Social Media: Start Here

Just starting on social media? It is tempting to want to be everywhere. Either everywhere, or nowhere. If we try to be  everywhere, we are quickly overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices and billions of conversations. If we go nowhere, we lose valuable opportunities. Is there a happy medium?

With hundreds of social media sites, no business can afford the time to be on every site. It is important to make sure you are on the right sites for you. Which ones will expand your portfolio? Which will generate new leads?

Here are three simple questions to consider:

1)     Where are your people? If your target audience is on MySpace (even though MySpace is losing clients by the droves), you want to be on MySpace. If they are on YouTube, well, that is the place you’d want to be. How do you find out? You ask. You can ask your constituents in casual conversations or conduct a quick poll on your website or enewsletter. You can conduct a quick focus group or ask your staff. You can also visit the social media sites and investigate. . . . who uses the site? What kinds of conversations do they have?

Of course, question number 1 assumes you can identify your target
audience. If you cannot describe your target audience, you might want to figure that out first. Then come back to social media. We’ll be waiting.

2)     Forget your people, where are most people? Three of
the most popular social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you want to start somewhere, those three are a safe bet.

Facebook has more than 500 million members and those members are spending more time on the site in 2011 than they did in 2010. Facebook users span the generations.

Twitter has more than 125 million members. This may seem insignificant compared to Facebook, especially when you realize many of those members are not active on their accounts. Don’t be fooled. Chadwick Martin Bailey, a Boston based consumer research group, reported that consumers are 67% more likely to purchase brands they follow brands on Twitter.

LinkedIn has approximately 80 to 90 million users. This group of social media users is arguably more professional oriented compared to other social media sites. It is a great opportunity to map out your personal network and see what connections might be made with people from your friends’ networks.

3)     How do we want to interact with people?  Once you know where the people are, ask yourself, how do I want to interact with them? If you are the kind of company that does not welcome customer engagement and feedback, social media might not be the best place for you. A website would give you a better one-way platform.

If however, you are open to truly engaging with your constituents,
research the sites identified in questions #1 and #2 above. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What kinds of conversations are happening on this site?
  • How do people interact with one another?
  • What kind of maintenance would it require?
  • Where are my competitors and how are they interacting with
    everyone?
  • Do we have the skills necessary? For example, a blog requires
    writing skills. Video sites require video skills.
  • What kinds of challenges might we anticipate with this site?

Once you’ve answered these three questions, should have a good sense of where to start.  Now the fun begins.

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