Before you start asking what I have against these two mega-sites, rest assured, the answer is nothing. Both are valuable marketing tools, as countless companies have discovered. But if you read online marketing and social media blogs regularly, you're probably getting tired of hearing about Twitter and Facebook. Both sites have large user bases, so they're good places to start (they do get mentioned often for a reason). But ask yourself this: Are these the only two websites you visit on the Web? Chances are they're not the only two sites your customers are visiting, either.
Note the most important word in the title - "Beyond." I'm in no way advising you to give up your marketing efforts of Facebook and Twitter. But if you feel like branching out in your Web presence, try some of the suggestions below. I tried to include an example with each of how you might use it to your advantage. Hopefully these examples will provide you with the inspiration you need to get started.
Social Bookmarking Sites (Digg, Reddit, etc.)
On sites like Digg.com and Reddit.com, people submit web pages that they think are interesting, informative, or entertaining, and other users give them an 'up' or 'down' rating. The voting component is why it's called social bookmarking. If you have content on your site that you think would be valuable to others (perhaps an informative blog post), share it on these sites. It only takes a couple minutes to submit a page. There are even social bookmarking sites out there centered on a specific topic. As as example, your blog post on New Property Tax Laws may not have enough of a general appeal to be successful on Digg, but on Tip'd, a social site for finance and money news, it might be a big hit.
If you don't know, Flickr is a photo sharing site, owned by Yahoo!. It's also the 21st most visited site in the US, according to Alexa. If you're wondering what you can do on a photo sharing site to market your business, the answer is pretty simple: share photos! As an example, let's say you owned an antique car restoration business. Take twenty minutes to create a Flickr account, and post pictures of some of the beautiful cars you've restored. Add some new photos every once in a while. Now, when people interested in car restoration search the Web, maybe they will come across one of your pictures. Not only will you deliver the message that you do great work, but also that you are genuinely passionate about your work, and sincerely care about the final product -- not just the bottom line.
Everyone knows YouTube. It's the third most visited website in the world (after Google and Facebook). The tactics you can employ on YouTube are similar to those discussed with Flickr above. The main difference is that video offers many more possibilities than photos. With video, you can share customer testimonials, virtual tours, tutorials...the list could go on and on. Rather than provide a hypothetical example in this case, I thought it would be better to share an example from real life - The Home Depot. This home improvement giant has created a robust YouTube channel, offering over 100 videos offering advice and instruction on painting, gardening, carpentry, and other home-related topics. Once they've inspired you to undertake a couple of these projects, guess where you'll be going to buy the necessary supplies?
Review Sites (Google Maps, Yelp, etc.)
Chances are pretty good that people are talking about your business online. Ideally, they're talking about your business a lot. But the bigger your business gets, the more likely it is that you will, at some point in time, receive a negative review. Unfortunately, even the best customer service can't ensure 100% satisfaction - there is just no pleasing some people. While you can't control what people say about you on Google Maps, or Yelp, or UrbanSpoon, you can make some efforts to manage your reputation on these sites. In the case of a positive review, respond with a kind thank you. In the case of negative feedback, respond with an apology, and an effort to make it up to the offended party. I wouldn't recommend responding to every review you receive, but a few responses here and there might go a long way towards keeping your reputation clean (and perhaps discouraging people from posting negative reviews!). If a negative review is truly inaccurate, contact the site on which is appears, and request that it be removed. There are no guarantees, but some business owners have been able to get grossly unjust reviews removed from certain sites. It's worth a shot!
Have other ideas on how to break out of the Twitter/Facebook rut? Share them in the comments!