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Ask the Pit Crew: Which Social Networks Should I Choose for My Business?

Ask the Pole Position Marketing Pit CrewMembers of the Pole Position Marketing pit crew answer your web marketing questions from their unique perspectives with a “bonus lap” by a guest industry pro.

Have a question you’d like answered? Ask the pit crew!

This Week’s Question: 

I started a new business. Obviously, we’re using Facebook. I don’t have time to do a ton of social network sites, so I want to hit the best ones. Which ones should I choose?

Stoney deGeyter’s Answer from an SEO Perspective:

The short answer—and I always like giving the short answer before following it up with the long-winded version—is, whichever works the best for your business.

Yeah, I know. I hate answers like that, too, but in this case, it’s true. There really is no right or wrong one, other than making sure whichever one you choose is right for your business.

There are a plethora of social networks and each have their value. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest are the big ones. I’d start there. Not all of them, pick one, develop a strategy that is right for both your business and that particular social network and see what you can do.

Once you get that one figured out and know if it’s successful for your business or not, you can start working on the next. If one didn’t work, don’t give up; it just might not be the best for you.

And that’s the long-winded version. Carry on.

Kathy Gray’s Answer from a Social Media Perspective:

Thanksgiving Dinner

Don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach.

On Thanksgiving Day, as one dish after another are passed around the table, it’s easy to overload your plate with all of that delicious-looking food (not all of it good for you). The same goes for social media. You don’t want to overload your plate with social networks. Being great on one is better than be terrible on five. And not every social network is a good fit for every business.

Take time to find out where your target customers are, whether you’re B2C or B2B. If you’re B2C, Facebook is a good bet, but depending on your business and customers, you could find that Pinterest or Instagram are better platforms for engaging with them. If you’re B2B, a good first stop is LinkedIn, but you’ll also want to investigate Twitter and Google+. When investigating social networks for your business, join with a personal account first. Using the platform as an individual, before joining as a business, will give you a better idea of how your customers are interacting on the platform and how it works.

Think about your business goals and how social media can support them. Are you looking to expand into a new market? Do you want to build awareness for your brand? Do you have an image problem that you hope to influence through the use of social media? Are you looking to increase leads? Do you want to increase word of mouth referral business? All of these questions and more will influence how you interact on social media, the content you share and which network is best suited to meet the goal.

Once you’ve narrowed down the networks your target customers are interacting on and have defined your social media goals, join one social network. Create your business page/profile, begin interacting and sharing content that is helpful to your target customers (in sync with your goals), read articles on best practices for that particular network and get comfortable with it. After you’re successfully engaging with your customers and making strides towards your goals on the first platform, add a second and so on. Just don’t stretch yourself too thin!

Don’t let social media distract you from the importance of your own website. While they are increasingly more important for business, social networks come and goremember MySpace? Your website is your home base on the web where you can control the conversation. Make sure that your website continually offers fresh content, is findable by your target customers in search, and don’t forget about the benefits of having your own social network on your website, a blog. Not only does a blog help you build credibility and give you SEO advantages, it can also work in unison with your activity on social networks directing people back to your website.

Prevent day-after Thanksgiving discomfort, by choosing the right social networks for your business and not overextending yourself.

Annalisa Hilliard’s Answer from a Link Building and Local SEO Perspective:

Aside from the branding benefits, social networks can aide in finding link opportunities. Most networks offer search within the network itself. But, there are also external tools like Social Mention and Followerwonk that work in tandem with one or more social networks to help you find who’s talking about a certain topic. Once you discover where conversations are happening, you can engage in the discussion and build relationships.

Over time you’ll likely find a handful of people contribute to related discussions across several networks. Typically, those are influencers of the particular industry. After using social media as a platform to build a rapport with peopleby adding value to the dialogue and sharing your knowledge & ideasit’s probable that people will share your wisdom with others and credit you with a link and/or mention.

Debbie Briggs’ Answer from a Content Marketing Perspective:

Well, first of all, Facebook isn’t for everyone—or every business. Granted, Facebook is growing every day with new users, and it’s even made my life easier on occasion when I can just “log in with Facebook” instead of filling out another online registration form. But just because a lot of people use it, and it seems like everyone is on it, doesn’t mean the customers you want to target are using it for business.

