You Don’t Have To Be On All the Social Networks To Succeed

I remember back when blogging first started, when people told me, “you need to blog to keep up!” I pushed back. I was already writing a book every two years, pumping out a beefy newsletter every month and answering over a hundred emails a day!  The thought of more writing work was simply overwhelming. 

And then the social networks started popping up, begging for my precious time and attention.  I could ignore MySpace, and at first facebook.  LinkedIn lurked on the horizon, offering a little value if I was looking to poach someone for my company … and then it all converged into a blizzard of gotta-be-here-hammering-it-daily networks that I felt like I had to invest in.  

Turns out, only a few of them actually drive my speaking or writing business.  The rest are flotsam…time wasters…content vampires.  Through this I ‘ve learned that you don’t need to be everywhere, because that’s like trying to dance your way out of quicksand.  You’ll never get there.  

During my keynotes on The Social Opportunity, I tell businesses that they need to think differently about the rise of social networking and all the opportunities that come with it.  Here’s what you should really look at: Are your business targets moving to new streams to find, connect and share? Are they harder to reach with your current marketing and CRM strategies?  If so, then you likely need to setup a new camp, otherwise, wait until you have a real need to make the leap. 

Some consultants say that it’s easy to make this decision based on your type of business: Professional services on LinkedIn, Consumer offerings on Twitter and Pinterest, Technology and media services on Google+ and everybody on facebook, but I think that’s an overgeneralization that is disproved by countless case studies. Here’s a more scientific way for you to figure out where you need to be.

First, you need to be clear on who your targets are.  By targets, I mean, who do you want your content to reach and who do you want to interact with more often?  For most of us, the prospective or current customer represents your top target.  For some companies, reaching partners is more critical.  Those could be resellers or strategic providers, where constant contact generates more performance.  In some cases, like McGladrey Accounting, their top targets are entry level accountants (team members and candidates).  You may say, “all of them”, which is fine if you really have the resources to shoot for three targets with your interactive strategy. 

Next, you need to ask your best clients/partners/employees where they fish for solutions, graze for information and share their content.  Ask them where you can connect with them, share their content, and give them updates and special offers.  Create a survey (no more than seven questions), or better yet, make it part of your ongoing conversations and then distill the information to develop a top three social networks list.  In my experience, my top customer has a media profile that closely resembles my top prospects, so this exercise will scale from current to prospective victories. 

Now, create a program to serve NO MORE than the top three networks.  If you can, limit your work to two.  Often, you’ll do this to serve multiple types of targets.  In the case of McGladrey, they invest in LinkedIn for new customers and facebook to recruit accountants.  They use their Twitter account to drive traffic to their blog posts.

In my case, my targets include readers, conference planners and speaking bureau partners.  I work my blog, facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (in that order of priority).  I don’t really do Google+, Tumblr or Pinterest.  They don’t offer me ROI against my defined targets.  If I tried to do everything, I’d likely be spread too thin.  

Finally: Monitor the results, refresh your survey every year and drop dead-weight networks.  So far, my blog and facebook have generated the most business for me, but Twitter keeps me directly connected to most of my targets.  I’ve been investing more time in LinkedIn, but haven’t seen much results yet…so I might drop it (like Chris Brogan did last year when he moved to Google+). This way, I don’t end up with network creep, where I simply add new ones to the pile, ending up spread out eventually.  

If you’d like some advice for your business, do a straw poll of your top targets, share the results and your business situation in comments and I’ll jump in with my .02. OK?