As a modern day marketer, the bevy of tools and opportunities available to you in that online bag of tricks is astounding. Your biggest challenge is likely, “what tools do I focus on and how do I find time to manage them?” Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging have emerged as the standouts. If any of you have dabbled in these tools, you know by now that you can easily dip one toe in the water and soon find yourself floating in a lake of self induced social media disorder.
What is the time value of your money?
Are these social media tools valuable? If you throw the right saddle on them, without a doubt. So how do you effectively manage these interfaces? With a plan of course! That plan should always start with a brainstorming session about your target online audience. You’ll find some good tips about that in this article on creating effective online business content. Once you’ve gotten a handle on who you are targeting then you’ll need to think about the connectivity potential of each tool. Here’s a brief overview of the idea:
Blogging – Managing a customized business blog is by far the biggest bang for your time buck. Why? As you’ll read below, this is the foundation for all of your content and the main push vehicle for all your other networks. Not to mention, you control everything about this environment – how your brand is displayed, whether or not ads are served, who you connect with, and exactly what kinds of messages you want to communicate. In a nutshell the value of your business blog is centered around organic search engine optimization, growth of direct site subscribers, brand/reputation management and niche marketing if you so choose.
Facebook – If you haven’t created a business fan page in Facebook yet, you should. This is the place where all your worlds collide – business, family, friends, teachers, old love interests – they are all there! It’s your extended personal sphere and it’s a great place to publish your message. Facebook makes life a little easier for you by providing many privacy settings that allow you to segment this mixed up sphere. But they also ask you keep business separate from personal and create fan pages for these types of messages.
Twitter – This is a space you grow into understanding the more you use it. Upon first glimpse it seems there would be little value. However, it’s one of the most viral environments and the value of it grows exponentially with tech advances, time and followers (soon we’ll see Twitter playing a large role in geo located messaging!). It’s also a great place for learning – follow those that add the valuable tips you need.
LinkedIn – This is a professional network of your peers. It’s a great way to stay connected to your historical colleagues and peers. It also allows for messaging within this realm – great as it’s a different and more focused group than Facebook.
Once you’ve determined WHO you are connecting too and the potential of each tool you are using then it’s time to choose a saddle. What is each tool good for, how often do you need to use it to make and grow good connections? The answer to this question is probably different for each of you. But just so I don’t leave you disappointed, here are a few good general tips:
- With blogging the more you put in, the more you get out. And more will always be more. Try to shoot for article release 2-3 times per week. Make sure you focus that content!
- Twitter can easily overwhelm you – make sure you use a tool like TweetDeck to monitor your traffic flow. Turn off notifications and check in at regular intervals 2-3 times per day for a pre-determined period of time until you get the hang of it. This is truly a “real-time” tool.
- Facebook can be a major time suck. Set your blogs to auto populate your pages and check in as often as you need to keep the flow of conversation going with your friends and peers. Just have the discipline to get out of there too!
- LinkedIn is a little less interactive – you can set your blogs and your Twitter account to populate your profile pages. Put in the time upfront to get everything dialed in and perhaps make a plan to research and request connections every few weeks or so.
When FREE is really not FREE
While I advocate using the thrid party tools listed above, it’s important you use them for what they are worth. Be aware that their models could change at any time – you are not in control. In fact, they are changing as we speak. LinkedIn introduced a new advertising model about a month ago, Twitter Places may start serving geo located ads via that network, and Facebook, having served ads from day 1, is continually improving upon their model. These people are in the business of making money, just like you and me. While you are a very important part of their models, don’t forget you are also really pawns in the big game. Use them for what they are worth.
The Value of Managing Your Brand
And so finally I’m coming around to the point of this whole article – managing your brand. While third party tools do add value, be smart in utilizing them. It’s becoming more and more obvious these players are in the game to monitize business models, don’t forget you are in the same game. Should you create a free facebook business fan page or a free blog on WordPress.com – sure, and why not! But beware of the potential these entities have to change up models, start serving ads, pass on your information, or god forbid even shut you down. Not that they will, but they do have the power to do anything they want – they own your platforms and even sometimes the rights to your content.
One way to ensure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck (or your time) is to use a custom blogsite as your foundation for messaging and brand.
The best thing about doing this is that not only do you control your interface and message for all time, but you can also push this message out to all those other social networks automatically. If you have a blog you can ensure that your posts will show up on your Facebook business page, as Tweets in your Twitter account and even on your profile page in Linked in. Once these things are setup, they work on their own. It’s the best of all worlds, working together.