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social media
Q.
We're broadening our social-media marketing tactics. How are some common platforms being used for marketing?

A.
Social media is a great way to communicate with customers and prospects. But not every medium is the perfect match for your audience, product, and brand, not to mention your objectives. Plus, if you're just dipping your toes in the social-media pond, it's best to pick one or two channels that fit your needs rather than to dabble in several different options. To that end, here's a rundown of the most popular social-media platforms along with a brief explanation of what marketing objectives are most easily met by each.

► Facebook — This platform is well suited to companies hoping to generate awareness while building relationships with clients and prospects. Facebook is a space where you can really demonstrate your brand's personality. Interact with those who "like" your page, comment on posts, or share status updates as a way to engage people in conversation and find out their needs and interests. Keep in mind that Facebook users are also very connected to their friends and family within this platform, and as such, it opens up the opportunity for you to extend your reach.

► Pinterest or Instagram — If you have a visual story to tell, Pinterest or Instagram are great channels to use. Visual storytelling is a good way to appeal to the emotions of your customers or target audience. Providing a "sneak peek" through photos can help engage your audience and showcase new products or services. Visual elements also establish a sense of brand intimacy, providing a face to the name with relatable content.

► Twitter — Marketers turn to Twitter when they're trying to build brand affinity, identify influencers within their industry, and determine what prospects, customers, and the market in general are saying about their company and products. This platform uses microblogging, where users generate short pieces of content (140 characters or fewer). If your content is clever or interesting, it'll often score retweets, and this is where things get interesting. Your posts can spread throughout your industry, and at the same time, you can search for hashtags and keywords to learn who's retweeting your message — and who's creating brand- or product-related tweets of their own accord.

► YouTube or Vimeo — Video is one of the fastest ways to communicate a broad range of information. So video-based YouTube is a quick, efficient, and effective way to entertain and demonstrate, as well as a fun, visual way to personalize your brand. Marketers often use YouTube to introduce a brand, showcase products, demo product use, prove claims, and provide learning opportunities. Video also can help increase traffic to your website or other online channels.

► LinkedIn — LinkedIn may be the most widely used platform by business professionals, both in terms of connecting with those in other industries and of promoting their own talents and experience. Via LinkedIn, people can tout their education, work history, and professional affinities and interests. The site also provides you with a window to prospective employees, and it can offer industry pros (and job seekers) a glimpse of your company, employees, and online content.

► Blogs — Blogging provides opportunities to educate people, establish trust, and tap into the lead-generation process. Incorporating a blog into your online strategy builds trust and provides a platform to demonstrate thought leadership within your industry. As an added bonus, you can showcase your blog via your social-media channels, creating additional engagement and routing traffic back to your website.

The aforementioned examples are merely a high-level synopsis of the most common social-media tools. Remember to set objectives and start small. Change will happen over time; consistent efforts will get you there. E

— Melissa Harrison, CEO, Allee Creative LLC, Minneapolis
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