Knowing your network

Choosing a network

“There is really only one question you must ask yourself when choosing a social networking platform for your business: Which social media sites do my ideal clients and customers use?” explained Kimberly Schauer, who runs Digital Marketing Department, a marketing strategy consulting firm, along with her husband Roman.

“You don’t need to be everywhere,” she continued. “You just need to fish where the fish are. So if you are doing a lot of B2B (business-to-business) marketing to professionals, LinkedIn might be the best choice. If you are selling children’s clothes to moms, Facebook might be a better option.”

Noland Hoshino of [B]Cause Media agreed with Schauer’s statement.

“When jumping into social media and picking the right social channel, you must consider two things: One, where is your target audience hanging out? And two, will the social channel meet your short-term and long-term business objectives? Being in all places all the time is overwhelming. Especially for a small business or nonprofit who doesn’t have the resources to manage multiple social media accounts.”

Communicate without selling

One of the key things Hoshino recommends to his clients is to think of social networking as a communications tool, not as a marketing practice.

“Social media networks are the telephone lines, and the voice, tone, content of the message that travels through those lines is what’s important,” he said. “Depending on your message, people either respond or
hang up.”

That focus on using social networking to connect, not just to sell, has helped many local businesses find success on some of these platforms. Maya Muller of Muller Design Studio (MDS) said that her graphic design company has a presence on most of the social networking sites, but “there’s only so much attention to go around so we’re focusing more on Facebook and Pinterest.” MDS also has a weekly e-newsletter that ties together and highlights much of what they’ve been doing online, allowing the company to communicate with clients and friends directly.

“I see our Facebook strategy,” Muller explained, “as primarily one of awareness. We don’t try to actively sell ourselves or even publicize our offerings. We want to get into folks’ subconscious and stay there. Friends first and then customers later – that strategy has worked well for us.”

Since her company deals almost entirely in visuals, Muller has also found Pinterest to be a valuable platform to engage with.

“Since it’s a visual scrapbook,” she said, “we’re employing it much the same as Facebook – we’re using it to reveal a little more about the MDS personality and culture.”

At Neighbors Market in Vancouver, owner Lynn Krogseng is developing her Facebook strategy as she
uses it.

“I watch the analytics Facebook offers to see what makes people like or share my posts,” Krogseng noted.

Social measuring

According to Hoshino, it’s important that businesses understand social media measurement is subjective.

“What is important to one business may not be important to the next,” he said. “Plus, each metric can be weighed differently.”

Some measurable outcomes for social media Hoshino recommends considering include: fans; number of mentions; inbound links; blog subscribers; retweets; shares; blog comments; page views; and unique visitors.

Two businesses that Hoshino said he thinks are doing a great job with Twitter are Coffee Villa and Twilight Pizza.

“I first discovered Coffee Villa almost two years ago on Twitter,” he recalled. “They were heavily using social media to promote their business. Two years later, they are still active on social media, which is remarkable because most businesses in Vancouver last only a few months on Twitter.

“Camas’s Twilight Pizza tweets specials, thanks their customers, and informs their followers about updates on their new building and location,” Hoshino added. “Twilight not only uses social media for business but for personal communications as well. Don and Morgan, the owners, are huge supporters of local nonprofits that they tweet on Twitter and post on Facebook.”

Strategic engagement

The experts agree that social networking works best when it’s actually you who’s doing the posting; Friends don’t want to hear from a consultant, they want to hear from you. So how much time should you – or can you – devote to it?

“If you have a pretty active community you should be engaging with them frequently,” Schauer said. “For Facebook, I’d recommend two to three times per day for about 10 minutes each time. That way you can post something in the morning, check and respond to posts mid-day and again before you head out for the evening. For Twitter, you need to be more engaged, responding as close to real time as possible. The time frame for LinkedIn is a little longer than Facebook.”

Hoshino recommended engaging with your social network for about an hour a day, total, spread out through the day.

No matter what time commitment you decide, Schauer said sticking to it is key.

“If youdon’t devote enough time to your social media plan or if you jump from platform to platform without investing enough of yourself,” she said, “you won’t see the results that you want.”