How to select the right social network

Determine what you want to achieve through social networking before you pick a platform

When people use social media to build their profile, promote a product or a service, or market a company, they often get lost in process—they don’t know where to focus their efforts. Most people start with Facebook and Twitter, just because they’re the most popular or they’re the only platforms they’ve heard of. Or, people will set up multiple profiles on many different platforms and struggle to keep them up-to-date. Both of these examples are a “tools first” approach and they should be avoided whenever possible if you want to be successful with social media.

There are two main problems with the “tools first” approach. The first problem is the fact that you’re assuming that your target audience uses the platform. The second problem, if you’re working on this project by yourself, is the struggle you will face to keep all the profiles and pages constantly up-to-date.

Before you choose a social network, ask yourself a few questions: Do you want to drive traffic to your website? If you do, what page, or what product do you want to drive the consumer to? What do you want to achieve? Do you want sales? Do you want to use social media to market yourself? Your company? The questions are endless—and only you can answer them.

Be clear and concise on what you want to achieve with social media. You are more likely to be successful with a well thought out plan. Spend time defining your target customer, or your target audience by doing research into how you can reach them. Where do they spend their time online? How old are they? Where do they work? What do they buy? Once you’ve completed the research, it may be quite obvious how to reach your target consumer and achieve your goals. Surprisingly, you may not even need to create a Facebook page.

Most of the mistakes with social media aren’t the big company fails when a company says something wrong, or an inexperienced intern tweets something inappropriate. Those cases are rare. Most of the time, the companies that fail miserably at social media are the ones that spend a lot of time and money into building pages, websites, and forums that fail to register on anyone’s radar.

Becoming successful with social media does take some work. But if you figure out what you want, where your target audience is, and how you can reach them, the rewards will make all the difference.

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