Michelle Sullivan Communications

5 steps to choosing the right social network

Like a kid in a candy store, once you’ve committed to social media you’ll be tempted to grab a handful. Don’t. Resist jumping onboard the Facebook and Twitter (and LinkedIn, and Instagram, and Pinterest, and .. and … and) bandwagons just because those networks are getting good buzz in traditional media. Take a breath before succumbing to the pressure to be « where everyone else is ». Social networks are expensive. Yes, you heard me, expensive. Subscription (generally) doesn’t cost anything, but social networks are very resource greedy and before you know it you’ll be spread too thin, frustrated and wondering where the return on investment is.

And you want to feel like you’re getting a return on your investment of precious time and energy.

So what’s a small business owner or marketer to do?

Woman-with-map

Follow these 5 steps before deciding which social network is right for you:

1. Identify your target audience. Who is likely to purchase your product or service? Who is likely to identify with your content enough to share it with decision makers? Which social networks are they on? That’s a great place to consider starting. But you’re not done yet.

2. Benchmark. Identify competitors and colleagues with a presence on social networks. Where are they and what are they doing? Are they enjoying success through their social media initiatives? Do you think you can compete for attention with them there? If so, you might consider opening an account on the same social network. After all, laws of proximity that apply to commercial bricks-and-mortar spaces can also apply to the online world and being where your target audience expects to find you is an important consideration. That said, have you also considered niche networks? After all, opening a presence on Facebook or Twitter can be the equivalent of opening a store in the Mall of America or West Edmonton Mall. You’re likely to get lost in the fray. Lesser known niche social networks might be just the thing to stand out from the crowd. You’ll have access to a smaller group, but if they’re more relevant to your area of interest, the return on investment could very well be higher. After all, if you sell purple-sparkly-unicorn-ribbons, you want to be among purple-sparkly-unicorn-ribbon lovers. When it comes to choosing a social network, your strategy will depend upon your level of notoriety, your industry, your needs and your capacities.

3. Have you attached enough importance to your own web properties? Social networks are great for building links with your community and driving traffic to your website. This, after all, is home. Is your website up to snuff? Is a mobile version available? Are you blogging yet? Going off to play in Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey’s playgrounds is great, but before you do be sure your house is in order and you’re doing everything you can to build credibility through your own channels.

4. Check your ego at the door. Social media is not for the reluctant. If you’re going to join the party, you need to make sure you’re not on the defensive or fearful. Be open to different ideas and criticism. You need to begin to see negative comments as opportunities. Opportunities to thank for feedback, explain your position, clarify misconceptions and, where appropriate, offer an apology.

5. Be realistic about your bandwidth and abilities. Is communication your forte? Are you willing to set aside a considerable enough amount of time to market your products and services? The amount of time and pleasure you’re likely to give to and take from social media initiatives is going to be a determining factor in your success online. Rather than launching your brand presence on 10 social networks at once, begin with and get comfortable with one, moving onto the next when you’re ready. You’re more likely to stay the course if you pace yourself.

Follow these 5 important steps and you’ll be on your way to social networking bliss.

woman sunflower

Before I let you go, a word to the wise and a hat tip to one of my previous blog posts : opening an account in a social network in order to squat in your brand or company’s name is good practice. It prevents others from claiming your brand name before you do. But there’s a difference between reserving your spot and moving forward with social media. I’m speaking in today’s post of initiatives that go beyond this basic point. Countless business owners and marketers embark upon the social network adventure only to give up quickly after a few tweets or posts on a branded Facebook page. Don’t be that guy.

How are you going about choosing the social network that’s right for your business?

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