Thursday, July 17, 2014

Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, Oh My! [Navigating Social Media Channels]

Marketing has changed. Gone are the days of one-way advertising, and here are the days of socially driven two-way conversations. 

But does every business need a Facebook page and Twitter account? What about LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, YouTube, FourSquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Vimeo, SlideShare, Vine, Snapchat, social bookmarking, review sites, blogging...and the hundreds of regional and industry specific social media channels? 

First, the question becomes whether you [or your business] has the time and resources to devote to each social media channel and how much time/how many resources you plan on putting towards your social media endeavors. Without an entire full-time staff of social media experts, you won’t make every account successful. 

Once you know and understand your resources, you have to decide which channels are best for your business. Each social media channel provides different types of interactions, different content you can share, and different audiences. 

The key to filtering through all the social media channels is two-fold: 
  1. Where do your customers live online? What channels do they use the most? 
  2. What platforms are most conducive to your business? 

Finding out where your customers live online can be a tough task. Each social media channel has its own demographics, and each customer may use a different mixture of the channels. As much as we can pour over the data to help us find the right channels, these are generic stereotypes: age, men vs. women, etc. Your customers may be different. For example, a non-profit I sit on the board for has a 3:1 ratio of women followers on Facebook, whereas Facebook as a whole has almost a 1:1 split. 

If you know your customers well, you may already have an idea of what social media channels they use. You can also ask. A simple poll [maybe with a coupon incentive] of your customers could lead to some surprising results your assumptions didn’t expect. 

The second filter for choosing your social media channels is more straightforward, but takes some thought. 

What platforms are most conducive to your business? If you are a tax software company, you probably won’t have many beautiful images for picture-based social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr - so don’t focus on these. Using the LinkedIn publishing functionality can help position the company as an industry expert. 

However, sometimes out-of-the-box thinking will give you a venue your competition isn’t using. Take plumber Bob. Although he doesn’t have beautiful imagery, Bob could create short “how to” videos to post on YouTube for common household repairs and maintenance. The videos help build trust with consumers that Bob is knowledgeable in the field. If Bob wants to take it a step further, quirky and comical imagery that links to these videos could be popular on Pinterest. 

A company who provides extensive customer service and follow-up may find Twitter useful for quickly providing help.The list could go on with examples. 

Once you understand the potential options you have at your disposal, plus the channels that will give you the most reach with your customers, it will be easy to determine the best spots to focus your energy. 

Remember, you don’t have to have a presence on every channel. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your social media strategy won’t be either. Starting where you will get the most return, you will be able to build out your presence over time. 


Photo Credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham on flickr  

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