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Be Selective With Your Social Networks

Make sure they're right for your business--and you have time to maintain them.

Every day, it seems like I have messages from people I know inviting me to join them on some new social network. These invitations are always intriguing--what is this new group all about? Will I get more business if I add myself to this group? The people who invited me to join are people I trust, and if they like it I should think about at least trying this new social network, right?

Before you join, here are a few ways to strategize if that social network will work for you.

Research the Audience
What is this new social network or affinity group all about? Is your potential customer in this group? To find the answers to these questions, spend some time looking at the demographics of the typical member. You can often find them by reviewing the information on the about page or the advertising section of the website. Check out third-party information on the community--this may include blogs, media outlets or research groups. Look for research that shows outcomes, not just the demographic or membership information.

Talk to the people who invited you to join. What are they getting out of this new group? How much time do they spend networking with people? Have they closed business from relationships built on this new social network? What other value have they found?

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Identify Your Time Commitment
How many social networks or affinity groups are you a part of right now? Are you really using these groups or are you just a profile on a page?

Social networking--like any form of networking--is about dedicating time. You have to spend time connecting with people, sharing ideas and understanding if they are a good fit for you or the possible lead you will send them. Investing time is the only way to reach this goal. Checking in for 10 minutes a day to update your profile status is not going to get you business. Additionally, not being involved in the tools you say you use can also send the wrong message to people who are reaching out to you in your community.

The biggest pitfall of social media is the danger of spreading yourself too thin online. How many different profiles can you really maintain? There are applications that allow you to update your multiple profiles at one time, but that may not be the best strategy for building relationships with people online. Social networks that have different audiences often times require different types of updates. Think of it like dressing for the occasion--if you're going to play golf, you dress accordingly and discuss different topics than you would if you went to a business management conference. Social network marketing is about understanding your audience and the etiquette that goes with each group.

Stay Focused and Evaluate
After you have reviewed the audience and decided to get involved in any social network you need to stay ask these questions to stay on point:

  • What outcomes are you hoping to see from this community?
  • How are you making it happen?
  • How much time are you investing every day to reach your goals?
  • What is your metric for evaluating your results?

Staying focused on these items will help you decide whether to stay with one group or try another. You will only get out of the network what you put into it.

Jennifer Shaheen, the e-marketing and Technology Therapist, has more than 10 years experience working with small- to mid-sized businesses on their e-marketing and web development needs. You can learn more about her by visiting her web site, TechnologyTherapy.com

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