With accusations flying that Facebook is gaming its own algorithms so that users have to pay for ads to reach followers who used to see their stories automatically, many companies are looking at alternatives for online marketing. The situation isn't that simple, and Facebook will likely remain an effective marketing tool in the future, but it may be worth diversifying a company's marketing strategies now while the opportunity presents itself. There are plenty of alternatives out there, and some of which may even prove more effective for marketing than Facebook.
Pinterest, the next social media giant, is a visually-oriented social networking site where users can post, share and organize images. Even smaller companies have found success connecting with large numbers of followers on the site, provided that they have beautiful photos to share. It takes very different strategies to be successful on Pinterest than on Facebook, but it's an excellent platform for promoting home decor, food and other easily photographed products.
For a smaller, but higher quality audience, Path may be a good fit. With Path, users can only share with 150 people, which means that each connection is far more likely to see content and pay attention to it. For businesses offering exclusive products or services, a more select audience could prove beneficial. Just by distributing content exclusive to those 150 contacts, a business may be able create a much deeper tie than on other sites. Path also offers the opportunity to connect closely with other members of an industry or high-level contacts.
As Google+ is evolving, it's becoming a better fit for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses looking to build a marketing plan may want to seriously consider getting onto this platform. Some features include individual pages, which act almost identically to personal accounts and are easy to set up quickly. As an added bonus, Google+ is integrated with many other Google tools. Google+ Local and Google Maps can draw on a business' Google+ page to display better and more accurate information about that company when someone searches for it. In addition to sharing updates and photos on the network, Google+ users can also hold Hangouts, video conferencing sessions, send event invitations to each other's calendar and more.
Tumblr is a 'microblogging' tool where users can post updates, much like they would to Facebook. Followers can subscribe to a specific account. However, there isn't quite the flexibility in communication on the site that some other social networks offer. In addition to being a fast way to share content with users interested in a particular topic, Tumblr also has the added benefit of helping improve search engine rankings for those companies that invest time in creating content that links back to their main site effectively.
For companies/individuals looking to connect with extremely local audiences, rather than the entire Internet, a local network like Nextdoor may prove far more effective. While it isn't available in every community yet, the site is slowly creating hyperlocal networks that facilitate the residents of different neighborhoods getting to know their own areas better. Businesses can't become members, at least at this point, but individuals can, which may help in building a personal brand online and in local markets. Locals can also recommend favorite businesses in the area and companies can buy advertising on the site.
The Bottom Line
There are hundreds of social networks out there. While no business can be on all of them, it may be worth considering a few of the smaller options, as well as the big alternatives to Facebook, to reach audiences that few other companies are focused on. A company may find that it can reach the exact audience it needs by moving to a more targeted network. There are plenty of opportunities for marketing a business without relying on Facebook.