In the second edition of my book, How to Make Money with Social Media, written with Dr. Reshma Shah of Emory University, we provide real solutions based on real case studies on how to set-up, launch and run an effective, ROI-based social media campaign.
Whether you’re using social media to build awareness for your business, to drive leads to your sales force or anything else in between, it’s important to be familiar with all of the social media platforms at your disposal.
With that in mind, below is a list of the top 52 social media platforms. They’re broken into 3 categories — social media platforms that help you network (like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.); social media platforms that help you promote (like YouTube, blogs, etc.); and social media platforms that help you share (like Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.).
Ready? Here goes.
Social Media Platforms that help you Network:
Blab: Think of blab as Periscope or Meerkat, only better. It allows you to broadcast your content to your followers and, better still, allows you to invite them into the video conversation. This two-way dialogue is what makes blab a game changer in the industry. Strengths: The two-way capabilities make blab stand out in a crowded field. Weaknesses: It has a small (but growing) user base.
Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook out of his dorm room for his fellow students at Harvard. Today, toddlers to grandmothers can be found on Facebook. Strengths: Widely-adopted by large segments of the population. Weaknesses: Will the younger generation stay on Facebook once Grandma has “friended” them?
Google+: The clean, simple interface makes connecting with friends, family and business associates a piece of cake. Google+ was the fastest-growing social network in history and looks as though it’s here for the foreseeable future. Strengths: Ease-of-use and uncluttered environment. Weaknesses: Competition from other well-established social media platforms.
Friendster: A way to stay connected with everything that’s important to you — hobbies, interests, causes, business, etc. Strengths: A simple web-interface makes this easy-to-use. Weaknesses: Not as widely adopted as some other platform-runs. Might have peaked.
hi5: This is a social networking platform that skews a little younger than LinkedIn. Members can play games, watch videos, flirt, give gifts or just hang out. Strengths: It’s a great alternative to MySpace and/or Facebook for the younger crowd. Weaknesses: It may not be the best social networking platform for business.
LinkedIn: This is the Grand Pooh Bah of them all. They’ve been around since 2003, which, in social media terms is also known as “since the beginning of time.” Strengths: Everybody’s on LinkedIn. Weaknesses: Most people have trouble knowing what to do with LinkedIn after they upload their business information.
Meerkat: This live streaming social media platform is perfect for people who want to share videos of the special moments in their lives. Perfect for business, social networking, or for close friends, this mobile-only social network is growing quickly and rapidly. (Check out our Meerkat vs. Periscope comparison by clicking here.)
MyLife: A clean, simple site that helps people connect with family, friends and other relationships. Over 750 million profiles. Strengths: The easy-to-use interface is one of the site’s great strengths. Perfect if you’re looking for an engaging, simple way to connect with old friends. Weaknesses: Not as widely adopted as some other sites.
Ning: This site connects groups of people who are passionate about particular interests, topics or hobbies. Co-Founded by Marc Andreessen, who helped launch Netscape. Strengths: Great for connecting with others who are interested in your area of expertise. Weaknesses: The user interface is so simple and uncluttered that getting started can be confusing. But once you’ve figured it out, it can be a good tool.
Periscope: Like its close relative Meerkat, this new video sharing platform is taking the world by storm. Are you interested in using live video to share parts of your life with the world around you? If so, then Periscope is for you. (Check out our Meerkat vs. Periscope comparison by clicking here.)
Plaxo: Currently hosts address books for more than 40 million people. Helps people stay in touch with “Pulse,” which is a dashboard that lets you see what the people you know are sharing all over the web. Strengths: Graphical user interface makes it easy-to-use. Weaknesses: It’s not as widely-adopted as some other platforms such as LinkedIn.
Twitter: A surprisingly-successful tool that is widely-adopted and used for everything from business to fun and games. Strengths: Used by large segments of the population. Weaknesses: Can be a distraction, especially if you have Attention Deficit Disor … wow, look at that bird outside my window!
XING: XING has more than 8 million subscribers worldwide. It has over 34,000 specialized groups and over 150,000 live networking events each year. Strengths: XING adds new developments to their platform on a regular basis. Weaknesses: Not as widely-adopted as some other platforms such as LinkedIn.
