If you visit webmaster forums one of the more common questions when it comes to social networking, social media and social bookmarking is “Which social network (social bookmarking, social media) site should I join”. The short answer: The one where your target market is. (smiles)
Entering into the online social environment isn’t any different than networking offline. Just like offline, if your purpose of online networking is to create connections to eventually expand your business connections then you have to be where your target market is. Social networking can take a lot of time if you want to be successful at it so you need to be selective about where you are going to be or it will gobble up your whole day resulting in no actual money making work being done.
Planning Your Social Networking Strategy
Keeping in mind what the name social networking (i.e. you are supposed to be social, not just selling) means, coming up with a productive social networking strategy is important.
Know Your Target Audience
As with any marketing campaign, knowing your target audience is the key to success. Most of the time when someone asks on forums “Which social network is the best?” or “Which social network is right for me?” there are the standard answers of:
Yes these are popular social networking sites but so are YouTube, Digg and Sphinn in some circles. It all depends on where your target audience is on the net. You might have better success using a niche social networking site than one of the more popular and busy busier social networks.
Ask yourself these questions about your target audience:
- What social networks, social bookmarking and social media sites are your target audience using?
- Where on the internet are they? Maybe social networking isn’t where you need to be. Do they like forums or traditional email groups better? Do they even know and understand social networking?
- Where are your competitors on the internet? Are there too many of them in one location? Can you find an untapped place where your target audience is but lacking your competitors?
There are lots of things to learn about when venturing into online social networking so spend some time researching what types of social networking, social bookmarking and social media are available. You need to understand how each works to use them to their full potential.
You won’t learn what works and what doesn’t work for your target market if you don’t experiment with the different ideas you see on the net.
Set Goals for Your Social Networking
You will not know if your online social networking is working unless you set some goals. Perhaps it is to meet 3 new people a day or find the right crowd to socialize with within a month. Maybe you have a longer term goal of increasing your website or blog visits by 25% within 6 months. What ever the ultimate purpose of using social networking is (not forgetting the social part) you need some milestones to shoot for just like any other marketing or business plan.
With this information in hand, you can come up with a better plan of attack. Your plan can be adjusted if you find it is not working but don’t give up too soon. It takes time to build up relationships (as in offline networking) so don’t expect super results right off the bat.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
There are thousands of social networking sites available to join. Select a few so your time is spread effectively on each of those you chose to use. Networking takes time and devotion. Signing up for a social network and then not putting in the time to build relationships isn’t going to work.
Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares.
Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value
The trap of social media noise – Seth Godin
Make Real Connections
You will see offers of selling bookmarking services, Facebook fans and/or Twitter followers. Even offers to set you up on hundreds of social networking sites or forums. These are not real connections. How can you communicate with and build a relationship with these people who may or may not be in your target audience? Real connections come when you personally participate in the community and exchange with the members of that community. It might take you a while to build your network of connections but they will be people who truly are interested in what you have to say, your knowledge and what you can offer (as in being an expert in your field). Thousands of connections does not equate to immediate growth of your business.
Create an Consistent Appearance Across Social Networks
Whether you decide to brand yourself or your company, having an consistent logo, avatar or picture across each of the networks you belong to will make you a familiar face if people see you in their own collection of social networking memberships.
Learn how you can personalize each of your profiles at the sites you join. Some may have limited options but others will let you really brand your profile.
Social networking isn’t just signing up for every popular networking site. It requires time devoted in the right social networks for you, your busines and your goals. Maybe joining a social network that is not related to your business/work is the ticket to making a whole new bunch of friends that can later turn into business connections.
Further Reading on Which Social Networking Site to Join
A social network should not replace business website services and functionalities. Instead, it should be an extension, a complement and perhaps an enticement to visit the business website in the first place.
This post was created as part of the V7N Blogging Challenge with a Twist
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