Social media platforms initially were truly ‘social’ in nature, restricted to people looking online for friendships. Along the way, someone realized the huge potential these platforms have for business.
After all, business is no less than a social activity. You strive to find who your customers are (those who are looking for the product/service you are offering), befriend them and make sure that they remain your friends (read customers) for a long time by continuously keeping in touch with them and offering value to them. Social media platforms enable you to do this with minimal expenditure of time and money.
Besides customers, you can also connect with strategic partners like suppliers and vendors through social media.
Social media platforms offer an effective way to promote your product or service to millions of people at one go. If your company (and thus your brand) has presence on a social networking site, you are accessible to all users of the site, which can be in terms of millions for popular sites. Of course, you still have to target your niche. But simple mathematics rules state that any percentage of millions will be a high figure.
Social media platforms also offer immense networking opportunities with peers within the industry. Trying to run a business in a ‘stand alone’ manner is often not the best way to do it. And engagement within the industry can be mutually beneficial.
There is a plethora of social media platforms out there – some popular and some not so popular. Which of them will work for your business and which will not? Certain platforms work best for a particular industry. For instance MySpace has carved niche in the music and entertainment industry. Certain social media sites have more youthful demographics and may be suitable for businesses that target this audience. So you have to choose the right social media platform and use it the right way to maximize the benefits for your business.
I will share with you the top 10 social media platforms you absolutely need to have a presence on and how you should use them. So here they are in no specific order.
Top 10 Social Media Platforms and How to Really Use them

  1. Facebook

Facebook is much more than connecting with long lost school friends. It can be an incredibly effective business tool.
Establish a Facebook business account. Use your wall to share valuable resources with your customers like links to a presentation or a useful article. This boosts your credibility and by extension, that of the business.

Create a Facebook fan page for your brand or business, which makes it accessible to everyone with or without a Facebook account. Facebook fan pages are indexed and thus improve your ‘findability’ in search engine results.

  1. Twitter

Twitter lets you post short updates (called tweets) on your account. Those who follow you can see your tweets and vice versa.
Twitter gives you an opportunity to follow industry leaders and experts and learn a thing or two about the business. This would never have been possible otherwise.
When you tweet about your brand, those who follow you might retweet your message, enhancing the reach manifold in a matter of minutes.
By using a feature called TwitterSearch, you can find people asking questions about a particular keyword you selected. Use the reply function to answer question. This greatly increases the chances of direct sales. Also your reply adds value to people who are following you.

  1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is considered a professional social media platform where you can build a network of people related to business. This network can help promote your brand and business effectively to others. Participate in the LinkedIn Answers section, which will help develop your reputation as an expert resource on select topics.
Linked IN

  1. Foursquare

This is a location based smart phone app that lets users ‘check in’ to a location they are physically present at. Using the GPS in the phone, users can check the businesses nearby and select the one they are actually physically in. Based on certain parameters, this gives them points or lets them earn badges and other such fun things. Foursquare is a social media platform, because users can create a profile, make friends, share check-ins, comment on check-ins etc.

Thus if you have a locational business like a fast food outlet or a book store, Foursquare can be a valuable business tool. The first step is to claim your business venue on the Foursquare website.
Then create campaigns for customers, who are Foursquare members. For instance, you could say-“Check in with a friend to get 10% off on the bill”. You can also reward your loyal customers by making an offer like “Free gift on every 4th check-in”.
Foursquare also gives you the demographics of people checking in at your business, which can help you customize your business better to that group.

  1. Aadvark

Aadvark is a question and answer platform and gives you an opportunity to build a position as an expert in a niche by answering questions posed by people in the network. By extension, the credibility and trust levels of your brand/business grow.

  1. Quora

Quora is also a question and answer platform. Users can follow people, topics and questions. As a business owner, you can create relevant topics, if there are none of interest to you currently.
Quora has a unique crowd-sourced voting feature through which users positively or negatively vote the answers. A high vote rating helps establish you as an expert in your niche, which is positive for your business.

  1. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

This is a ‘free PR’ social media platform. Journalists submit queries (on the industry, any recent legislation etc) on the platform, which you can answer, as a member.

The chances of your answer getting picked up and you/your company being contacted for a story are quite high. HARO works because journalists are constantly on the lookout for credible sources for their stories and stories ideas too. And you benefit by getting free publicity.

  1. You Tube

This is a video sharing website that more and more businesses are using to create short promotional videos or exhibit customer testimonials or product demonstrations. The fact that Google owns YouTube cannot be overlooked nor the fact that YouTube videos are at the top of the search engine results page.


  1. StumbleUpon

This is a social voting site where users submit content that can be voted up or down by others. You can submit appropriately keyword optimized content in the relevant category that will be ‘liked’ by users increasing awareness of your business and brands. And StumbleUpon allows you to comment on content shared and contact other users.

  1. Google +

Google’s newest offering in the social media platform is not to be taken lightly, not in the least because it is a Google product.  The launch of the Google+ brand pages recently is intended to enhance business presence on Google+. This image shows various Google+ Features.

Of course there are SEO and search engine ranking benefits of Google+ as the content is indexed by Google.
I have had my say on the social media platforms useful for businesses. Your turn now. Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments. Have you used other platforms which you found very effective for your business? I will be eager to know about those.