, and comment on photos (and recently, videos). Businesses can utilize Flickr by showcasing eye-catching photos and other graphics files, as well as checking up on the competition.

A business may choose one or more of the aforementioned social media to market its products, attract new customers, gain valuable feedback from existing customers, and improve its online reputation. With more and more consumers subscribing to and becoming part of the social media landscape, businesses can and should join to capitalise on this ever-growing trend.

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