Reported by Amy Anderson
With so many tools in the blogosphere, it’s hard to know what you should use and why. You could spend all day engaging in social media or bookmarking, but does that help you grow? Here are four social media tools that I use regularly. For each I explain what it is, how to use it, and how it can help your business. Keep in mind that these tools, while not necessarily complicated, require a little more investigation to make sure that they are right for your business. I hope the basics will help you decide if they are worth checking into.
What is it? I’m so pleased to talk about StumbleUpon first, because it is one of my favorite online communities EVER. StumbleUpon is a personalized recommendation engine that helps you find your favorites on the internet by ranking your preferences. It’s a filter and also uses social networking (just like Pandora).
How do I use it? Create an account and choose your favorite categories. Once you are set up, you will “Stumble” by pressing a button, and you will be taken to a website in one of your categories. You can choose to thumbs up or thumbs down the website. If you thumbs up the website, then StumbleUpon knows to give you more like the site. The more sites you rate, the more StumbleUpon can refine and give you what you like. You can also friend people and have their favorites come into your filter. I highly recommend downloading the toolbar so that you can easily thumbs up and thumbs down sites.
How can it help my business? StumbleUpon is one of the most useful tools I’ve EVER used to grow. It takes awhile to get going and to have your sites “discovered” (added to the StumbleUpon engine), but once you do, your site (or shop) will come up in relevant Stumble streams. Being a part of this discovery tool will allow potential customers to find you who might have never known you existed.
What is it? Have you ever had a corkboard where you have pinned your favorite magazine cutouts, ideas and inspiration? Same concept applies here, except virtually. On Pinterest you create collections of your favorite things and then follow collections by others to find more cool stuff.
How do I use it? Right now you have to request an invitation, but once you’re up and running, Pinterest is super easy. Simply find things that you like and “pin” them – I recommend using the “Pin It” toolbar for one-click pinning. Pinterest is easily searchable for items of interest, or finding friends to connect.
How can it help my business? I like it when sellers use Pinterest as a more indirect tool. My advice is to start collections of your favorite things and incorporate some of your own items into “style guides” like the fashion magazines do. For instance, if you are a jewelry seller, it would be nice to include a collection of your pieces with handbags, shirts and summer sandals to inspire people to buy. You can share these collections via your social media and blog. This method says “here’s how my items go with current fashion trends” rather than “buy my necklace and earring set.” It shows that you care about how your customers will use your items.
What is it? Flickr is an online image hosting website and a vibrant online photography community. Flickr is used by a lot of bloggers (including myself) to host images to later embed into blogs or other social media. The basic Flickr is free (but there are upload limitations), or you can upgrade to a pro account without upload limitations for $24.95 per year.
How do I use it? Simply open an account at www.Flickr.com and start uploading your photos. You can tag photos with keywords that will make then show up in searches, and you can also organize photos into sets so that viewers can easily browse. Another cool feature is “Notes,” which is basically putting a note on top of the photo that you can see when you hover your mouse. If you do use Flickr, I recommend using the Groups feature as much as possible. Sharing your photos with interested parties gives you a lot of exposure.
How can it help my business? There are a few reasons to use Flickr. First of all, it lets you host large images of your products without using up all the bandwidth on your blog. Secondly, tagging photos helps them to come up in Flickr AND Google/Yahoo! searches, so you have a good chance of being “discovered” by participating. This can, of course, lead to additional purchases! Finally, I host a Mod Podge Rocks Flickr group so that participants can easily share their photos and possibly be featured. You could do this as well – have customers share the photos wearing/featuring your product, and host a contest. It all builds buzz!
What is it? Instagr.am is a free iPhone application (yes, iPhone only at this time) that allows you to take pictures, apply a filter and then share the image via various social media.
How do I use it? Download the application from the App Store and install (it’s free!). Take a photo and select a filter from one of 16 filters used to transform the look and feel of the photo. Select the social media to broadcast your photo – choose between Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare and Posterous.
How can it help my business? You can use your Instagr.am stream to capture photos of your product, and also do special previews for customers. Instagr.am actually realized earlier this year that a lot of people were adding hashtags (e.g., #modpodgerocks) to their photos, and have made it easy for people to find photos based on your hashtag. I recommend thinking of a business hashtag and adding it to the title of each of your photos.
Once you integrate the hashtag, you can add the photo stream to your business fan page or Twitter stream using the following address:
To sum up? You can sit in your studio and take photos of your new projects, then broadcast them out to your followers using your cell phone.
I highly encourage you taking the time to check out each of these tools and see what will work for you. It’s worth the time and trouble for increased sales.
Which of these social media tools are you using? What do you love/hate about them? We would love to know what YOU think in the Comments section below!