How To Pick The Best Social Network For Your Brand


My inbox is swamped right now. It’s swamped with endless end-of-the-year statistics all hailing the same thing – businesses are looking to up their investment in social media in 2011. They’re looking to these channels for promotion, lead generation and as alternate forms of customer service. And that’s great. But before you start throwing your money into social media, make sure you’re setting up shop on the right network. Because it doesn’t matter how pretty a house you build if you’re putting it in the wrong neighborhood.

Below you’ll find a series of questions I’d recommend businesses ask themselves before they join any social network. While all the different Twitters, LinkedIns, Facebooks and MySpaces are great, they’re only great if you’re using the right one for your business. Otherwise you’re just working to build a collection of useless accounts.

Why are the strengths of this site?

Whether it’s Twitter, Dailybooth or Flickr, it doesn’t matter. Before you decide to allocate resources to a particular site, know why you’re doing it. How will being on Twitter help your business? What can you do here more efficiently than through a different platform? What is the goal of Twitter for you? And unless you want to get smacked, don’t just recite what you read on Mashable or some other social media blog. Actually evaluate the site and decide how it’s functionality will help you. Just because LinkedIn is great for one business, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a fit for yours. You want to find what is. Decide what you need and how this site can help you get it. If you can’t figure out how this site will help you, find another one.

How much time can you afford to spend there each day/week?

I’m talking realistically, not in your social media dream world. How much time can you realistically spend to maintaining your Facebook page? An hour a day? An hour a week? An hour a month?

The amount of time you can spend will be directly tied to whether you’re successful or not. Scott Stratten often states in presentations that his Twitter followers really start to grew when he began dedicating a significant amount of time to interacting on Twitter (he has 74,768 followers at publishing). Shocking, right? Well, not really. These are social channels. In order to see a return on them, you have to actually be social on them. If you only have half an hour a week to build brand awareness, then it’s probably not going to work for you. Social media, much like SEO and most other parts of your marketing identify, are not one-time investments. You need to actually be there and show people that you’re part of that community. The only thing worse than not having a presence on an important social network is having a crappy one. Because then it’s not ignorance, it’s just that you don’t care. If you don’t have time to raise the baby, don’t have one. Less therapy for everyone.

What are the demands of this site?

When you go and create that social media account – you’re actually going to be expected to do something with it. If it’s a Twitter account you’ll need someone to update, respond to comments and do outreach. If it’s Flickr, you’ll be responsible for creating video, promoting it, and being active in that community. If it’s a Dailybooth account, well, you’ll have to find someone who is vain enough to take a photo of themselves on a regular basis [I can say that, I have a DB account.] All of these sites demand that your brand participate in some way. Make sure you understand what those demands are before you get on the bandwagon. If you have no social skills, don’t join social media. Run like hell from social media.

Does your community use that social network? Do they use social networks at all?

I mean, I’m sure you think they are, but have you checked? Just because the world now spends 110 billion minutes (OMG, go outside!) on social networks and blogs, doesn’t mean your users do. Check your referrals to see where your community is hanging out and where your content already is. Go to the social network you’re courting and do a search for your brand and/or keywords. Are conversations taking place there? Do a search for your competitors? Are people having conversations with or about them? Ask your customers about the social networks they most use (if any) and if they’d like to see you there, as well. But don’t just assume that your audience is on Twitter or Facebook because they’re the biggest dogs. You want to have the numbers in your hand to back up whatever site you choose.

If the service was $500/month, would you still join it?

Really, would you? If the only reason you’re signing up with this social network is because you think it’s free, don’t join. Because while the site, itself, may not charge for membership, you are paying for presence there. You’re paying in your time and the resources that you’re dedicating to it. If this site isn’t important enough to you that you’d pay to be a member, then it’s a sign you’re not taking it seriously enough. Don’t waste your time or anyone else’s.

How will this site integrate into everything ELSE you’re doing?

We’ve talked a bit now about the difference between creating a social media campaign and a social media strategy. We’re big believers that the latter is what produces the best results. Doing social media ‘on purpose’ as opposed to just falling into it means integrating one site’s activity with everything else you’re doing. How will your social media presence on this site integrate with what you’re doing offline? How will it become part of your email marketing? How will it work into day-to-day customer interactions? People and departments fail when you restrict them to an island. Every time you set up a new port, you need to create a bridge.

Obviously, you won’t know 100 percent whether or not a site will work for you until you test the waters and start connecting with other people. But by answering the questions above, it will help you hone in on the sites that can give your brand the biggest boost. Social media success begins with picking the right home.

Your Comments

  • Paul Pruneau

    Great post. And thanks for the honest disclosure about the hidden costs of social media. More on that here.

