What color is your social media?

Social media comes in a wide variety of choices, with more coming on every day.  There are more platforms than there are colors in a huge box of pencils…so it can be overwhelming to figure out where to get started. 

When I’m giving Social Media workshops, inevitably someone asks “What social media platform should I use if I’m just getting started?”.  Should you get started on Facebook?  Twitter? LinkedIn?  Or any one of several dozen other choices that are out there?

The answer is…it depends – there are a lot of reasons to use each platform, depending on your business, your style, your network and your personal preference.  Some choices will be more effective than others, so let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

There are dozens of viable social media networks and applications, some are aligned by professions (http://www.lawyrs.net/), some are aligned by interest (http://www.efactor.com/ – entrepreneurs and investors) and the biggest trend is the combination of social media and location (http://gowalla.com/ or http://foursquare.com/).

However to keep this practical for now, let’s talk about the big players…Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and why you might or might not consider each of them.

Facebook

Facebook is the single largest Social Media platform with over 350 Million profiles.  Not only are there a huge amount of users but many of them are extremely active – spending hours at time with their ‘friends’.

Why would you want to use Facebook to market your business?

Did I mention there are over 350 Million users?  However if you understand that it’s more important to connect with and be in front of the right people, then the 350 Million doesn’t matter unless your target market is easily found within the crowds.

The thing to remember with Facebook is that it was developed and designed from the ground up as a Social experience – interaction with friends and family.  It’s not the place for hard business tactics, however it can be extremely effective if:

  • Your business has a visual and emotional appeal (like a photographer)
  • Your business is fun and something people like to talk about (Sprinkles cupcakes)
  • Your clients are passionate (about what you do) and want to interact (ATI Testing).

Facebook can be used effectively for businesses that don’t fit those modes, even in business to business scenarios, as long as the focus is on adding value, making friends and showing genuine personality.  However it can be an uphill and slow process and it might not be the best use of your time.

Twitter

Twitter isn’t a social network – it’s a social application that’s had extremely fast growth in the last 18 months and a tremendous impact on news and communication (CNN routinely gets updates from Twitter feeds on breaking news).  The real twist with Twitter is the real time application and the potential for viral sharing of information.

Why would you want to use Twitter for your business?

From a marketing perspective, Twitter can be a great tool for letting people know what you’re up to (new blog post, new article, new event, new product, new ideas, etc.).  To make that effective, you need to build up lots of the right kinds of followers (people in your target market or your current customers). 

To get lots of followers, you need to give them a great reason to follow you.

Kogi BBQ (in Los Angeles) has a lot of followers because they want to know where the BBQ trucks are going to be (the only way to get the food)!

Dell has lots of followers because they offer great deals that you can only get through Twitter (and they take care of customer issues).

Southwest Airlines has a lot of followers because they help their customers have a great flight and they genuinely care.

Scott Monty of Ford has a lot of followers because he educates, interacts and creates a positive presence for his company…in short, he’s interesting.

Twitter by itself is probably not the right place to start if you’re starting from scratch, but it is a great way to listen and learn what people (your clients and prospects) are talking about!  Once you’re up and running elsewhere, it can be a great way to interact, educate, add value and build fans.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn was built from the ground up to support professional networking.  There are over 55 Million users and they typically represent business executives, business owners, professionals and decision makers.  Additionally LinkedIn has a lot of tools that make it easy to interact in a lot of positive ways (answer questions, join groups, share presentations, ideas, book reviews, etc.).

Why would you want to use LinkedIn to market your business?

Facebook clearly has the volume, but LinkedIn allows you to find and connect with the absolute right person that you need…whether that’s a potential buyer or a partner.  The advanced search capabilities, in conjunction with a well thought out network of connections will enable you to often get a warm introduction to someone that you’d really like to meet.

As an example, let’s say you sell to large companies and specifically your buyer is the VP of Human Resources of mid to large consulting companies.  A strategic search on LinkedIn for that combination will generate a list of the exact people you’d like to meet…and let you know who in your network already has a relationship with those people!  Pretty handy concept – if you’re selling to other businesses or professionals.

However if you’re selling to the general public, or to consumers, then LinkedIn may not be the ticket.  You can establish yourself as an expert and connect with people, but it’s much more of a 1 on 1 type of interaction rather than a broadcast.

So where do you start?

It’s a trick question – the real place to start is with your own quality website and you should seriously consider a blog as well.  The reason is when you connect with people across any and all of these platforms, if they’re interested in you, the first thing they want to do is visit your website and learn what you’re all about.  If they can’t do that…or if it’s a bad experience somehow, then you’re wasting your time with social media!

Assuming you’ve got a quality website to call home, then the next step is driven by your target market – where are they most likely to hang out?  That will drive your decision on where you spend your time.

Are you active on social media?  Where do you spend your time and efforts?  What are you trying to achieve (you do have a plan don’t you)?  Share your thoughts below in the comments and let me know where you’re leaning!

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

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