By: Don Amerman
Mention social media, and most listeners think of such high-profile players as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn. While these sites are certainly at the head of the class, for many businesses sometimes it’s best to avoid being a small fish in a big pond.
If your company has not yet made the leap to social media, it’s time to get your feet wet.
But you might want to consider one of the lesser known social media platforms for your debut. It’s a good way to find out how social media can help you stay in touch with your customers and network with other business professionals.
Social media can also help build interest in your products and services among folks who aren’t yet familiar with your brand.
Ryze Specializes in B2B Networking
Designed to promote business-to-business networking, Ryze is the brainchild of Adrian Scott, who was also a founding investor in Napster and is today the CEO of Ryze. Founded in 2001, Ryze is relatively small, compared with the behemoths like Facebook and Twitter, but it’s got more than 500,000 members scattered across roughly 200 countries.
For businesses, large or small, the beauty of this social media site is its focus on business and entrepreneurial spirit. Basic membership in Ryze is free, but paying a small fee each month entitles you to contact distantly connected members and a few other niceties.
As a member you get your own networking-oriented homepage and can send messages to other members. You also can join networks related to your specific industry, location or interests. In addition to its individual members, Ryze also hosts more than 1,000 professional organizations.
Talkbiznow Is All About Business
Another business-oriented social media platform is Talkbiznow.com, which describes itself as a “web-based business community.”
This social media network brings a multitude of business services to its members, which consist primarily of small businesses and business professionals. In addition to professional networking, which is one of the top attractions of social media, Talkbiznow offers extensive marketplace services, allowing its business members to promote themselves and transact business online.
In this realm, one of the site’s big attractions is its Webstore service, which allows members to create a website promoting their company, product, service, or event.
Quora: A Portal to Knowledge
While not restricted to business, Quora devotes several segments of its broad array of interest areas to business-related topics, including marketing and finance, each of which is further broken down into relevant subtopics.
Upon joining Quora, a new member is asked to select five areas of interest and then can further narrow their focus by exploring the subtopics under each and selecting those of particular interest.
Boiled down to its essence, Quora is a forum for ideas and knowledge, the free exchange of which is the site’s main raison d’etre.
Small business owners can use Quora to float trial balloons of product or service ideas, collect data and ideas for blogging topics, and build a network of friends with similar interests. Because new members can join through existing memberships with Facebook or Twitter, adding Quora to the mix can create an even larger network.
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Foursquare Links Businesses, Customers
One of the fastest-growing of the new social media platforms, Foursquare went live in early 2009 but already has built a community of millions of members worldwide.
Although it’s global in its membership, much of the focus of this site is on the local experience, allowing its members to provide profiles of local businesses they’ve patronized and share their thoughts with others who may be planning a visit to the same area.
For its small business members, Foursquare offers a variety of helpful tools. Businesses who become members of the network are encouraged to check out what other members have said about them and claim their listing so that they can ensure all information is accurate and up to date.
The site also facilitates communications between businesses and their customers and also provides analytics that companies can use to measure the amount of traffic their business listing is attracting.
Lastly, whether you’re the owner of a fledgling small business or an entrepreneur looking for business opportunities, PartnerUp is a social media forum that can help you to connect with others in similar circumstances.
For those already in business, PartnerUp offers a place to exchange ideas with other small business owners. Entrepreneurs who want to hook up with potential partners or co-founders can use the forum to find others with similar business aspirations and visions. This site also helps small businesses to link with companies that provide the products and services they need to continue operations.
So, which sites are you making it your business to be active on?
About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about corporate strategy, online marketing and environmental issues, including green construction techniques and sustainable roofing.