For the majority of industries, social media is an essential arrow in a company's quiver of marketing tools. In fact, more than half of businesses using social media marketing for over three years report an increase in sales over that period, according to the 2012 Social Media Industry Report. Achieving these results requires a significant time investment, making it crucial -- especially among small and mid-sized companies -- to focus efforts on the right networks versus every network.
To make this determination, begin by articulating your social media goals. Are you trying to reach new markets, grow sales from existing customers, generate referrals or simply to monitor your brand's reputation online? Knowing what success looks like will help you identify the ideal targets on which to focus.
Next, using the demographics that follow, identify the social media channels where your target markets and industry influencers are spending their time. It's also a good practice to search the various social media sites for your brand and industry topics to confirm "fit."
Ensure you're getting the most from your time investment by targeting your efforts toward a couple of the main social media platforms that have critical mass among your targeted prospects and that offer content options that align with your goals.
Facebook -- With over one billion active users, Facebook certainly has critical mass. 53 percent of users are male with an average age of 30, though the 45- to 54-year-old age bracket has seen 45 percent growth since year-end 2012. Facebook is viewed as a community, which means followers aren't likely to respond well to anything overly promotional. Conversely, Facebook offers a unique ability to engage in meaningful dialogue with customers to enhance brand loyalty.
Twitter -- With more than half-a-million active users, Twitter is gaining ground on rival, Facebook. According to Media Bistro, the average Twitter user is 37 years old. Sixty percent of users are female.
Twitter's 140-character format makes it inherently more challenging to build deep relationships with customers, but it can be a highly effective tool for sharing new blog posts, special offers, and news releases. By using hashtags (keywords preceded by the pound sign), your content can be searched and found by users who might not have otherwise stumbled across your brand. Twitter offers great potential reach, though Facebook allows for greater depth of engagement.
LinkedIn -- With more than 225 million users, LinkedIn is becoming the place for white-collar professionals to network, with highly educated users generating a household income of more than $80,000. More than 60 percent of users are male with an average age of 44.
Check back next week for profiles of several other popular social media networks.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).