Choosing the right social media strategy for your brand isn't a high-risk endeavor in terms of money invested. Choosing wrong can affect your brand, though, especially if low engagement leads to the abandonment of your efforts, leaving behind an ancient & unloved Twitter feed or a stagnant Facebook page. Nothing says "We want your business" like a 14-month-old post about Gangnam Style.
With that in mind, let's consider three niche platforms that may or may not be suitable for your organization.
Basically a free-flowing blog platform, Tumblr favors well-written short posts, animated gifs, and memes. Many of the most popular Tumblr feeds bring together related posts under a common, quirky topic, such as It's Like They Know Us, a hilarious send-up of depictions of families in advertising; Dead Malls, an anthology of dead and dying shopping malls; and fandoms based on just about every cultural phenomenon known to the internet.
More than anything, Tumblr rewards creativity and authenticity. For a brand, it requires a hip and lively connection to Tumblr's young audience. Lots of brands trying to be hip on Tumblr have fallen flat because they failed to be relevant to their intended audience. If you have something meaningful to add to the conversation, though, by all means join in.
Building followers as a brand on Tumblr, though, requires constant engagement, most likely augmented by paid promotions, contests, and giveaways.
Many small businesses thrive on LinkedIn, especially service professionals (such as freelance writers!). LinkedIn makes it easy to import your contacts, make connections, and grow your network.
To build your LinkedIn presence, you can endorse your contacts for specific skills, which they will hopefully reciprocate. You can also post articles, send messages, and keep track of your peers when they get a new job or update their profile.
In my experience, LinkedIn does have some downsides. First, it is very limited in reach. Some fields use it much more than others. (Toy store owners and their vendors, not so much.) When networks aren't engaged on LinkedIn, messages go unread and connections get dropped. So, it makes sense to survey your peers' usage before dedicating a lot of time to developing your presence.
Second, LinkedIn is pretty cludgy. It's not nearly as easy to use as Twitter or Facebook, and by default it sends a lot of spammy notifications which can be difficult to disable. It's also easy to miss important messages, so if you need to reach someone, it's probably best just to send an email.
Third, there's a lot of spam connection requests from people you don't know. As a best practice, you should always create a personal message when requesting to connect with someone to remind them about how you know each other.
In short, if your brand relies heavily on networking, LinkedIn is probably for you.
For starters, Google+ is all based on your Google account, the same one that you're probably using for Gmail or Google Docs. If you have a corporate or nonprofit Google Apps account, you may or may not be able to use it with Google+. And, if you have more than one Gmail account, you'll almost always have to log out before logging in to Google+.
It's also hard to find friends and grow your network on Google+, which is mostly because not many people use it. Google+ has earned a niche in some communities such as software developers, who find the relative quiet and lack of spam to be an attribute. But, for the most part, only Google reads Google+.
And therein lies the rub. Google+ is linked with a bunch of other important Google systems, not the least of which is Google search. For that reason alone, it makes a lot of sense to share any and all links you post to Twitter or Facebook onto Google+ as well.
Importantly, if you have a physical business location, Google+ is also (hopefully) linked to your local Google Places page on Google Maps and to Google reviews. These pages pop up automatically when people are looking for your business, especially on a smart phone. (If you're building these pages from scratch, you'll want to tread carefully so that they're all linked together.) For any business with a street address open to the public, Google+ and Google Places are a must.
So, for SEO and Google Maps purposes, creating and maintaining a Google+ page for your brand is probably a really good idea, even if it doesn't create a lot of social interactions.
Next up in Part 3: Facebook and Instagram.