When you think of social media, the first thing that comes to mind is probably Facebook. That’s no surprise considering that as of April 2013, Facebook had 1.06 billion monthly active users, 680 million mobile users, more than 50 million pages, and 10 million apps. Numbers like that are attractive to any business looking to spread their message.
Despite these great numbers, many big brands are leaving Facebook because they are not getting the payoff they need. Where are they going? Many are going to LinkedIn, which currently has over 200 million users. Why would a big brand opt for a networking venue with a lower number of users? It seems that the big brands are realizing a few key mistakes and are adjusting course. Regardless of the size of your business, you too can alter your social networking activities accordingly by avoiding the top 3 mistakes businesses make on social media.
Mistake #1: Putting all your company’s efforts into Facebook.
No one can deny that Facebook has a huge number of users—and businesses are drawn to those big numbers. But rather than make a decision based on the number of users, it’s better to look at what that particular social networking site’s purpose is. In Facebook’s case, even though there are over 1 billion people using it, most users aren’t interested in doing business there. Instead, they are interested in keeping up with friends and family and sharing information and photos about what they did over the weekend. So if your company’s purpose on social networking is to expand your brand’s reach so you can sell more products and services, you may fall short of that goal if you’re reaching out to people who don’t want to hear brand messages.
Of course, Facebook was a great place to start your social networking efforts. In fact, Facebook got a lot of companies interested in using social media in the first place. And that’s a great thing. But if you’re still putting all your efforts and resources there, you’re not giving yourself ample time to investigate other options, like LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, that may give you a greater payoff.
Mistake #2: Believing LinkedIn is just a job search site.
While LinkedIn may have started as a job search site, it has evolved into far more than that. Today it is a networking site professionals go to for company brand-building as well as personal career-building. It’s also the site where decision makers from major corporations spend their time.
For example, Ipsos, a company that specializes in media, content, and technology research, recently announced the results of their Business Elite Survey, in which they surveyed 1.3 million people in 36 countries. Their elite group of survey respondents has an annual income of $355,000, with 61 percent holding a C-suite position. They found that over one-third of them use LinkedIn at least once a month, and that 36% of their senior employees do as well. Additionally, 90 percent of this elite group is involved in business purchasing and leasing decisions. Is this a crowd you’d want you to promote your business to? Most definitely. So if you’re wondering where to spend your company’s social networking time and resources, LinkedIn needs to be one of your prime targets.
Additionally, through their new offering called LinkedIn Today, LinkedIn is becoming a place for finding out specialized and personalized information based on your interests and connections. In other words, it can give you the news that pertains to you and your professional interests, which is a different kind of news feed than other sites offer. Imagine what insights you could gain about your industry and even your competitors simply with this one feature.
And finally, in October 2012 LinkedIn introduced their LinkedIn Influencer feature. With this, LinkedIn identified what they consider to be the 150 most influential people from around the world and asked them to contribute blogs every month. The list includes people like Sir Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, T-Bone Pickens, Jack Welch, and even myself. In the past, if you wanted to connect with someone like Richard Branson, you’d have to ask to be part of his network. Chances are high he’d say “no” because there are limitations on how many connections any one person can have. However, with LinkedIn Influencer, you can learn from thought leaders around the world in one centralized place. These influencers share content that’s relevant to a professional network, and you can follow any number of these leaders that you want. It has become very successful and has created new levels of engagement and networking on the site. In fact, it’s so successful that they have recently expanded the number of Influencers to 220, and they have added many new ways to learn, grow, connect, and brand. They will even add a formal video-sharing feature in the near future.
Mistake #3: Continually chasing the newest social media site.
There are literally hundreds of social networking sites, each with their own unique niche. And it’s easy to predict that many hundreds more will emerge in the coming years. While having multiple choices is great, it can be overwhelming as people feel the urge to get involved on every single one—many of which are not business oriented and thus don’t give the payoff businesses need.
The largest sites that offer the best business-oriented return are LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. For example, Twitter is a great tool for getting a short, focused message out, but unlike LinkedIn it’s not designed for business networking. It’s a micro-blogging site. As such, I have found Twitter to be a great way to share insights, guiding principles, and need-to-know tech news with my followers who tend to be leaders in business, government, and education. And I’m happy to report that I have been recently named one of the top business experts to follow on Twitter, so this value-based strategy does pay off.
YouTube can be used for business, and they now allow you to set up different channels within your main YouTube channel. For example, my YouTube channel has three sub-channels, one with my Know What’s Next single concept videos, one with my latest television interviews, and one with clips from some of my recent keynote speeches. However YouTube doesn’t give you connections or engagement because it’s a video sharing site, not a professional networking site.
There are many others that do offer business value, but they are more narrow in what they allow you to do, which can be good depending on what your are trying to do or who you are trying to reach. For example, Foursquare is geo-social networking and is focused more on the personal side. It’s a good place for retailers to create buzz, but once again, it’s not meant for professional networking. Flickr is a photo-sharing site (more for personal than for business), and SlideShare is a slide sharing site that is now under the LinkedIn umbrella because it does focus on sharing business slide presentations.
The bottom line is that if you are looking to network professionally and expand your brand, you need to be on a social media platform that supports that objective. So keep your primary focus on no more than a handful of business-oriented platforms that will give you the most results. Stick with them, experiment, and learn to make them work for you.
Make No Mistake – Social Networking Works!
Take some time to think through what your professional or branding strategy is in terms of social media. Is it to expand your reach? Sell your products/service? Position your company as the industry leader? Whatever it is, choose from one to five social platforms that make the most sense for achieving your goals. When you focus on the right social media outlets for your organization, you’ll have a powerful tool that gives you the payoff you require.