Keep Your Sanity and Prioritize Social Networks
"OK, so now that you have a website for your business, it's time to get active on social networks. Go ahead and create accounts for yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, and don't forget that Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn also have special pages for businesses that you need to set up and be active on. Next, create profiles on YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, Quora, Foursquare and Yelp, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Viadeo, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram, and spend time each and every day engaging followers on every network. Oh, and keep an eye out for new social networks so that you can join up early and get a head start on your competition."
Are you running for the hills yet? Who has time for all of that? If you're anything like most of the business owners I talk to, the thought of getting started on just one new social network or marketing tool makes your brain hurt, and then when some social media guru comes along and lists twenty networks that you need to "be on" - it's just not possible. You would probably argue that it doesn't make good business sense for you to be spending all that time on every social network.
And I couldn't agree more.
A lot of people read about the 21 things I do after each and every blog post and were overwhelmed. And I get that. What they didn't realize was that first, it took me a long time to establish all of those accounts and routines; and that second, as a social media marketing agency, I am kind of obligated to check out and be familiar with most every social network. I'm sure that's in the rulebook.
Identifying Your Ideal Client
Instead, what I advise my clients to do is be more analytical and methodical in their approach to social networks. First, we identify what our goals are and who our target audience is. Are you trying to drive traffic to your site? Make sales? Are you targeting men or women, a particular age group, or perhaps a specific market segment? These are important questions that have to be defined before you can proceed to market your business.
The process that a lot of businesses go through is to create a Client Profile. We will dig into that in a later post, but the idea is to write down key attributes that identify and categorize your "ideal" client. This profile may include psychological data, demographic data, geographic data or more. In the end, you will have a virtual picture and an understanding of the type of individual or business you want to target with your marketing.
Once you have your Client Profile, it's time to compare that to the major social networks and see where the key indications of activity and engagement match up.
Prioritizing Social Network Activity
Before we start to analyze specific networks, you need to understand how you're going to prioritize them. The system I teach my clients is the Three Tier Approach.
This top tier of social networks contain those networks where you know your target client is active and engaged, and so your activity levels here are highest. You will have a complete profile, share updates and content multiple times a day, and will be looking for opportunities to engage and connect with prospects. These opportunities may include commenting on and sharing other people's posts, and participating in groups and communities.
My own Tier One networks are Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, in that order. I am active on those networks throughout the day, participating in discussions and engaging other users, and my target clients are there as well. My activity results in actual interest, measurable site traffic and profitable lead generation.
The second tier of social networks are where you will have a profile and will share your content, but you do not expect as much engagement and your time there is limited. It is unlikely that a target client would be active on these networks and find or connect with you, but it is possible that someone else might see your posts and share them with someone else, and so you maintain a minimum level of activity.
Two great examples of Tier Two networks for me are Facebook and Pinterest. I spend a lot of time on both networks personally, but as a business, my time and engagement levels are at minimums due to the lower ROI for my market. My target audience simply isn't using Facebook or Pinterest professionally, so there is a much lower likelihood of reaching them.
The third and final tier of social networks are those where you have little to no expectation of reaching a target client. Any presence here at all is strictly for search value, and there is little to no investment of time on a daily basis.
A great example for me is MerchantCircle. MerchantCircle is a social network that, like Google+ Local, is a kind of local business directory. Businesses can create profiles and since they can connect with other businesses, there is a bit of a social aspect to it. I have a profile there and may pop in a few times a year to keep it up to date, and that's it. If I get a couple of leads from the service, it was well worth the ten minutes I invested.
Once you begin to categorize your social networks in this way, you will be able to better manage your time and energy, as well as come to an understanding that you do not have to spend as much time on social media as you might have thought.
It's important to note that these categories and definitions should be fluid. You may find increasing usefulness from a social network that you previously did not expect to get any value from. Also, the kind of content that you're able to create and share will dicate to a degree which networks are successful for you. If you are willing to create video, YouTube and maybe even Vine might be extremely valuable to your business. If you can take the time to turn your blog posts into presentations, SlideShare might become a Tier Two network for you.
The following infograph will give you a basic understanding of the demographics for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit and Digg. For each network, data is presented on Gender, Age, Education and Household Income, as well as additional usage data. The data is from last year so usage numbers will have risen, but demographic ratios should not have changed dramatically.
A Case Study in Social Media Demographics [Infograph]
Prioritizing Social Media Account Creation
Another aspect to this prioritization of social networks is that once you have defined your tiers and placed your networks in each tier, you now have a priority list of social networks for profile creation and optimization. If you determined that Twitter is a Tier One network for you and your business, but you don't yet have a Twitter account, creating that account and learning how to use Twitter is now your top priority.
For most clients, I recommend they focus on adding and learning one new Tier One or Tier Two network per month, so that it is spaced out over a reasonable timeframe. Since Tier Three networks will largely consist of taking a few minutes to create a profile, I recommend adding 2 - 3 of those per month, along with directory listings and other similar SEO efforts.
When it comes to finding a list of social networks, I typically start with the AddToAny share widget at the bottom of this post. When clicked, it reveals dozens of social networks, bookmarking and directory sites that you can use to create profiles.
The timing here is completely up to you. Work on a new social network every week or every six months - whatever makes the best business sense for you. The point though is that you can attack your social media presence with a plan. By prioritizing social networks, you will be able to focus your efforts and avoid getting overwhelmed.
If you'd like help creating your Client Profile or how you approach social media, please contact me.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."