If you are reading this, that means I didn’t scare you off too badly with my last post about the wonderful world of social media. Huzzah! Gold stars all around! Now that we’ve dispelled some of the myths surrounding social media, there is the little matter of paring down the incredible number of networks out there into a manageable set from which to get started. As I mentioned in my last post, I am of the belief that it is more important to be active on a few well-chosen social media platforms than do a mediocre job on a wide range. So depending on your specialties, interests, and the amount of time you want to devote, some sites will serve you better than others. You know your business better than anyone, so the choice ultimately must be yours. This post will focus on the top five most popular social networking sites (all of which are FREE and open to anyone) and discuss some of their pros and cons as they relate to the rare book trade. Side note to ABAA members: you also have the option of linking all of the following platforms (with the exception of LinkedIn) to your ABAA profile at abaa.org to give you even more exposure and opportunities to connect.
1. Facebook: The granddaddy of social media sites.
Although there were social networks that came before it, Facebook has stayed relevant over the years and is now the single most popular social network on the Internet. Originally it was only available to university students but now anyone can join, and there is also an option for business entities to create profiles independent of personal accounts. If you are only on one social media site, this is the one to choose.
The pros: As the most widely used and accessible social media site out there, the potential to connect with people is vast. It is a great way to stay in touch with acquaintances, colleagues, and friends alike, and to remain up to date with current trends and interests in your field. You can also share almost any kind of media you can think of, including websites, photos, and videos, making it a valuable way to share content that is important to you and your business.
The cons: It can take some time to garner “likes” and “followers” for your business, so in the first few months it may start to feel like you are talking to the dust. It’s important to be patient and keep persevering even when it feels like things are moving at a snail’s pace.
2. Twitter: Short and sweet.
Twitter’s format allows you to “tweet” ideas, announcements, observations, and/or nonsense (though I recommend keeping the latter to a minimum) – anything your heart desires – in 140 characters or less. You will sometimes hear it referred to as “microblogging.” The concept is pretty cool because the character limit forces you to get creative and think differently about how you present your brand and overall message. If you tend to be a bit long winded like me, Twitter will take care of that.
The pros: The big advantage to Twitter is that conversations are happening in real time. Breaking news is even reported on Twitter these days! You can get your message and interests across quickly, and you can also monitor what your audience base is talking about. Also, hashtags (#). I love me some hashtags.
The cons: Twitter requires more content and therefore more time. While it’s fine to post to Facebook once a day or even a few times a week, Twitter obliges you to be more present and in effect, more active – it’s the nature of the beast.
3. LinkedIn: For all you professional professionals out there.
LinkedIn is a bit more buttoned-up than the previous two platforms we discussed, but I find it much simpler to use straight out of the gate, and its purpose is also more focused: this is a site for creating a professional presence and expanding your professional network.
The pros: The concept is straightforward, and you can get started simply by creating a profile and uploading your resume. If you are looking for something more business oriented and with less “chatter,” this is a great place to start.
The cons: There’s less room for error here – you need to spend some time dusting off your resume and creating the best looking profile that you can, including a good photo of yourself (hint: skip the vacation photo and the one of you dancing at your niece’s bat mitzvah). LinkedIn is like your online business card, so make it look sharp.
4. Pinterest: Not just for sewing circles.
I know. I too was shocked to see that this was the fourth most popular social network when I did my research. Pinterest has surged in popularity in recent years, but it suffers from the misperception that it is exclusively for women who like to sit around and do macramé while eating casseroles. While females do make up the lion’s share of users on this site, I do need to point out that we have varied interests outside of those two things. Cooking and cleaning, for example. Obviously I kid. But regardless of whether you like the platform or not, Pinterest is an amazing repository of images. Think of it as the visual counterpart to Twitter.
The pros: Pinterest shows off what you are all about as a business as well as your (hopefully) good taste in an immediate and visually attractive way. It can also be a good technique to drive more traffic to your website or other social media accounts – you can even link your Pinterest account to Twitter and Facebook if you end up getting really into it. Images are becoming so important to our business these days that I think Pinterest could end up being a very useful (and frankly, pretty fun) tool. So don’t write it off just yet…
The cons: My sense is that Pinterest takes a bit more strategizing and time to “stand out from the pack,” as it were. You need to seek out images that will get noticed. This can take time, which, as has been established, we are all chronically short on. And to be honest, compared to some of the other sites that we are considering, Pinterest seems to take on a more supportive role. Useful? Yes. Essential? Maybe not. But feel free to prove me wrong!
5. Google+: Google’s answer to Facebook.
Google+ has long had a reputation for being something of a poor man’s Facebook. This has a lot to do with it being relatively new. It has many of the same features as Facebook, but it also incorporates elements like those found on Twitter and other social networks. Successfully? You be the judge.
The Pros: The major advantage of Google+ is that it allows you arrange your contacts into separate groups called “circles.” You can have one circle for friends, one for colleagues, one for family, etc. – however you want to organize your connections (you can even put your boss in his or her own little circle!). The beauty of this system is that you have control over which groups see what. Those photos you took at 3am after the last book fair might just go out to a close circle of friends and colleagues, while that blog post you wrote for the ABAA should be shared all around!
The Cons: It’s kind of similar to Facebook. Sorry, Google. If you have the time and inclination to be on both (and many people do), more power to you! But if you have to choose, I stand by the FB…for now…
As a final note, If we were to keep going and review the top ten, you would also see three more sites that, like Pinterest, rely heavily on pictures:
Instagram: an application that lets you take and share photos
Flickr: another photo sharing site
Tumblr: a microblogging site that focuses on multimedia
At the risk of repeating myself, that’s pretty compelling evidence of the importance that images in social media engagement. Just sayin’.
But more on that later... In the meantime, happy networking!