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Sure, the internet marketing world has been abuzz with the launch of Google+, the web's most recent – and most promising – social networking site. But there are hundreds of other social networking sites out there. You aren't really expected to maintain a presence on all of them, are you?
Well, yes and no… In this article, we're going to look at effective ways to balance your investment in all of these different social networking sites, including how to identify the sites that are a best fit for you, how you can double-up by posting to multiple networks at once and how to manage all of your different company's social networking campaigns without going crazy.
First of all, it's important to remember why social media investment is so important. If you're a long-time website owner, it's possible you've been doing fine on your own – so why add yet another new-fangled element into your marketing mix?
For starters, Google has made no secret about the fact that it's been giving more and more preference to links from social networking services in its ranking algorithms. Consider the following quote from Matt Cutts on the Google Webmaster Help Channel:
“We do use Twitter and Facebook links in ranking as we always have in our web search rankings, but in addition we're also trying to figure out a little bit about the reputation of an author or creator on Twitter or Facebook. I filmed a video back in May 2010 where I said that we didn't use that as a signal, and at the time, we did not use that as a signal, but now, we're taping this in December 2010, and we are using that as a signal.”
Simply put, if you aren't actively engaging in social networking, you're missing out on this major potential benefit. But you're also limiting yourself in the ways you're able to connect with people. Social networking sites allow website owners to interact with their customers in real-time, which is an especially powerful way to build a brand when compared with regular posts on traditional websites.
Of course, knowing that you should be active in social media and actually doing so are two completely different things… If you've struggled to gain a foothold in the ever-growing social networking community, consider the following advice.
The first key to utilizing social networking effectively is to determine where your “community” hangs out, as that's where you'll want to focus your efforts. To get started, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are my target visitors actively involved in social networking? You might be surprised to find that, if your website is in a non-technical niche, your community doesn't participate in social networking at all! Of course, it would still be a smart move to at least set up accounts on the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Google+), although you might need to be more active in other online hangouts – like forums, message boards and chat groups – if that's where your audience is.
2. If your visitors are active in social networking, what sites are they most active with? Again, this will vary widely from one niche to another. Some communities may be very active on Twitter, while others rely more on Digg, Reddit or LinkedIn. If you find that your target customers are most active on one or two sites, focus your social networking efforts there.
3. How do your target users interact with these sites? Are they posting links or sharing text responses? Do they seem to be most active during the day or at night? If your community is active on Twitter, do they use any particular hashtags or participate in any regular chats? The more information you have about your users, the better you can tailor your social networking strategy to their preferences.
“Every year the Web offers up hundreds of new experimental services and ideas, and while you don't have time to try them all, if you're able to pinpoint the applications with the most traction, your early adopter status will come with long-term rewards. Jennifer Van Grove, web strategist”
After doing your due diligence, you should have a rough model for how your community engages with social networking sites and you can use this as a guide to implement your own strategy.
For example, if you notice your target customers post on Twitter roughly every four hours, use that as a baseline for your own participation. If the people you'd like to engage with share pictures, text messages and video clips on Facebook, be sure you're sharing a range of media files as well.
The key is to be consistent with your efforts. It's far better to spend 10-20 minutes each day on your chosen social networks than to spend a few hours all at once each month. Social networking is about day-to-day interactions, so if you aren't present, you'll miss a major part of the benefit of this type of marketing.
However, that doesn't mean you have to drive yourself crazy by spending hours a day monitoring your newly-created social profiles. Instead, consider the following tips for managing social networking engagement in a sane and productive manner:
1. Use social networking plugins and add-ons to improve your productivity. For example, the AddtoAny plugin lets you make recommendations to your community on the fly by allowing you to quickly and easily share pages on your social profiles. Or consider the Buffer app, which allows you to schedule tweets and other social networking messages ahead of time.
2. Set time limits. Schedule time for social networking, just like you would any other important business task. When you're first starting out, aim for at least 10-20 minutes a day. If you find that your efforts pay off, increase the amount of time you spend connecting with your community in this way.
3. Double up and reduce your effort. One way to reduce the amount of time needed to maintain your social networking strategy is to use services that post your updates to multiple profiles simultaneously. For example, here's how to connect your Facebook and Twitter profiles so that updates posted to your Twitter feed are automatically piped through to your Facebook wall:
Once you've set up your Facebook and Twitter profiles separately, navigate to www.facebook.com/twitter/ and click on “Link a Page to Twitter”. (Note – only pages can be connected to Twitter at this time, not personal profiles.)
On the next screen, ensure the page want to connect to a Twitter feed is the one that's selected, then click on “Link to Twitter”.
Clicking this button will take you to Twitter, where you'll be asked to authorize Facebook to use your account. Be sure that the correct Twitter profile is active in the upper right corner, then click on “Authorize app”.
After this, you'll return to Facebook, where you'll be able to select the specific types of content that will be shared between the accounts. Once you've made your selections, click on “Save Changes”.
Congrats – you've now linked your Facebook and Twitter profiles together, effectively cutting the time needed to post to these two sites in half! For even more social networking automation, look into tools like Ping.fm or Sendible that will allow you to post to even more social networks at the same time. By spending a little time upfront to set up your social networking sites correctly, you'll save both your time and your sanity.