The temptation to sign up for every new social media platform can be overwhelming. As small business owners we’ve got entrepreneurial spirit in spades and chasing new shiny objects is our biggest downfall.

What’s more, we are constantly blasted with facts, figures and recommendations about how ‘this’ social network is better than ‘that’, and how ‘this’ social network is the vital ingredient missing from our failing marketing plan.

So off we go, starting yet another social media account – usually before we’ve given ourselves a chance of succeeding on our current platforms.

Always chasing the next shiny object…

This puts us at risk of spreading ourselves too thinly across multiple platforms which means we will never have the chance of winning on any of them.

So before you dip your toe in to yet another social media network (or if you’re ever going to achieve results from social media) here are some prime factors to consider first.

1. Why this platform, huh?

Knowing WHY you want to use ‘this’ platform in the first place is the first question you need to answer.

(And, if it’s too late, you can ask yourself right now).

is it because

  • it’s free and looks pretty?
  • someone’s told you that you just HAVE to check it out?
  • your peers are raving about it
  • your clients always refer to it?

Out of the 4 reasons above there’s only ONE that should grab your attention and have you sprinting to set up an account tout de suite. (If you’re not sure of the answer then call me!)

Just because it’s readily available and everyone says you should use it is not a good enough reason. Check your source. Plus, when it comes to reading online recommendations and blogs (like this one) – is it relevant and written with you in mind?

Social media marketing needs to be fun – sure! But more importantly it has to deliver a benefit to your business and achieve a return for your investment – whether that’s time, money, staff or all three.

2. Are your people hanging out there? (And I don’t just mean customers)

Our ultimate aim of using social media is to grow our bottom line, but connecting with end-user clients is not always going to be your main objective.

It could be that you want to raise your profile through meaty media opportunities.

Maybe you’re looking for joint ventures with other mover-shakers that have a large community who would benefit from your expertise.

It’s probably a mixture of these, so figuring out who you want to reach that ties in with your main objective (made in point no.1) is your next step. Then you can determine whether the platform you’re exploring is going to be right for you.

3. What are they doing here?

Social media platforms are not all the same, so you need approach them differently to get good results.

The days of sending the same automated messages across multiple platforms are thankfully gone. And, for any stragglers out there who haven’t grasped this point yet, listen up…

These types of shortcuts

So, knowing the culture of your chosen platform is your next step. Understand the user behaviours by answering these questions:

  • Why do your people use it?
  • What message formats are popular with them (images and video, questions, long or snappy posts, sharing links)?
  • Do these message formats fit the type of updates you want to share?
  • How often should updates be posted to make an impact?

4. How much is this gonna cost me? (Time, money, team)

The platform itself may be free and it may be really easy to set up a basic account but is that enough?

Short answer: No!

Remember, your interactions on social media networks are an extension of your business brand and voice. Often it will be someone’s first interaction with you so you’ll want to make sure that representation looks the part, and you know how to use it. Even if you’re outsourcing the daily running of the account to someone on your team.

All of this will take some front-loaded investment in time and money – whether it’s paying for custom designed backgrounds and banners or paying for proper training and strategy advice.

Once that’s done, have a plan to determine how often to post, if you’ll need to create new content to share such as videos, and, if you plan to invest in paid for promotions like Facebook Ads.

5. What about you?

An important factor often overlooked is how suited you are to the social network, your communication style, and how you want to use it.

If posting quick messages and gathering useful information and connections is high on your enjoyment scale, you’ll love Twitter. If you prefer collecting and posting images, and you’re looking for a largely American audience (at least for now) then Pinterest might be for you, and if you enjoy posting a variety of updates less frequently, then Facebook might be for you.

A prerequisite of using social media is having fun! If you don’t enjoy it, that will show in your updates, it will become a drag and you’ll not spend enough time on it because it will be ‘just another thing’ that you have to do.

So start off using the right social network for you by asking yourself this:

What networks do you think you’ll enjoy using the most?

What suits the personality of your brand as well as your working style?

Which network suits your product or service the most?

Over to you!

Did you consider any of these points before opening up your latest social media account or did you dive straight in?

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