When Tom Anderson co-founded MySpace, he was chosen as the face of the company. His mug shot was one of the first thing that 250 million users saw when they first joined. He was everyone's automatic first friend and the famous grin with him sitting at his computer and peering at the camera to his left was seen (even if only for a fleeting moment) by the masses.
Most of us were never co-founders of a leading social network. For us, becoming a leader in social media whether for personal reasons or for our business requires posting and being active on multiple channels. Here's a breakdown of the various channels that require a presence at the least and domination at best to be truly successful.
Facebook goes without mentioning. If you're not there, you're not really a part of social media.
Twitter, LinkedIn, and now Google+ are the other obvious sites that individuals and brands need to be on if they want to be leaders in social media. Many have ignored one or more of these, believing that they can extend their personal or business brand without them. This is a mistake.
It's a matter of reach. While hundreds of millions of people are on Facebook, not everyone uses it often. More importantly, the network is designed to be closed based upon preferences, so building a presence through a page or a profile requires reciprocation. If Facebook takes the bulk, the "leftovers" can be found on the other 3 major social networks.
The Long-Form Channels
Blogging is dying if you believe the reports. Of course, those reports have been coming in for years and there still seems to be no slowdown on the number of blogs being created as well as the traffic of the popular blogs themselves.
Having a proper Wordpress blog for the company or individual brand is extremely important because of the expectation of length. Many of the networks such as Facebook with its Notes and Google+ with it's long-form posting ability (which some, such as Kevin Rose, have turned into their blog) are trying to replace traditional blogs as the new way to get the extended story out there, but they are simply not robust enough to bring the full value that a blog has to offer.
Tumblr was once an alternative to blogging. The hybrid microblogging/full blogging/content posting platform has gone beyond standard blogging in many ways. Instead of being an alternative, however, it should be a venue that is used in addition to a blog because while its popularity has skyrocketed over the last two years and it has full-blogging capabilities, the audience still has a short attention span and rewards pictures and videos over articles.
Between the two, it makes for a lot of work but it can be rewarding if done properly. For example, one might post a full article on their blog, shrink it and link to it from Tumblr, shrink it further for Facebook and Google+, then truly reduce it down to its bare minimums for Twitter and LinkedIn.
People love videos. Whenever the talent and time are available, videos should accompany much of the content that people post if they want to become social media leaders. Chris Pirillo has expanded his brand that could have easily failed years ago by making videos the centerpiece.
One does not have to be a strong video personality to utilize videos. Erik Qualman has appeared in some of the videos he posts on YouTube, but his brand is built around the innovative and insightful motion graphic videos that tell the story visually rather than through the spoken word.
Flickr, Imgur, and now Pinterest are additional channels that can help to promote the brand. Through pictures, people and businesses can not only express their personality but also bring people into their blogs and other content with visual "hooks" such as infographics.
This is the hardest and riskiest portion of social media through which to focus on an individual and brand level. Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon require true quality of content to make them work, but those who can tap into these sites can draw tremendous traffic to themselves and their brands.
Messages must be sincere and not intended to be self-serving. While it's possible to insert semi-promotional components into a story such as the example of "47 Endangered Species in South America have No Refuge... Yet", it has to be "real" and of completely general interest.
Watch. Learn. Don't jump.
There are new social media sites launching just about every day. The list of channels above requires a tremendous amount of effort to make them work right. Every new channel means more effort. Make sure that something is going to get big before diving in too much.
Becoming a leader in social media as an individual or a business requires effort on multiple channels to find a true audience. Otherwise, we're all simply talking to our friends and family.
Channels as Part of a Brand Message Strategy
When done right, using multiple social media channels can do more than a well-distributed press release to bring the message to the people. It's through these channels that we have the most exposure.
Exposure yields more exposure thanks to the ability for content to go viral on today's internet.
Once you establish yourself or your business as a social media leader, using this type of social media brand message strategy is a piece of cake.