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4/26/2012
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Which Social Network Makes The Most Business Sense?

Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Pinterest? Here's how to ensure you dedicate resources to the right platforms for your business.

6 Social Sites Sitting On The Cutting Edge
6 Social Sites Sitting On The Cutting Edge
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
A friend on Facebook recently shared a cartoon from Noise to Signal showing a pair of work associates pondering their social strategy: "So we poured our budget into a Foursquare strategy, which we abandoned to pursue an Instagram strategy, which we dropped to pursue a Pinterest strategy. I'm starting to think what we really need is a strategy strategy," the cartoon's caption says.

I thought the cartoon, by Rob Cottingham, nailed a problem that many organizations are facing today: With so many social networking platforms out there, and with new "it" platforms changing the landscape at a dizzying pace, where should you dedicate what are probably limited resources? Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Pinterest? Google+? Is it better to bet on one or two platforms, or to spread your chips across them all and see which one hits? Just as the cartoon notes, it's important to develop a social "strategy strategy."

At the heart of any decision about social strategy is relevance, according to Jason Breed, Global Social Media practice lead for Accenture and co-founder of www.Hashtagsocialmedia.com. He says, "[You] need to do social on purpose--otherwise, you are simply moving for the sake of motion."

[ Once you've decided on a social platform, it's time to measure your social strategy's success. Read 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now. ]

Organizations must think about what's relevant for the business and what's relevant for the customer, Breed advises. "Like any investment, [social initiatives have] to result in impact to the business--calls deflected, new leads, competitive intelligence, supply chain effectiveness, etc. Then figure out the best channel for that, not the other way around," he says. "It does not matter if you put up a Facebook page while your customers are complaining on Twitter."

Organizations need to know not only what social platform their customers are on, but also what they are doing while they are there. Joellyn Sargent, principal of marketing and management company BrandSprout, offers this example: If you know your customers are spending lots of time on Facebook but they primarily use the platform to stay in contact with close friends, it may not be the best venue if you want to do something with more of a B2B focus. "Once you know where your customers hang out and why, pick one or two platforms that align with your customers' usage patterns," says Sargent. "Focus your social networking efforts on those. Maybe it's LinkedIn and Twitter, or Pinterest and Facebook. Whatever you choose, dedicate yourself to learning how to use these platforms well, then build on that experience as you add more diverse platforms to the mix."

It's also important to be aware that certain social networking platforms tend to be better for certain applications. For example, a company that makes children's toys or women's clothing might want to stake a claim on Pinterest, which is image-heavy and whose audience is primarily female.

Kate Hutchinson has focused the social media presence for domain name registrar United Domains on Twitter. "Over time, I've really focused our presence on Twitter because I find the most engagement there, and it has the most open platform for searching and finding new conversations that my company can participate in," says Hutchinson.

Hutchinson works with other social platforms as well, but in a very concerted, strategic way, based on the strengths of each of the networks and what each can offer United Domains.

"LinkedIn I use as a company directory, adding our product offerings as well as cross-posting blog posts and searching for potential partners," she says. "Google+ is best for simple content sharing. It's a much smaller network, so I focus less effort there, but I definitely work to share content from the company blog and new product pages. The advantage of Google+ is the indexing power and the influence it plays on search rankings. Facebook I find to be a completely mismatched network for my company's offerings. We target SMB customers as a B2B company, and Facebook is better suited for a B2C company. We do have a presence there, but most of it is automated, simply to keep it current. There is little interaction with the site."

Just as you need to select the right network for your company, you also need to carefully develop the right presence on each. As Hutchinson notes, some sites will warrant more (or less) dedicated presence to activities like engaging in conversations with customers. But you also have to be aware of what kind of content works for each site. In other words, what you post on Facebook may not make sense on Twitter, and vice versa.

"There are definitely social networks that are so similar that you can duplicate efforts and skip the customization, but when it comes to the big ones, customized content can go a lot farther than just using the same social media message across multiple platforms," says Denise Keller, COO and manager of social initiatives for Benchmark Email, an email marketing service. "In some ways, it's like mail merge letters. You can send a mail merge letter to thousands of people, personalized with their name and business, but in the end most can probably tell that it's a mass email, even though you put in some individualized information. You don't have to create custom content every time you post to the big social networks, but you should aim to create and post some on a frequent basis."

What social networks is your organization focusing on? How did you decide? Please comment below or write me at debra.donstonmiller@gmail.com. Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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robbin
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robbin,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2012 | 6:17:07 PM
re: Which Social Network Makes The Most Business Sense?
To add to this information, it's important to make a distinction between building awareness with people who don't know you and your company yet, and staying top of mind with those who do know you and may already be in your network. That will help you determine which social sites to use and your actions therein. For example, you may be using Facebook to connect with your existing customers, but it may not be as effective for finding new ones (unless of course your information is being shared heavily -- unlikely for many small businesses). For that, social media takes on more of a PR play. In other words, start communicating on sites where these new customers may be, i.e., related blogs, discussion boards, etc. In other words, look for "site swag" or free social activities you can participate in at sites where your audience is already hanging out. Take for example, The Knot, for brides to be.
Social is a Business Imperative
Social is a Business Imperative
The use of social media for a host of business purposes is rising. Indeed, social is quickly moving from cutting edge to business basic. Organizations that have so far ignored social - either because they thought it was a passing fad or just didnít have the resources to properly evaluate potential use cases and products - must start giving it serious consideration.
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