There is an undeniable benefit to develop a strong presence in social network marketing.
Networking communities are as plentiful as the niche clientele and masses that they cater to, and it is easy for the business to overlook golden opportunities or ill-advisedly focus on a non-profitable platform rather than going for a better fit.
Using benchmarks makes the decision clearer.
1. How will this specific social media platform help you?
To resell webhosting a company could join each and every social network that is currently operating. That approach could yield some positive results but there is a good chance that it also results in a lot of misses. In the meantime, the business expends too much time with too little focus.
A better approach is to set standards for social networking performance. The business owner must define how each specific social media platform is expected to help the business grow.
For example, a Twitter presence may be used to drive ad campaigns, offer free trials and engage bargain shoppers. A Facebook page is an excellent website addition to allow for some consumer-business interactivity. Question and answer sessions on this site complement the frequently asked questions section on the business website.
Niche networks -- usually those for hobbyists, business insiders or aficionados -- are most likely the most fertile ground for rapidly growing the business. This holds true especially with products marketed to appeal to a narrowly-defined audience.
2. What are your niche and traffic expectations?
Highly specialized services or goods may only appeal to a small niche. For the equestrian enthusiast (who is a saddle maker on the side), social networks that have a strong rider attraction are the best choice. In this example, another good option is the network that primarily connects the more affluent segments of the population. The more mainstream the product that the business sells, the more negligible the need to specialize on a niche audience.
Keeping a close eye on website traffic, inquiry numbers and also shifts in consumer contact is a must. Evaluate the sources of these interactions to determine which social networking campaigns are working and which are failing to deliver as hoped. From there, the business may opt to cut ties with networks that fall below a specific performance level.
If it is difficult to ascertain the value of interactions, simply ask yourself this: is this social network growing my business, or is it keeping me too busy with non-commercial interactivity that it hurts my ability to focus on actual revenue sources?
3. Determine the online habits of your audience
Do consumers comment mostly on polls? Is there a strong reaction to op-ed articles posted? Do photos or short videos net a lot of hits?
Seek out a wide array of opportunities for connecting with the online consumer, and focus on avenues that yield the best results.
Remember that controversial polls may drive traffic to a site, but it is the sticky content that keeps visitors coming back for more.
4. How much time can you spend on social media?
Rather than spreading your social media marketing resources too thin, go for the most promising networks first. There is little reason to invest in an extensive MySpace ad campaign if the clientele you are trying to reach is of the baby boomer generation. With the meteoric rise of Facebook, MySpace has lost a lot of its luster and anymore caters primarily to the young demographic.
As the business builds up backroom support, and perhaps also identifies associates who can help shape its online presence on various social networks, there is still plenty of time to branch out to more networks.
Of course, if all else fails and there are only enough time and resources for one social network, make it Facebook. Anyone and everyone is gradually becoming a Facebook member and a business presence there is a must.
5. What are your social media management tools?
While it is nice to add a personal touch to each network interaction, there are times when the ability to update everything quickly makes it worthwhile to be just a little less personal.
Tools like TweetDeck let the business owner post to a number of social networks; the service also keeps stats of interactions.
HootSuite is another worthwhile management tool.
6. Will this platform complement other services on your website?
A social network should not replace business website services and functionalities. Instead, it should be an extension, a complement and perhaps an enticement to visit the business website in the first place.
Do not make the mistake of crafting a bulletproof social networking campaign only to invite a vast amount of virtual foot traffic to a sub-par website with broken links and little semblance to your spiffy social media presence. The business site - now and in the future - must wow consumers just as much (or more) than the page on Facebook.