Case in point: Say you’re part of a highly technical company that offers equipment engineers need to do their jobs more efficiently. Are engineers logging on Facebook every day looking for the latest and greatest equipment? Probably not. Most likely they’re doing what you’re doing on Facebook—seeing what they’re friends are up to and posting pictures of their dog.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should never invest time in developing a company Facebook page. But if your company is B2B, it might be better served by focusing on your LinkedIn presence first, for example, where your particular customers are spending some of their valuable work time. Pick the network that best matches your product or service, not just the most popular one.

Mike Fleming’s Answer from an Analytics Perspective:

My answer is likely going to be a little bit “non-traditional,” if you can have tradition in such a new space. When you think of “social network,” of course you think of Facebook, etc. But my suggestion is going to be not exactly what you might think—your industry’s blogosphere. Sure, this isn’t a 3rd party social network site as you might think of one, but this is most definitely a social network. If you spend a good portion of time researching the blogosphere in an industry, you will realize this. Industry bloggers know each other, link to each other, and converse together. It’s a network—and it’s social.

Why do I suggest focusing on industry blogs as the best place to be for your business? Because when you go to a person’s blog and converse there, you take a step onto their turf. And if you’ve got good relationship skills, you get into their world. You empathize with their point of view. You add value to their conversation. It’s Relationships 101, and it works. Here, you are more likely to win them as a connection, a friend and a fan because you can be guaranteed that when you interact at the place of their digital home, you are more likely to have their attention. When you have their attention and add value to their conversation, it’s a win-win.

Add to that the fact that you have the chance on their blog to be exposed to their audience. But this isn’t an audience that just “liked” a page to get a discount. They don’t just see a post and comments in passing as they sift through all the noise that 3rd party social networks can bring. Traveling to a blog is more of a commitment. They are more likely to be genuinely interested and passionate about the conversation.

In my opinion, your industry blogosphere is the best social network to get involved in. If you put in the time and effort to add value to the conversation for your industry’s audience, you can leverage this to grow your business online.

Bonus Lap with Sheila Scarborough:

Sheila Scarborough is a writer and speaker specializing in tourism, travel and social media. Along with Leslie McLellan and Becky McCray, she’s part of the Tourism Currents team, offering online and in-person training in social media for tourism and hospitality.

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Image Credit: Flowizm / Flickr CC

For a businessperson, the answer to any question about “where do I spend my time marketing” is always the same…spend your time where your market spends their time.

Always ask yourself these questions when crafting a marketing communications strategy that includes social media:

1) Who is my market? What is my ideal customer like? Get very specific. PS: “small business” or “women” or “people in my town” is not specific!

2) Where are those people right now on social media? And, add this back pocket knowledge because things move quickly online, where might they go in the near future?

Tip: Look at each social media channel’s demographics, culture and growth possibilities, then pick one that closely matches your market. My favorite resource for this is Pew Internet data on social networking. Also, ASK your customers! Don’t assume, for example, that “old people aren’t on social media,” because they most certainly are.

3) What are some ways that I can help my current customers (and draw in new ones) on the social media channels where they spend their time? Photosof what? Informationabout what? Videoof what? Customer servicehow?

Notice that there’s nothing in here about jumping into stuff just because that’s what everyone else is doing. Take the time to think through the best strategy for YOUR business, and remember that it is better to work hard and do well on one, single social platform than to spread yourself too thin and stink at all of them.

Yes, Facebook is currently a pretty solid option for establishing a social presence and learning how to listen, respond and build rapport online, especially for B2C. If your business is B2B, however, I’d say that LinkedIn may make even more sense for you. Is there a very visual element to your products or services? Use that to your advantage on Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and YouTube. Want to build an extraordinary network for professional development, making worldwide connections and keeping up with industry news? That’s how Twitter works for me. Want big SEO (Search Engine Optimization) impact and a chance to carve out an valuable online presence that will last? Consider a blog.

Finally, there are some things that are important to nail down even before you do anything on social media, like having a solid website and claiming your business listing on Google Places. At Tourism Currents, we talked about that from a tourism and hospitality perspective in our post 6 Must-Do Moves for Tourism Partners BEFORE Social Media.

Do one thing. Do the most important thing. Do it now.


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Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm who's pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his bride enjoy and his children. Read Stoney's full bio.

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