5 Questions to Determine Which Social Networks Are Best for Small Business

One of the biggest challenges for any small business is time.  Between finding new employees, motivating them, building a winning team, and increasing productivity, there really aren’t too many moments to waste.  So you certainly don’t want to waste precious time on online marketing endeavors that might not offer a decent return on investment.  One major component in any online marketing strategy is social media, but it can also be one of the biggest time consumers as well...In this post, we’re going to go through 5 questions that can help you determine if a particular social network is really worth your time and investment.

1. Is my competitor on this social network?

One of the best things you can do for any marketing strategy is be where the competitor is.  For example, if you were looking at magazines to publish an ad in, wouldn’t you want to make sure that you were in the same magazine as your competitor?  That way you would have the same chance of scoring new business as they would?

The same goes for social media.  The last thing you would want while someone is comparing businesses is for them to discover your competitor’s successful social media presence but find nothing of yours. 

So how do you find your competitors on social media?  The easiest way is to check out their website - most will link to their social profiles on their main website or on their blog.  Otherwise, you can always do a Google search for their name + the social network of your choice such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+. 

2. Is my audience on this social network?

Another way to look at your competitors on social networks is this.  If your competitor is successfully building and engaging with their audience on a specific social network, then that social network has your target audience. 

So how do you find out if your audience is on a particular social network if your competitor isn’t there already?  There are several ways that all boil down to knowing what keywords your audience would be using.  Let’s say that you sell gardening supplies online.  Your target audience would be gardeners.  Here is how you can use that keyword on the top social networks. 

  • To find out if your audience is on Twitter, try searching for gardener or gardening on Twitter user directories and search engines such as Follower Wonk, Wefollow, and Twellow.  Follower Wonk lists at least 15,000+ people with gardener in their profile.
  • To find out if your audience is on Facebook, try searching for gardening in the search box at the top.  The interest page for gardening has over 3 million fans.
  • To find out if your audience is on LinkedIn, try searching for gardener or gardening using the People search box in the top menu bar.  The results for gardener shows over 24,000+ people.
  • To find out if your audience is on Google+, try searching gardening or gardener using the search box at the top, then change the dropdown from Everything to People and Pages.  Google+ doesn’t give a count of the number of people it finds, but there is an extensive list that goes on and on.

Most social networks will have their own search box to use, although when it comes to Twitter, using outside search engines and directories make it easier to find people with specific interests.  This will help you gauge which network has more of your targeted audience.

3. How popular is this social network?

Finding your competitors and your audience on a particular social network are not the sole reasons you want to invest your time into a social network. Another good question to ask is whether the network is gaining or maintaining popularity.  Take the new fad Pinterest, for example.  In the above graph from Quantcast, you can see that traffic is only getting better for them, even though they just started out.  While a little drop in traffic here and there is not a bad thing, you don’t want to see continuous decrease in traffic which might indicate the network is on its way out.

4. Will this social network help my online reputation?

If your business has reputation management issues such as unsavory items on the first page of search results, then social media networks can help.  Your business’ profile on certain social networks will generally move up in search results, eventually hitting the first page if you are active on those networks. 

As you can see from Mashable’s social presences, it’s not only profiles for your business that count, but also those of individuals who reference the company.  Therefore, it’s important for your business and your owners / managers / employees to have profiles that include the business name as well.

The social networks most likely to rank on the first page are as follows:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

5. Is this social network driving traffic to my website?

Sometimes, the only way to know if a social network is going to benefit your business is to simply give it a try.  Set up your profile and start engaging on a few networks that offer satisfactory answers to the above questions.  Then check out your website analytics - set up Google Analytics now if you haven’t already.  Under Traffic Sources > Social > Sources, you will see the amount of traffic you are receiving from social networks.  If you notice that you’re putting a lot of energy into a social network that is barely sending you traffic, then you should start focusing your time elsewhere!

About the Author

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

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