In the world of online marketing, it's amazing how often things like "general advice" and "best practices" make the quick but substantial leap into immutable truth.
That has become particularly true with regard to social media marketing (or as we refer to it, social networking), where it has been suggested that companies without a strong social presence are missing out, so it's critical to maintain active profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and every other tool out there.
If you stop and think about that for a moment, though, it doesn't necessarily hold true. While it certainly is accurate that almost every business can benefit from a healthy social media marketing effort, it doesn't necessarily make sense to say that every company has to use every social site, and certainly not that they should be paying equal attention to the ones they do use.
After all, your customers aren't likely using all the social media sites that are out there, so why should you?
Clearly, a small dose of common sense is needed. Many businesses will want to try a number of social platforms, but there are a handful of criteria you can use to find which ones might represent the best fit for your message, audience, and online goals. On that note, here are a few ways we help our clients decide which social media platforms to concentrate on:
Start with the obvious. If you know that most of your best customers use a particular social media site, then that's obviously a good place to start. Additionally, even though new social networking platforms are popping up all the time, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are all well known and extensively used, so there's a good chance they have some marketing value to you and your business.
Consider your messaging. Some companies are a natural fit for certain mediums. For example, a bakery might like to pin photos to Pinterest, advertise daily (hourly?) specials on Twitter, send coupons to fans on Facebook, or showcase their pastry chef on Google+. Conversely, they probably wouldn't have a lot of use for LinkedIn (unless maybe, they are looking to strike a wholesale deal with a franchise lawyer or shipping company). Remember that each of your profiles don't exist in a vacuum; they should be coordinated to work with a bigger online marketing plan so that you can match your messages to the mediums.
Do some testing. If you simply don't have the answers to these questions, or don't feel confident in them, a good next step is just to start testing different ideas. See which social platforms seem like a good fit for what you're trying to do, and what offers or pieces of content draw the biggest response. By paying attention to the analytics, and not just focusing your attention on the sites you (or your family members) like the most, you should start to find the answers you're looking for fairly quickly.
Social media marketing – like any business activity you engage in to meet new customers – is all about the return you get for the time, effort, and expense you put into it. Some social platforms are going to be more profitable and useful than others. If you treat them all the same way, or consider each one to be a "must-do" activity, then you're likely going to be wasting resources (or burning time) that could be put to better use. That's the equivalent of holding a grand opening event for people who will never buy from you. The advice to "form relationships" might be great, but you have to do it in the right way if you want to actually benefit later.
Social media marketing is important in today's business world, but not every social website has the same potential for success. Find out what works for your business, and then dedicate time to it. Once you focus on the ones that work, your activity will start to pay off in the form of qualified visitors, leads and customers.