    With only 90% of social media participant’s landing in the “lurker” category, more and more brands are coming to the realization that continual content creation and participation in these networks adds a significant cost burden to their business that has not yet been accounted for.

    Keep up the good work. Looking forward to reading more!

  • Levi

    Great job Lisa. We are asking very similar question with each of our new clients. Something else we try very hard to factor in is the data being provided that is needed to prove success in the channel.

    Not that reporting is a deal breaker, but when you have C level execs expecting results, its important to align those expectations with the requirement of showing results. Its important to have a full understanding of who provides real-time data, delayed data or possibly even missing metrics.

    • Tyler Adams

      Levi, this is something that concerns me when I see people dive in head first into the social media pool. I see many companies that aren’t measuring anything, that have no real way to measure anything when it comes to their social media efforts. They are participating because the feel like they have to.

      That’s one of the reasons why I love Lisa’s post. As with anything, it’s important to have goals in mind and some kind of ways to measure those goals. If your goals aren’t met, then either change what you are doing or quit doing it altogether. Anything else just isn’t smart. Ie.,Getting twitter followers for the sake of getting twitter followers just isn’t smart if you don’t know what to do with them.

  • Andy

    Hi Lisa…you make me confuse,lol..just kidding…

    The only I know is we can build the traffic and supporting our online business by joining as much of social media/network provider. But I think you’ve show me the right way and strategy before I join social network site through some point consideration as you’ve explained above..thanks

  • Jun Baranggan

    Great article here Lisa. I’m with Levi on the measuring success issue when it comes to social media. It’s really worth considering when going the social media way. How can you measure the performance in each social media site you will use? That way you will know what to continue and what to let go.

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    Very valid and true points Lisa. In the end it comes down to take the time to actually have a plan before you embark in the journey. If you just sign up to a service ’cause it’s free with the mentality “well, at least I’ll have something”, you’ll end up doing more damage than good.
    Think about it in these terms: not being present in a social network CAN be a corporate choice (a bad one in most situations, but sshhh), having a crappy social media presence… well that can’t be accidental.

  • Tyler Adams

    Lisa, I love this post. I read so many posts these days that all seem to have the same message, “Be active in social media or die”–which I think is extremely dangerous. This post encourages one to actually think about specific goals, time constraints, and then evaluate how viable each social media platform would be to attain those goals.

    I’m going to be greedy now. It’d be cool to see some kind of basic chart to help people out. The top row would be amount of time one has to spend on social media. The side column would be different goals. The middle boxes would be the different forms of social media. If you have 3 hours per day and your goal is to engage with as many people is possible then TWITTER is for you!

    That’s an over-simplification but you get the idea :)

  • Andrea

    What Tyler said.

  • Kevin Donnellon

    Great post Lisa. Love the question about the $500 a month fee. Sure puts into perspective, doesn’t it? Thanks.

  • Page One SEO

    The cold, analytical, accountant side of me completely agrees with what you’ve said here. Don’t get me wrong, everything you’ve said is important to consider.

    You didn’t mention anything about picking social media that is fun to engage in though. A Fortune 500 company is unlikely to consider that, but smaller companies should.

    You can see the people who are having fun with the social media they’ve chosen and people often respond accordingly by engaging them and following them. That’s not to say that those who take a strictly analytical approach don’t have the same thing happen. The most interesting ones are having fun with it.

    For small companies just getting into social media, if it doesn’t have at least a bit of a fun element to it then it will just seem like drudgery and they’re not as likely to commit the time necessary to succeed in it.

  • Lori Skurka

    Here is our experience with social media (thus far): We run a private tutoring company. The majority of the buying decisions are made by parents for their kids (as opposed to kids researching and selecting private tutors for themselves). This means that most of our clientele is in the 35-50 age demographic. At this point in the game they have not fully embraced social media, so, as a result, neither have we…although we are certainly keeping track of its pulse. For us, meeting new clients for our private tutoring business is more about “conversions” and less about “conversations”.

  • Prashant

    Great post Lisa. its really important to know how to measure the performance in each social media site which we will use? That way you will know what to continue and what to let go.

  • Sakkie sak

    Great post thank you so much for sharing it, what still bothers me is the amount of people who don’t click on adds on social networks I personally don’t even though I’m also advertising on these media forms, think its more to do with time you can spend on it.

  • Andrew Oldershaw

    While i agree that understanding the strengths of the particular platform is critical when assessing its merit for a particular client, its not always about VOLUME. Often clients should focus more on the caliber of focused reach on their key demographic than on sheer numbers. As Lisa quite deftly points out, a significant factor that is often underestimated is the convenient functionality and level of maintenance required to maintain ‘presence’ on a candidate platform.