Repost from IBM Social Business Insights: The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2)

Earlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog.
The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2)  was originally published on April 20, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 

The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2) 

By Holly Nielsen
Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility

In The Social Media Wars (Part 1 of 2) I defined the terms of social media, social networking and social business, reviewed why you might want to include social media channels in your marketing plan, and how to define your objective before you select a channel(s) and get started.

Here are my thoughts about the current top pros and cons of each of the Big Five (in alphabetical order) to help you decide which social media channel might best meet your needs.

Social media channel
  • Easy to create a business page.
  • Largest user base of 850,000+; over half log on daily.
  • Easy to upload photos and videos.
  • Easy to share relevant information from other pages and users with your audience.
  • Latest status update character limit is 63,206.
  • Mobile version available.
  • Can customize your URL when you have 25 followers.
  • Difficult to organically grow fan base without advertising or using additional promotional vehicles.
  • You must have a personal page to start a business page.
  • Circles are an elegant means to let you separate your different audiences and easily customize messages.
  • Easy to upload photos and videos.
  • Easy to share relevant information from other pages and users with your audience.
  • Mobile version available.
  • No customization of URLs
  • The majority of the users are male, a problem if your target audience is mostly female.
  • Users do not log into Google+ as frequently as they do to the other channels.
  • Groups are business oriented, and your audience is a professional one, since they’re all using it for professional networking.
  • Limited mobile app available.
  • Sharing links with other groups or individuals is supported.
  • Users do not log into LinkedIn as frequently as they do to the other channels.
  • No customization of URLs.
  • You must have a personal account to start a group.
  • No direct photo or video uploading.
  • Popular images (with links back to the original source) can get repinned on hundreds of other users' boards.
  • Pinning function makes it easy to share relevant information from other Pinterest users with your audience.
  • Limited mobile app available.
  • 80% of the users are female, which is a problem if your target audience is mostly male.
  • You can only pin photos and videos, so, if, for instance, your web content is text-based you’ll want to choose a representative (and compelling) image to enable participation.
  • You need to have a product set that translates easily to the Pinterest user base interests.
  • No customization of URLs.
  • Use of #hashtags makes it easy to extend your message beyond your existing followers.
  • Many third-party apps available to help you categorize your account, thus finding accounts to follow and add followers.
  •  Mobile version available.
  • Unique URL available.
  • Multiple third-party clients available. 
  • Retweet (RT) capability makes it easy to find and share relevant information from other Twitter users with your audience.

  • 140-character limit means your messages must be very brief, and depth of interaction is limited.
  • Profile information, called your bio, is also limited to 160 characters and a URL.
  • You need to repeat your tweets multiple times because there is so much content that it is easy for your followers to miss your tweets.

Some general rules apply across all of the social media channels and you must be prepared for them before you execute your social media plan:

  • All of the channels take significant resources to maintain, whether you trade off among staff or dedicate one person. One of the worst mistakes is to start an account or page, then neglect it. Your followers will drop off and not come back, a potentially paralyzing blow to a corporate brand.
  • Spend the time doing your competitive research. Which channels are your competitors using? Are they using them well? Could you do it better? 
  • There is no avoiding negative feedback. Professional naysayers, known as ”trolls,” are also a fact of life online. Consider social channels as a mechanism to address legitimate customer concerns promptly and publicly. Ultimately, resolving customer concerns in these highly visible public forums can improve overall customer loyalty and satisfaction. Acknowledge complaints immediately, even if you don’t have a resolution or you could become a case study in a blog like the one I wrote in January 2012, Preventing Customer Service Fumbles from Going Viral: A Social Media Cautionary Tale.

    When a troll tries to engage you, keep your responses professional and on topic. As a rule, if trolls can’t get the emotional reaction out of you that they’re seeking, they will eventually leave you alone and search for easier targets. If the interaction becomes profane, offensive, abusive, or continues for more than a couple of interactions, don’t hesitate to ban the troll and delete posts. Your followers don’t want to see that stuff either.

    Note: Arizona just passed a law against online trolling that is waiting for the governor’s signature. It’s not expected to hold up in a court challenge, but it does show that trolling is an annoyance, and unlikely to go away, so having a strategy to deal with them is the prudent thing to do.
  • Engage in conversation, be a resource for relevant, related content and build your community. If you do nothing but push your products and services, you’ll turn off your potential customers quickly. A good rule of thumb is to only mention your “stuff” every 10 posts, tweets, or pins.
  • My recommendation is start slowly. Pick one social media channel and work on building your following there, then add more channels as your bandwidth allows.
I manage social networking for IBM Accessibility, and for now, you’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. At some point, we may increase our presence in additional channels, but we’re meeting our objectives with our activities in these three.

A few resources to get you started (I can hardly do this justice—so many talented and knowledgeable people are out there):

Readers, if I missed your favorite social media experts, please add them in the Comments section.