Social Networking: Where Do You Begin?
The world of social media is gargantuan and is growing every day. It is hard to know which social networking site will rise into the stratosphere and which one will plummet into obscurity. As a small business owner, how do you determine how large your on-line footprint should be and what social networking sites will comprise that presence?
LOCATE THE MASSES
Do research to determine what social networking sites are most popular in total. Hitwise provides great information in their weekly reports.
HONE IN ON YOUR GROUPIES
Analyze your audience and determine where your customers and prospects spend their time on-line. A recent Ad Age® Blog provides some useful comparisons. Examples of honing in on your audience:
Although gaining ground in the on-line realm, the over age 64 demographic doesn’t have a large presence on-line. If this is your target market, your on-line presence might start with just your business website vs. social networking platforms. If, however, your target market is male and 18-20 years old, you should focus your initial efforts on MySpace (27.2%) vs. Facebook (13.7%), even though Facebook has a much larger overall share of the social networking pool.
DETERMINE YOUR ON-LINE SHOE SIZE
Determine how much of a footprint you can manage. If you are completely overwhelmed with day to day business activities such as keeping good financial records and making your product or providing your service, then you should not sign up for a dozen social networking sites. Select one site to begin your foray into the social media realm. Set up your on-line profile and carve out time in your schedule to regularly interact with the new on-line community you’ve chosen to join. Once you become comfortable with your first on-line community you may want to grow your on-line footprint by joining other social networking sites.
BE CONSISTENT: Convey consistent images of your business with consistent frequency.
Branding: Whether you choose to have one on-line profile or an on-line presence consisting of every popular social networking site, your avatar and username should be the same. The goal of branding is to make it easy for people to recognize your company name, logo, and other business images regardless of where they find information about your company. Since our debut album cover is the most iconic image for Eclectic Verve, LLC right now, we use that as our avatar on all social networking sites. (Note: Some social media gurus argue that your avatar should always be a picture of a person vs. a corporate logo, image or symbol. I disagree.) An easy way to research whether the username you desire to use is available is to consult namechk. Make the username as close to your company name as possible and easy for others to remember. For example: Our company name is Eclectic Verve, LLC. For our on-line profiles, we use EclecticVerve.
Communication: A component of determining your appropriate web presence is to determine how much time you can commit to conversing on-line on a regular basis. You want to be a dependable member of your on-line communities. Whether you commit to interacting daily, M-F, M/W/F, or some other frequency, determine a comfortable timetable and stick with it. Use tools that allow you to schedule your communications for any planned days of interaction when you are on vacation or otherwise unavailable, so your communication pattern is uninterrupted.
BECOME A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Just as you will enjoy your home more if you are pleasant to your neighbors and they show the same kindness in return, on-line networking is all about relationships. Relationships are established through communication. Engage your new on-line ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ by polling them to learn their preferences and sharing links to information you think they might find useful. Although I think it is ok to “ask for a cup of sugar” (promote your product or service in a casual manner) from time to time, it should be infrequent. If you become known as the neighbor who perpetually wants something from the community vs. being a valued contributor, your favor may wane.
ECLECTIC VERVE’S FOOTPRINT
Eclectic Verve’s on-line footprint includes most of the top 5 social networking sites including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We also have a presence on a few sites geared toward musicians or music lovers. We continue to assess our on-line presence and make adjustments as we deem appropriate. We initially chose not to create a MySpace account. However, within the last week, we’ve begun to develop our profile for that site as well.