These are the first five words that should come out of your mouth anytime you hear someone say “I want to get into social media” or “so, tell me again how I can get into this Twitter thing?” You need a plan if you’re an individual, but especially if you’re a brand. At this point, you can’t just walk into space and guess until you get it right. Trial and error wastes a great deal of effort, and more importantly time. It’s a much better idea to take a few hours now to develop a social media plan than to spend 100 hours going down the wrong path without even knowing it. Now is the best time to figure out if Facebook is the platform for you or if Twitter will generate enough ROI for you to spend hours tweeting.
So, in that light, here’s a little cheat sheet to help you figure out which network is best for you, and why. I will break down four of the main social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and LinkedIn. Each of these requires a great deal of time and effort if you want to be successful, and even experienced marketers can’t do everything. But before you pick your platform of choice, you need to:
Have a Goal
If you don’t know why you’re entering social media (or if you’re doing it just because you think you should), you will fail. The available options will eventually overwhelm you and you have a high chance of choosing the wrong platform and/or spreading your efforts too thin. You wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign without any idea of what you were hoping to get in return, so why would you spend dozens of hours building a social media presence without any goals in mind?
Here are some examples of goals that you could have for your brand:
- Build awareness
- Generate traffic
- Increase sales
- Create a passionate community
- Manage feedback
- Educate users about your brand
All of these are valid reasons to use social media. And there are plenty of others. The best way to see which platform will generate the most value for you is by seeing what they’re best used for:
Twitter is great if you want to build awareness, generate traffic, manage feedback, and even educate users about your brand. It’s especially good if you target locally. The problem with Twitter is that people get caught up in the numbers. You know, that little number that says how popular and interesting you are. The fact is, that number doesn’t matter. If you care about ROI and are interested in really using Twitter for good, your number of followers is a terrible gauge for your influence. If you’re a local restaurant with 3,000 followers, yet 2,900 are from a different city, they’re not going to help you make that next sale. In fact, Twitter is usually not a good tool for increasing sales in general.
If you’re on Twitter, you’re there to communicate. Period. That’s the great thing about the platform – there are no ambiguities there. Your profile is short, so it’s a terrible place for your home page. The only thing a user can do is interact with you. So if you want to use it to post tips on how to use your website (which you can then even stream as a widget to your website), great. If you want to drive traffic to your website with your status updates or want to build awareness about a new product, that can work too (provided you’ve created a good network).
I’d say that one of the most important things for brands who want to use Twitter is Search. If you’re a local band, you can use it to search for people mentioning the bar you’ll be playing at later this month and play the role of disruptor (”We love the Tractor Tavern too! We’ll be playing there this weekend – you should check us out!”). You can also search on your bigger competitors and learn what they’re lacking that you can provide (or what they’re doing right so that you can copy). If your brand is big enough, search for mentions and respond. Be inquisitive, not obnoxious and look to help, not correct. Nobody wants someone to disrupt their conversation by telling them they’re wrong.
On Facebook, you can educate users about your brand, manage feedback, build awareness, and create a passionate community. I’ve found that Facebook is typically a poor platform for generating traffic. Generally speaking, you won’t have enough people reading/driven to your hub page, and even fewer will forward your content on to friends. Facebook is not really a great place for dissemination of information. Without the “RT” philosophy, even your most interesting information will rarely be forwarded on. Facebook is, however, a great place to have a web space/hub for your brand. Whether that hub is a fan page or a group, when a user searches for you within Facebook, it’s important that they don’t come up empty. It’s similar to a band and MySpace. Sure they might search for you later, but they also might give up. Plus, a Facebook hub allows you to direct your users wherever you want them from your hub.
You can also build a passionate community on Facebook. With the ability to create discussions and events or to have the group add videos and pictures, you can create a great deal of goodwill by allowing your users generate content for you. Plus, if you’re a technical product and people are having issues, you can build goodwill and awareness by answering it on a Facebook discussion page. It’s nearly as good as a personal forum, except you will likely have greater exposure by hosting your discussions on Facebook rather than your own home page.
If you choose to use Facebook for your social media presence, don’t let your page go stale. It’s much easier than other platforms to just leave Facebook be and come back to it later. However, if your own website is constantly updating with new features or your band is adding new dates to your tour, edit your Facebook. Also, lead discussions. You can add value to your Facebook page and get people coming back for more if you are able to lead intriguing discussions about topics relevant to your users. Your Facebook hub can and should be managed like your own web page.
Honestly, I can’t find a great reason not to blog, unless you really do not have the time to keep it active and updated. Your blog can really be catered to all of your social media goals and if you have the ability and time to write even a few blog posts a week and comment on others’ blogs, it is absolute, 100% worth it. Granted, I’m biased (-:
Blogging helps to respond to feedback (comments) while building awareness and generating traffic at the same time. If you can use your blog to build a passionate community, it’s great for generating sales once you’ve built a loyal consumer base. Here’s the key, though: you cannot do it half-assed. If you’re updating your corporate blog once a month with irrelevant information that doesn’t help your consumer, you’re wasting your time. If you’re addressing your user’s technical concerns or keeping them updated on your status, then it can absolutely be used as a hub for people to keep up-to-date with you.
Here are some ways to use a blog: Small business owners- Let your customers know what’s going on. If you’re rolling out new products or serving a Burger of the Month, a blog is a great platform to keep people updated. See what my old company, Lion Brand does with their blog. Bands- Keep people aware of what you’re up to, especially if touring. Posting updates from the tour are always great, especially if they’re interesting. Individuals- Add value to the industry you work in. If you have insights or information that you believe will be beneficial to others in your industry, go for it. Mike Pritchard is a great example of this.
LinkedIn is great for creating a passionate community, building awareness and educating users about your brand. Like Facebook, it’s not great for generating traffic, but it’s a nice place to create a hub if you’re a business. For businesses (specifically white-collar), it’s great for creating a community and allowing your own employees to interface with your community.
Another way to use LinkedIn is if you’re a company staffing up. It’s a great way to get reliable employees (recommendations help with this) and allows your employees to learn a little more about your company. Expedia is one example of a company that uses LinkedIn well for their brand.
Choosing Your Networks
As you can see, once you’ve created your goal, it’s much easier to make a choice on what network to start with. The biggest suggestion that I can make is it’s much better to specialize and do one thing VERY well than to do 3 things poorly. Social media is a great tool for your business, but if you do it poorly, you can easily anger your audience. It’s customer support: when it’s good, it creates brand loyalty and spreads word of mouth. When it’s done poorly, it can do exactly the opposite.