Jul 27, 2011

Selecting social networks – how many are enough?

The social sweet spot: the intersection of your audience, content and team's strengths.

When building (and maintaining) a social media strategy for your organization, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as you consider all the different networks and platforms on which you can establish a presence, connect with your audience and share content.

In addition to the “Big Three” – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – a plethora of other sites and networks abound. How do you pick which to use? Or do you just give up and go with D. All of the above.

I wrestle with this question on an ongoing basis for PR Newswire, and yesterday’s blog post about optimizing social content made me sweat a little bit, especially as I looked at the vast content optimization map produced by Edelman digital.  To ease my own angst and lower my pulse rate, I revisited the elements of our strategy that inform our selection of social networks for the PR Newswire brand.  I thought I’d share some of those key points, and what I’ve learned along the way, in the hope that it makes one person’s day a little easier.

Pick the audience, not the network

It’s easy to take a look at all the discussion groups, networks and platforms out there – and then panic when thinking about the sort of resource maintaining presences on all those sites would require.  However, things become much more manageable when you think about where your audience is – and act accordingly.  So, if you’re focusing on teens, you can cross LinkedIn and Twitter off your list, and double down on Facebook and YouTube.   Do you have a B2B focus?  LinkedIn and Twitter will be key but don’t discount YouTube (think of it as a very search engine friendly video repository) and Facebook.

What kind of content does your organization produce?

Some organizations have genius graphics people; others have crews of talented writers.  Still others embrace and rely upon video.  Ideally, you want a mix – but ultimately, you need to think about where your sweet spot is.  Here at PR Newswire, we write.  We write blog posts, articles and white papers.  No surprise – we employ a lot of former journalists and English majors!  Writing is our default setting, and we capitalize upon it, using the blog and knowledge center on our web site to store content and a variety of networks to share it.  Building a strategy that’s appropriate for the sort of content your organization is good and producing is probably the most important factor in determining your ultimate success, because content (whatever form it takes) fuels your social media presences.

What are your team’s strengths?

Sustaining social media efforts – especially at the outset, when you’re still trying to build the sort of success that will enable you to sell programs internally – isn’t easy.  And giving people tasks and responsibilities for which they’re well suited is crucial to your program’s ongoing success.  Don’t expect a non-writer to be a great blogger.

Be realistic about what your organization can support.

The time, energy and effort required to support social presences is considerable.  In addition to producing content (blog posts, images, videos, etc.), your team will also spend time finding and sharing interesting things with their audiences on the social presences they manage. And they’ll need to plan on spending some time listening to and interacting with the audiences, too.  Rather than spreading your team too thin, and developing social presences that aren’t alive and connected, limit the number of presences to a manageable quantity.  This is truly a quality over quantity judgment call.

These are the things I’m keeping in mind as we build out the PR Newswire social presence.  What has your organization learned about selecting appropriate and effective social presences?

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

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