Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Choosing the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Brand

I talk to a lot of business owners about social media marketing. It comes up just as often in casual settings as it does in formal meetings because business owners have been hearing for years that social media can change the way they do business. Gurus and experts and marketing executives have portrayed social media as a magic bullet for generating interest in the products or services that you offer.

There are no magic bullets. Ever.

But people, especially passionate business owners, want to believe that there are, which has created an unfortunate situation where the loudest marketers have convinced businesses to buy into the notion that social media can create instant returns. Since these marketers are often trying to sell their services to clients, they also encourage businesses to adopt a slew of social media platforms because why settle for one magic bullet when you can have seven?

I'm sure you've seen it. You log into a company's website and you see a caterpillar-looking collection of social media icons in the header: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Google+.

Are these platforms full of potential customers? Almost definitely (looking at you with a great deal of suspicion, Google+). Does using every platform available make sense for your business? Probably not. Here's why:

  1. Every social media property you connect to your brand is both an opportunity and a liability. An out-of-date profile reflects poorly on your business, and if you aren't checking each platform regularly you could miss out on a customer inquiry or complaint, poisoning what was once an opportunity to use social media as a means of providing great customer service.
  2. For many businesses, even large ones, time is precious. If you don't have the time to manage seven social media properties, take the practical route and only take on what you can realistically handle.
  3. The latest and greatest social media platform may not make sense for your business. For example, Pinterest is currently the leader in social media conversion, but if you are selling construction equipment, you probably won't find a sizable chunk of your target audience using Pinterest. And that's okay. When you are choosing platforms for your business, use what you know about your target audiences to identify which platforms they are likely to use.
  4. It's better for your brand if you do one or two things really well than to be barely mediocre at seven or eight. Ultimately, social media is an opportunity to connect directly with your customers. In that spirit, you are probably better off focusing your efforts in less places so that you can create the best experience possible for your audience.
In the interest of full-disclosure, a big part of my consulting work involves social media, and I often recommend that my clients continue incorporating it to some degree into their marketing mix. That said, in the last week alone, I've talked with two different clients about what makes the most sense for their particular businesses. In one case, we decided that LinkedIn was a good fit for connecting with their customers and Facebook was a good way to continue fostering a positive work environment. In the other case, we decided that some basic LinkedIn activity was the most practical option both for their target audience and for their resources as a business.

Every business is different, so be wary of one-size-fits-all solutions. Your business deserves better.

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