The social media sites available for business

With so many different social media platforms available these days, it often makes beginners ask themselves, where do I start? How do I know which venue is most appropriate for my business? This column will serve as a quick overview of some of the most popular social media sites business owners are using today.


LinkedIn has more than 70 million members in more than 200 countries and boasts membership from executives in all Fortune 500 companies. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise and accomplishments. You can then invite contacts to join LinkedIn and "connect" to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections' connections, and so on. Some of LinkedIn's features include the ability to find and be introduced to potential clients, service providers and subject experts who come recommended by others in your network; create and collaborate on projects, gather data, share files and solve problems; be found for business opportunities and find potential partners; gain new insights from discussions in private group settings; and post and distribute job listings to find the best talent for your company. LinkedIn's base membership is free. The site also offers a "premium version" of accounts that provide an expanded set of tools for helping you build your network.


A bit more informal in nature, Facebook is used by millions of people every day for millions of different purposes primarily sharing news, photos, videos and information via blogs and messaging features. While adding a profile to Facebook is free, to utilize e-commerce and business features, it's advisable to open a business account, which gives you an expanded ability to promote your products and services, buy advertising and even sell directly online. While Facebook is fairly easy to use, regulating content can prove tricky. The Facebook concept of extending and accepting "friend" offers to expand your network opens your pages and information to a great many people. This can be good for attracting potential new customers and yet tricky for regulating what others can post about you and your business.


Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that allows businesses and individuals the opportunity to instantaneously update their subscribing "followers" with doses of "mini info." Businesses can use Twitter to quickly share information with people interested in their companies, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback and build relationships with customers, partners and employees. Twitter allows users to write and read messages of up to 140 characters. Many small businesses use Twitter to promote sales and generate instant interest in their business. For example, a coffee shop might send out a "tweet" that reads, "free coffee for the next 20 customers," or a clothing store might use the feature to promote a one-hour sale on swimsuits. Twitter accounts are currently free of charge.


YouTube is a video-sharing forum. If you visit YouTube you're likely to find video instruction on how to do just about anything from cutting your own hair to flushing an airplane engine. Business owners have started using the popular forum for featuring product demos and sharing videos from programs, seminars and events. It's free, simple and easy to use, and you can add links directly to your own company's Web site.

Most social networking sites also have built-in cross-promotion features, allowing you to link your numerous accounts and profiles to one another, and to your own company Web site. In our next column, we'll start going in-depth with each of the above-mentioned social media platforms, providing step-by-step details on how to make the best use of each of these innovative new forums.

Dave Archer is chief executive of Nevada's Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Contact him through


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