Social Media Platforms that help you Promote:
Bing: Bing, Google and Yahoo aren’t technically social media platforms, but they are tools that can be used to promote your product or service, so we’re including all three in this overview. The technique for using any search engine to promote your product or service is the same so you’ll want to optimize your website so that the search engines see it. By doing so, you’ll drive traffic to your website from the people doing searches on specific topics. Strengths: Bing uses “intelligent search” to make searches even more relevant for the user. Weaknesses: It’s fighting against Google, which is a tough battle.
Blogging Platforms: These are tools that are used to create blogs. Some of them, likeBlogger, Tumblr, Vox or Xanga are straightforward platforms that are great for people who want to do a simple blog about their vacation, their company or their family reunion. If you’re ready to create a more robust blog that adds a lot of SEO value for your website, you’ll want to use Joomla, Drupal, Typepad or WordPress. These are the blogging platforms used by serious bloggers.
Discussion Boards and Forums: Are you interested in creating an online forum where members of your community can engage with each other and offer each other advice? Then a discussion board or forum is for you. The best-known platforms for forums include Lefora, Zoho, Drupal, PhpBB, Simple Machines, Vanila, JavaBB and vBulletin. Strengths: Forums are a great way to build a relationship with customers and prospects. Weaknesses: They require regular, ongoing time and energy to keep them running properly.
Google: Google is technically not a social media platform, but can be used as a social tool to drive visits to your well-optimized website. Strengths: Ease-of-use and pervasiveness. Weaknesses: Are they spreading their brand across too many channels? Does this confuse people? (Answer: Probably not, but we’re struggling to come up with any weakness for Google. They’re just so darn nice, it’s hard to figure out what they’re not good at. They’re even good at not being evil, you know?)
Email Marketing Platforms: Email can often get overlooked in the world of social media, but if you define social media as tools that help you have a dialogue with your customers and prospects, then email falls into the social media category. Popular email marketing tools include AWeber (affiliate link), Constant Contact, iContact,ExactTarget and others. Strengths: Email is a highly measurable way to connect with customers and prospects. Weaknesses: Email marketing requires a concerted, ongoing effort if you’re going to do it right.
Flickr: This is a photo-sharing site that can be used to build awareness and drive traffic to your product pages. If you’re selling hunting rifles or tennis rackets or widgets, you’ll want to use Flickr to a) build awareness for your product and b) drive people from Flickr to your website. Strengths: Flickr is easy-to-use and has a clean user-interface. Weaknesses: Photo-sharing sites are important, but they’re not the very first thing you’ll want to work on in your social media campaign.
Howcast: Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a website where you could watch “How To” videos on the topic of your choice? Well, there is and it’s called Howcast. It’s an extremely worthy-competitor to YouTube. Strengths: A great place to upload high-quality content. Weaknesses: The default is still YouTube. Most people are conditioned to automatically type “YouTube” into their browser.
iTunes: This is not the only podcasting site, but it’s the best-known and most popular. If you’re doing interviews with industry experts or if you’re creating mini-radio shows, iTunes is the place to be. Strengths: It’s a well-known, well-respected platform. Weaknesses: If you don’t create scintillating content, people won’t come back for more.
MySpace: Ahhhhh, MySpace. They arguably started this whole social media thing to begin with. Today, MySpace is primarily used as a congregation point for younger people interested in pop culture. They’re evolving and seem to be finding a niche. Strengths: A well-known social media platform that most everybody has visited at one time or another. Weaknesses: They’re not the ubiquitous social media platform they once were.
Picasa: This is a photo organizing, editing and sharing site that’s owned by Google. You can tag photos to enable quick searches by users. Strengths: As with most Google services, Picasa is easy-to-use and loads very quickly. Weaknesses: Photo sharing is important, but it’s not the very first thing you’d want to work on in your social media campaign.
Vimeo: Think of Vimeo as a high-end YouTube. It’s perfect for people interested in sharing their videos with a community of positive, encouraging creative professionals. Strengths: You gotta love a site that oozes upbeat, optimistic, life-affirming energy that Vimeo does. Weaknesses: It’s not a default site the way YouTube is, but that may change in the near future.