5 Social Media Tools for Your Business

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Which social-media sites are best for your business? It depends on your company size, your industry, and your social-media goals. It also depends on what type of social networking you enjoy and will persist in doing.

Major social-media sites can be a great place to find customers due to their large user bases, but it takes a lot of effort to get attention there. It's like walking into a very large, crowded room, but there's only a small cluster of people having the conversation you want to jump in on - and you have to find them. By contrast, more specialized social-media sites where the audience is more engaged as consumers and specific by industry may prove more effective for your business.

Here's my list of five critical social-media tools to investigate for your business:

Facebook - With major corporations such as Toys R Us previewing their Black Friday sales on their Facebook fan pages, this 350-million-user site isn't for kids anymore. Facebook is the number-two Web site in America according to research house Alexa, and its fastest-growing demographic is people over age 35. To add fans and generate excitement, consider holding a contest or making a special offer.

YouTube – With hundreds of millions of videos viewed daily, YouTube is the fourth-biggest U.S. site, and it's fast becoming a canny marketing tool. Because let's face it, America loves to watch movies. Music teachers post lessons, car salesmen show you the latest models, consultants give mini-courses… what could you upload to create excitement about your business?

LinkedIn - This is the place where pro business owners go for power networking. Answer questions for the site's 50 million users or ask them, scope out who's viewing your profile, update your status with your needs or company triumphs. They're adding features too – now you can link your LinkedIn status to your Twitter posts, and display your WordPress blog on your home page.

Twitter – Some people find the home of 140-character posts and hashtagged trending topics baffling and/or annoying, but Twitter is the social network to watch. Only 18 million U.S. users, but growing at a phenomenal rate - up 343% year-over-year as of Sept. 2009, Nielsen reports. New features such as lists and retweet tracking are helping users form new connections.

Your blog and local/specialized forums - If you write well and have the time, blogging can be a powerful way to raise awareness about what you do. The content updates also help your site's natural search rankings. Reach a wider audience with guest posts on popular industry forums. If your business is local, neighborhood forums may be a good option.

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