The first step in engaging customers online is to know where to find them. Unless you know where to find whom, your social media strategy cannot be effective. I’ve tried to collate a list of various site/services that can be used to engage customers or spread the buzz.
Facebook, Myspace, Orkut, Hi5, Friendster are one of the biggest hangout places on the planet and if your customers access the web, the chances of finding them in one of these networks are pretty high. If you are looking for young mainstream audience these are the places you can find them.
Microblogging platforms offer a good mix of community size and ability to hold conversations. They are probably the most effective and quickest way to connect with an existing or potential customer. Twitter, Plurk, Kwippy, Identica, Rejaw et all are some of the microblogging networks worth having your presence on. From my observation majority of the users of these networks are older than 25, are working and are there to explore and learn more(other than having fun). The audience is far from mainstream by most standards.
Social aggregators are currently underdogs when it comes for brands to engage with customers. Despite the fact that aggregators can ease out the effort spent in tracking the buzz and conversing with customers their usage for these purposes is yet to pick steam. Friendfeed, Social Thing, Profilactic, Flock, Strands and Plaxo Pulse are some of the popular tools. An even more niche audience, the majority users of aggregators are again older than 25, working and more active on the web.
Since there are lots & lots of popular sharing sites I have split them according to the content/social object shared.
Video Sharing Sites: Youtube is by far the most popular video sharing site and offers a great platform to share promotional content & build relationships with your customers. The demographics here are quite widespread with a lot of young/teenage users. Lots of families & artists use youtube to store and share their videos with families and fans. Checkout this for more.
Photo Sharing Sites: Flickr, picasaweb, photobucket and smugmug are some of the more popular sites which can be used to engage customer or just spreading the word. Majority Flickr users are above age 35 and have finished high school.
Presentation Sharing Sites: Another underdog when it comes to online marketing and creating a buzz presentation sharing sites can prove to be a nice hunting ground to engage with a niche and a bit more savvy netizens. Slideshare appears to be the only site which offers presentation sharing capabilities and has a good user community. Given the fact that most people don’t have a rendezvous with presentations until a certain age the majority users here would also be beyond their teenage years and would have finished education upto a certain level.
LinkedIn is another potential tool to connect and form relationships with people. I strongly think it should be an important part of one’s social media strategy.
I am sure I must have missed some sites/services, if you know of any please drop a note and I’ll include them