There are now 5 “big” social networks, and 6 if you count YouTube. The social media beast has not only become mammoth, but voraciously hungry, needing to be fed on a consistent basis. It is enough to send a business owner into paroxysms of anxiety! It gets unnerving for marketers, too. More channels means more choice, for both the consumer and the marketer. Inevitably, the consumer’s attention span becomes shorter, fleeting and elusive; the number of combinations and messaging options veers towards infinity as marketers combine modalities, narrow demographics and customize a morass of information to be strategically dripped out over time.
For non-corporate businesses and professionals, where there is rarely a marketing person let alone a team, there are just as many choices and just as much competition for their ideal customer’s mind share.
I am often asked if a person or small business needs to be on ALL of the social networks? I used to say, pick the 3 big ones and add a 4th that fits your specific service or product and call it a day at that. I would put clients through a 5 question sequence and we would formulate our tactical plan from there.
5 Questions to Ask When Choosing the Social Media to Use
Now, the number of networks, and what you say and do on each one depends. They are all different and should be handled accordingly. The question sequence still holds value; and, as before the resulting answer will likely be different for each business entity. Mercifully, with social media still a new form of marketing, there is no one size fits all, and no RIGHT way to do it. There are just more impactful ways of spending time and money, and lesser efforts that don’t add up to much.
With my 5 questions, I start by saying, Think of your ideal customer – either the average of your current customers, or your favorite most profitable client right now. Next:
1. Where are your customers “hanging out” at the moment?
Are your target folks more likely to spend time on Pinterest, or Facebook? Twitter or LinkedIn? Do they love to check out reviews and hit Yelp before they enter any restaurant? Where do they get information, where to they play, where do they talk to their friends?
2. When are they there?
Are your ideal clients corporate folks who tend to use social media at night or on the lunch break, or are the more entrepreneurial and it’s catch as catch can. Maybe they’re busy people who like to check in on things every morning before they start their day?
3. What are they doing when they’re on a particular social network?
Are they on Facebook playing Farmville? Or are they on Hulu watching reruns so they don’t have to watch the commercials? Are they on Pinterest creating dream boards of elegant, sparklingly clean kitchens?
4. What are they looking for when they are there?
Does that fit with anything that would help you tell the story of your business? Every business has a service they provide or a product that they sell. On social media, how the product is made or why the provider acquired the skill of the service, is as compelling as the product or service itself. And usually more so. Look at all of the programs on The History Channel I and History Channel II. Who would have thought, five years ago, the History Channel would be so hip it would need two versions of itself?)
5. Lastly, how can you play in that neighborhood, honoring the culture and community guidelines, such that you can tempt the customers away from there and over to your domain, your site or store?
Here we might look at what has made a customer pick up the phone to call or come into the store in the past, and can we prompt such an action within the confines of that particular platform? Keep in mind that rarely is business transacted on any social platform (think: cocktail party or coffee hour at church) With social media the key is always to get people off that network and into your place to do a deal.
You can see it’s a logical way of locating your ideal customers and interacting with them where they already are. Simply, “fish where the fish are.”
Returning to the question of do you have to be on all of the social networks? After all, you have a business to run, not a social media publishing empire, no? Sadly, there is no good answer, there is only your answer: the combination that works best for your tribe.
Yvonne Buchanan is a 20-year veteran of public relations, marketing and advertising. She teaches public relations courses online for career changers, freelancers and students through The PR Academy www.learnpr.com and is co-founder of Real-World PR www.realworldpr.com , a public relations information provider for small businesses. Real-World PR offers public relations toolkits (manual/CD combinations) that allow small business owners to create and maintain their own public relations programs.