Choose the Right Social Media Channel

I’m speaking at the Chamber of Commerce today about social media, and specifically about how to get the most out of social media for your business. I have one hour. Obviously, the big question is what is the most important tip of the iceberg. As I look over my handout for the presentation, I’m struck by how many things I won’t be able to cover, and relieved that I can send people here for my details on most of them.

One thing I haven’t written about much, though, is how to choose the social media that’s most effective for you. I have 7 questions to help you find the best network, but that’s just the basics.

And yet the choice of network is really key to success, in terms of ROI. So let’s look at that in greater detail.

There are a heck of a lot of social media channels, from the gigantic Facebook to the lively little blog on pagan parenting or Argentinian tango. You cannot participate usefully at all of them. You’ll probably be most effective if you pick one or two.

So where should you be putting your energy?

The Big Three

We usually recommend that all our clients have a presence at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, because those are the places where customers will automatically look for your company. That doesn’t mean they’ll be the most beneficial for you in terms of leads. Facebook would be the third largest country in the world if they had any acreage (and they may yet manage it through the cunning use of flags). However, Facebook is a playground. LinkedIn is the one that provides the most leads for B2B companies. Twitter has the most affluent, the best educated, and the most tech-savvy population of the three; that’s where I see the most value for my company, because those are my customers.  Of the Big Three, only Twitter is in my Top 5 Traffic Sources, and it has brought me the most customers.

Of the Big Three, that is. We actually get more traction from forums and blogs, and you might, too. It’s harder to find the right ones, because there are so many more options, but it’s worth a look. Use Google Alerts or blog search to track down the places where people are talking about what you do.

Forums, blog, and industry networks

Forums and blogs are now among the first places people go for help with questions, including questions about to buy. Figures for how many consumers use blogs to make buying decisions vary from one industry to another, but the average is about one quarter. Review sites like Lunch.com and Amazon are even more specifically tied in to shopping decisions, while people looking for services are likely to be asking questions in forums.

Many people think first of forums or networks within their own field. That’s great for linkbuilding, but the plumber talking to other plumbers at the plumbing discussion page isn’t going to see a lot of new plumbing jobs because of it. The plumber helping out hapless homeowners at the local DIY forum will get the calls as readers realize that they really don’t want to do their own plumbing. They’ll want to call someone who has demonstrated skill and knowledge at the forum, rather than a stranger from the phone book.

Networking within your field is great for learning and overall job satisfaction, but participation where your customers hang out will give you a better return on your investment. For my company, since I work for other web firms, participating in forums in my own field is valuable. Someone who sells pipes to plumbers would find that plumbing forum useful.

Notice that I know what kind of results I get and where the results come from. This is essential for ongoing success. Sometimes you do less well at one network because you aren’t spending enough time there, but sometimes it’s actually the wrong place for you. Without measuring and testing, you won’t know, so build that into your plan.

Drive by or settle in?

“Drive by promotion” can make you very unpopular in forums. If you register, make one self-aggrandizing comment, and disappear, people will notice and hold it against you.If you set up a Twitter account and never post (as 40% of Twitter accounts do), you and your company look lame.

However, you can in many places register, make the occasional useful comment, and be fine. Brazen Careerist is okay with this. One good Squidoo lens is fine. An unattended profile at LinkedIn or Spoke won’t get you the maximum benefits, but it also won’t make a bad impression.

Spend enough time at the networks you’re considering to understand what will make a good impression for your company — and then do that before you leave. If you can’t (as with Twitter, for example, where you might as well not bother if you won’t post regularly), then don’t sign up.


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