When most people think of social media marketing, they think of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And with good reason – they can be highly effective marketing tools when used correctly.
But this just scratches the surface of the social media universe. There are dozens of successful social networks that you can use to reach your audience. They bring people together for different reasons: to share pictures, plan events, share articles, answer questions, collaborate on projects, and so much more. And since many of these sites get less attention from marketers, there is often less competition for users’ attention when you find one that fits your needs.
So what are these sites? And how can you use them to reach potential customers? In this series of articles, I’ll discuss the different categories of social networks, explain how businesses can best use them, and describe the individual social network sites you can use.
For this first installment, I’ll start with sites that are dedicated to sharing pictures socially.
What Picture Social Media Sites Are About
These social networks are designed to help people, organizations, and businesses share pictures. These sites not only allow you to share your own photos, but also to search for photos from other users and then save, share, comment, favorite, bookmark, download, and so on. Some sites include photo editing and printing software and allow you to join groups or communities dedicated to a specific interest, like sharing dog photos or wedding ideas.
Since the focus of these sites is visual, they can be very effective for catching attention. Some sites limit users to sharing personal photographs, while others actually cater to businesses, encouraging them to run photo campaigns.
What Businesses Can Benefit from Picture Social Networks
Do you have a product or service that can be communicated visually? Then these sites may be a good fit for you. The more unique, compelling, and interesting your images, the more likely you will be to find success.
A few examples of businesses that typically can find success on picture social networks include:
- Interior designers and decorators
- Wedding professionals
- Fashion professionals, hair stylists, and salons
- Gyms, health and fitness experts
- Travel agencies, hotels, airlines, concierge, and other tourism-related industries
- Grocers, caterers, restaurants, and recipe sites
- Ecommerce sites
- Crafting supply companies
- Event planners
- Home improvement stores
Best Practices for Picture Social Networking Sites
- Make it easy to find. Users often locate content on these sites through searches, so that means how you describe your images matters. Make use of all of the ways that the site lets you label or categorize your image, and include keywords in your image titles and descriptions.
- Think about Google. These images will also be indexed by Google, so take advantage of the search engine optimization opportunity. Use content-rich image names, alt tags, and other meta descriptions.
- Ask people to contribute. You don’t have to provide all the content for these sites. Instead, you can use them as a way to encourage user participation. Ask people to share photos of them using your product, wearing your company T-shirt in a fun location, or otherwise engaging with your brand.
- Run contests and giveaways. Reward users for their participation and encourage others to join in by running contests or giveaways.
- Introduce your staff. You can use these social networks to make a personal connection with visitors. Post photographs of staff members along with short, engaging biographies.
- Encourage people to connect. Share the images on your other social networks, your blog, and your website, and let people know how they can subscribe or connect to you on the picture social networking site of your choice to get updates in the future.
- Join groups to increase your audience. Remember, these are social networks, so be social!
- Respond. As with any social network, it’s crucial that you engage with your audience. Check in regularly to respond to comments.
- Customized items fare better than mass-produced products. For example, an image of an iPhone isn’t as interesting to look at (or as likely to be shared) as a rainbow-colored kitty case that you can put your iPhone in.
- Consider adding branding directly to the photo. It’s not the right solution for every brand, but if you’re encouraging people to share your photos or allowing them to use it rights-free on their website, you may be best served by including your URL, the company logo, or other info directly on the photos.
Social Networks in This Category
The newest behemoth in the social networking world, Pinterest is the fastest growing website ever. And it’s currently the 3rd most highly trafficked site behind Facebook and Twitter. While you can share other types of content on the site, such as articles and videos, its bread and butter is images. I’ve shared a ton of useful tips and information on using Pinterest to generate traffic here. And you can also check out their business tips section.
At its heart, Flickr is pretty simple – it’s just a giant photo album for regular people. The difference is that instead of filling up entire shelves in your office or boxes in your garage, all of the photos in this album are housed online. You can upload your pictures, organize them, keep them private, share them with a select few like friends and family, or make them public so that anyone on the internet can see them. Flickr also lets every user who posts publicly decide whether or not they want to allow their pictures to be used royalty-free or charge people who want them. Additionally, users can create galleries or groups where they share specific types of photos, like unique engagement rings or sunsets at the beach. Check out their best practices for organizations using Flickr to get started.
In a way, SmugMug is a little bit like Flickr on crack. Besides just hosting photos and letting you share them, this site is geared more towards gadget-heads, design freaks, and professionals looking to sell their work. How so? Because they give you total control to craft a gorgeous online portfolio with a wide variety of layouts and tools. It’s perfect for photographers, wedding professionals, interior designers, and other businesses that rely on a solid portfolio to showcase what they can do. Check out SmugMug’s business best practices.
This cross between YouTube and Flickr isn’t just another online photo repository. They include an editing tool for people to play around with their work and allow animated gifs as well. But the real innovation here is in the way that they display and promote categories of photos and even highlight staff picks for each kind of picture. This is a great site for getting your photos noticed if they are unique or compelling.
Picasa is just another online photo repository (albeit with some interesting effects that you can put on your photos), but there’s one thing it’s got going for it that the others don’t: Google+. Now, that may not sound like much, but giving users the ability to share photos on Google+, organize them into Circles, and even tag pictures of friends in Google+ and share those photos is a significant benefit. It’s especially interesting because attention on Google+ may give you a better search rank boost than other social networking sites such as Facebook.
Pictures are worth 1,000 words, right? Well, Fotopedia wants to take that idea one step further by allowing photojournalists, businesses, and others to tell stories with series of photographs. Got some spectacular pictures from a vacation package to Italy? Upload the tour through the Vatican with a short paragraph describing each picture and giving it some context. Want to toot your horn about how your business engaged in relief work? Toss up some pictures of everyone getting their hands dirty and wow visitors with personal stories and impressive stats.
It’s kind of like Twitter for the photography crowd, where users are encouraged to take interesting pictures or videos of what’s going on in their world right that second and post them with a short caption. Comparing it to Twitter is a bit reductive, though, because you can post Zannel pics practically anywhere – Facebook, MySpace, the aforementioned Twitter, and throughout the blogosphere. Perfect for businesses wanting to live blog an event in a visual way and get a conversation going.
You’ve probably heard of Instagram. It started off as a photo-sharing site that was less interested in sharing photos than it was in allowing people to change them by using various interesting filters. However, it’s evolved into a sort of Facebook for sharing photos, complete with Likes and comments. There are also some nifty little features such as utilizing GPS to organize photos by the location they were taken. Not a bad way to advertise the location of your business if you’ve got some interesting images to share. Check out their FAQs for businesses and brands on Instagram.