EDITOR’S NOTE: With the demise of Google+, and an increased role in the social media space, how I use social networks has changed significantly since I originally published this article. If that interests you, let me know in the comments and I’ll publish a more extensive outline. ~ Mike, March 2019
There are many different social networks out there, and if you’re like me, you have accounts on a lot of them. Maybe you created a profile on Facebook to connect with friends and family, or maybe you got on Twitter because you were told it would be good for your business. Either way, statistically the average American has six different social media accounts, and that number is on the rise. For most, though, many of these networks aren’t providing a lot of value.
When speaking with businesses, I help them to understand their goals for social media, the profile and usage patterns of their target customer, and identification and strategy for specific social networks. For instance, we might identify that a business needs to focus their efforts on LinkedIn and Google+, and spend less time on other networks.
I thought though that it might be helpful to demonstrate how I use social networks. My personal and professional situation and goals are no doubt different from yours, but perhaps you may receive some ideas or inspiration from me – or see where I’m going wrong and please tell me in the comments! I am going to cover only the networks on which I am active daily, and by active I mean that I am not only posting my own content but also reviewing other people’s activity and taking actions of one kind or another. These include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I have profiles and a certain amount of activity on nearly every network, like Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube, but I am not active daily.
Of all my active networks, I have been using LinkedIn the longest, since Aug. 2007. Initially, LinkedIn was nothing more than an online resume for me, no more valuable than my account on Monster or HotJobs. And since I started my own consulting business late 2007, the account did not receive a lot of attention at first.
It wasn’t until I started blogging regularly that I found that I could share posts with connections on LinkedIn. I started to regularly spend time improving my profile, making new connections, and looking for ways to network using the platform.
Today, LinkedIn is a valuable component to my social media strategy. I use it completely for professional use, as you might imagine. I participate in a number of LinkedIn Groups and am a member of the maximum 50. Each new article that I publish gets shared to appropriate Groups where I try to use the article to spark discussion and demonstrate expertise.
I use LinkedIn primarily from my laptop. I log in periodically to view updates, monitor key groups, and provide endorsements. If you aren’t yet giving out endorsemends, here’s why you should.
I maintain an open networking policy on LinkedIn and am always looking for ways to provide value to my LinkedIn connections. I also maintain a LinkedIn Company Page but so far, the value of Company Pages on LinkedIn seems low unless you’re a recognized brand.
Like most, my initial purpose for Facebook was to connect with friends and family. I had been using MySpace but hadn’t connected with anyone. I created my account in Feb. 2008 and immediately started to find and connect with family members, old classmates, and friends. But I also tried to use Facebook professionally. I regularly posted information about my business, including articles I’d written, and began connecting with virtually anyone who would friend me, with the thought that my growing online connections would result in more referrals and business. What I’ve come to learn though is that Facebook is not conducive to that kind of networking. Facebook is a closed network and was designed from the ground up to promote someone’s personal activity and connections. Even Facebook Pages for business struggle for relevancy. I have personally made some professional connections and received some business from Facebook, but not an excessive amount.
Today, I have come to the conclusion that for me, Facebook is truly for personal use only. I do maintain a Facebook Page for my business, and share all my new articles there. And I also share my new blog posts to my personal Facebook profile, but I do so without any expectations. I’m proud of the work that I do and I share it to Facebook so that, at the very least, my Mom can see what I’m up to.
This is, of course, not to say that Facebook can’t be used for business, it can. The fact is though that it’s a better platform for B2C than B2B. I have helped many businesses be successful on and using Facebook, but for my own business, I needed to identify where my target clients were, and it’s on other networks.
I no longer accept friend requests on Facebook from anyone I do not know personally. And I am in the process of cleaning out existing friend connections so that my friends list will be entirely personal friends and family. What little I have done so far, and my renewed focus on personal value, has made a vast improvement on how I perceive Facebook. When I log into Facebook now, my news feed is filled with stories and updates from people whom I’m actually interested in. I primarily use Facebook via mobile app, though I prefer to use the desktop version since the mobile app is still somewhat sluggish (though improving!).
While I had a Twitter account for years, it was some time before I actually began to use it. Like many, its purpose escaped me and I struggled to find value in the network. And, as I noted in a previous article, my obsession with numbers and growth also led me to make a lot of mistakes in terms of who I followed, resulting in literally thousands of accounts followed that carried no interest for me.
I am now in the process of cleaning out my Twitter followings and restoring both order and value to my personal Twitter account. In the meantime, I continue to use Twitter for both personal and professional means. I share my own articles, as well as those of other authors regarding the topics I’m passionate about: social media, blogging, SEO, marketing and technology. I also follow select actors and celebrities that I’m interested in and will occasionally retweet their posts.
I no longer follow just anyone on Twitter, but will follow those that engage me in some way. I also maintain a professional Twitter account for The Social Media Hat but prefer to use my personal account for interaction and engagement, so my branded account currently is used to simply share new articles published to my site.
I rarely use Twitter on my laptop – mostly just for accessing specific Tweet URLs or for adding someone to a list. Not only is Twitter great on a mobile device, I can actually use some of the shortcuts on my iPhone for even faster tweeting, like “ty” turning into “Thank you!”
I have saved the best for last. I have talked before about how Google+ will soon become your favorite social network, and that’s because for me at least, it’s true. Like the others, I have both a personal profile and a professional, branded page on Google+. And like the others, my branded profile is primarily used to share new articles from my site. I use my personal profile for virtually all engagement and sharing of other people’s content.
Like Facebook and Twitter, I made the mistake of circling thousands of people on Google+ when I first started. I didn’t know these people and my Home stream was subsequently filled with uninteresting posts. Once I cleaned out my circles and reorganized them, the value I began to get from this network skyrocketed.
I use Google+ for both personal and professional enrichment. I follow great minds in business and my industry and my Faith, and therefore my Google+ stream is filled every day with fantastic, interesting and extremely valuable posts. While I do share some personal information and interests, like Twitter I maintain a certain degree of professionalism for the sake of my personal brand. I use Google+ almost equally between mobile and desktop, though I prefer mobile for casual blog and post reading.
On Google+, I am particularly selective on who i will circle, but it’s made easier by my circle management. I have circles for All Posts, Most Posts and Some Posts, and will put people in the circle that corresponds with how much I’m interested in seeing them.
Of all the social networks, Google+ is where I spend the most time. I will check in on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day to see what people are up to or respond to mentions, but Google+ is where I go to be fed. No where else can I find the level of engagement and discussion and interest. And this has held true regardless of the number of followers I had.
This is one of the key differences between Facebook and Google+ that so many still fail to understand. Facebook is a CLOSED NETWORK. You and I have to be friends, with joint approval, for us to interact and engage each other on Facebook. You simply aren’t going to see an interesting post from me directly on Facebook unless we’ve already connected. Google+ however is an OPEN NETWORK. You can circle me and I don’t have to circle you back. Even if you haven’t circled me, it’s possible for you to see my posts on Google+, either through searching or through tools like Google’s What’s Hot and Explore. Therefore, we are able to create connections and begin discussions that far outgrow our own limited circle of influence.
So that’s how I use my primary social networks. I hope it’s been interesting for you, and I’m very interested in hearing how you use yours. What are your favorite social networks? Are these four or one of the others? And how do you use them on a daily basis?