September 24, 2009
At a recent Social Media-themed breakfast event for New Hampshire’s Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, one speaker (Leslie Poston, co-author of Twitter for Dummies) told the assembled audience there were 537 different social networking sites online. 537! And that doesn’t even count all the networks on Ning and other services like it, which allow you to build your own social network using their templates, or custom-made communities like “Greenopolis,” or “Equestrian Life.”
So when it comes to deciding which social media platforms make the most sense to use, the options can be overwhelming – if you let them. However, with a little focus, guidance, and strategic thinking, you can just as easily simplify your choices.
What follows draws from our 6-week “Social Media Kick Start” Virtual Boot Camp, which expands on these topics with self-paced learning modules.
Let’s start by keeping these two very important questions in mind: Where is your audience now? And where are they going to be?
Even if your target audience isn’t on a particular social network right now, consider the fact that involvement is social networks is growing exponentially. (Heck, if Facebook were a country, it would have the 4th largest population in the world!) Not everyone was on the Web 5-10 years ago, but you could see where the trend was going. Same thing with social networks. Here’s how to dive in confidently.
1. Start with the Big Three.
That’s LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The odds that your audience is on one or more of these platforms right now is very high. And if they’re not on there, they will be by the time you finish reading this. Now, of the three, LinkedIn is the only one that doesn’t get tarred with the “It’s just for kids goofing off” brush. But consider this: The measurement company ComScore reported in April that the majority of Twitter users are 35+, and the 18-34 age group is growing as fast as the 55-64 age group. As for Facebook, InsideFacebook.com reports the largest group of users is between 26 and 44 years old, and the fastest growing demo is women 55 and over.
2. Budget your time and money.
These are your resources, and if you’re a small business owner, you’re using them with care these days. A platform like Twitter is about as simple as it gets – 5-minute sign up, a few communication conventions to learn as you go, then the Twitterverse is your oyster. Facebook, on the other hand, goes about as deep as they get in terms of customization opportunities. Consider learning and growing in this platform as a work in progress, and add, edit, expand and refresh as you go. Even LinkedIn has a lot of detail possibilities, too, but they also have a very helpful tool that tells you how complete your profile is, which can guide you through what options you need to finish to take maximum advantage of its features.
3. Follow the FUN!
It may sound frivolous at first, but there’s sound business sense behind it. First of all, as you play with each of the Big Three platforms, you’ll learn more about your own communication style, and how you like to experience your friends, contacts, and colleagues. Twitter presents quick snippets of insight, links, conversations, and opportunities to brainstorm on the fly. LinkedIn is more professional, following traditional and formal conventions. Facebook is all over the map, with nooks and crannies that’ll surprise you even after months of frequent use. In other words, if control is what you want, Facebook may be your nemesis, but if you dig spontaneity and possibilities from any direction, then hop on board.
The bottom line: if you pick a social network that you dread going to, you’ll find a way to put it off. If you’re not participating in the social network, then you won’t get much value out of it! What’s more, if you hate doing it, that’ll come through in your interactions. No one wants to connect with an unpleasant person. It’s just not good for business.
On the other hand, when you “follow the FUN,” you’ll make time for your social networking. You’ll laugh at the countless pathways – and diversions – available, and you’ll be able to get focused on the results you’re after with confidence and nimble clarity.
Then, as you expand beyond the Big Three, you’ll have a better sense of how to play in the social arena, and what features support your goals and style. Love taking photos? Love talking? Want to try out video? PowerPoint wiz? There are networks that support all media channels.
Some say at least 537, and counting.
Lani & Allen Voivod, The Content Lovers of Epiphanies, Inc., help imperfect-preneurs, global brands, and mission-driven organizations use social marketing & success strategies to ramp up visibility, competitive edge, and profits. Get their free Special Report, “37 Easy Ways to Boost Visibility, $$, and Results w/ Twitter” at http://www.EpiphaniesInc.com/twitter. Then grab “I Had an ‘Aha Moment – Now What?’ at http://www.AhaSuccessKit.com!