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The Social Media Storm Continues
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While Facebook and Twitter continue to stay strong, a number of other social media sites are popping up and grabbing the attention of consumers.

Social media provides free marketing opportunities, but it can also suck much-needed time away from the tasks that are more important to your day-to-day operations. So let’s take a look at what’s on the horizon, and you can decide if it is relevant to your business needs.

According to those in the know, three social media sites that are making waves in the industry and that might be a must-have for small businesses are Foursquare, Tumblr and Flavors.me. While not all of these sites will make sense as a marketing tool for your business, one or two might be a great way to continue to reach a relevant audience, free of charge.

Foursquare

At its core, Foursquare is designed for users to let friends know where they are and where they’ve been. The location-based, social networking Web site can also be accessed from mobile devices, and some describe it as a game. Users “check in” at venues and then are awarded points and “badges” for participating.

For business owners, Foursquare can be used to offer “specials,” which are discounts and prizes that can be offered to customers when they “check in” at your place of business. Foursquare also offers venue analytics for owners to track and see if the service is helpful, and – best of all – it’s entirely free.

Foursquare is also a great way to introduce your business to new clientele who might not have been aware that your business existed and encourage them to come through the door. Of course, this site is only relevant for those that actually have a physical place of business. Visit http://foursquare.com/businesses/ for more information.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a blogging platform that allows users to post text, images, video, links, quotes and audio to their “tumblelog,” which is a short-form blog. In a way, Tumblr is a hybrid between Twitter and plain old blogging.

As blogging increases as an advertising and marketing tool for businesses, Tumblr is gaining more momentum. According to Tumblr, 1,181 small businesses utilize the site, in addition to 2,691 medium businesses and 9,029 large businesses. Tumblr was designed to be easy enough for everyone to use, adding to its popularity. Visit http://www.tumblr.com/ for more information.

Flavors.me

This site serves as a landing page for all of your social networking tools. The site just launched in February of 2010 and allows users to pull all the information together from a Facebook page, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter and more. After signing up, you can link the page to any of 15 online services and then completely customize your site.

Flavors.me is free for its basic features, though it costs $20 a year for a premium membership. Premium features include the ability to use your own custom domain name and real-time statistics. Designed to be simple and easy to use, it might be nice to have everything in one place for a change. Visit http://flavors.me/ for more info.

While Foursquare, Tumblr and Flavor.me are all gaining steam daily, there is no way of telling right now if they will be the next Facebook or fall the way of Friendster. If you’re able to spend a few minutes a day scoping out each of these three new sites, you’ll be able to determine which ones are helping your business grow and which ones are just a waste of your time.

Remember, all of these sites can be extremely time consuming. And while you must keep your social media sites up-to-date, you can’t allow them to distract you from some of the more important aspects of maintaining and marketing your business. Carefully consider how much time you will need to invest in these sites before moving forward, but don’t ignore the possibility of opening  your business to a new audience, free of charge.

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