Getting started with social media isn’t as easy as simply jumping onto a network, and posting random things.
The first thing that should happen before embarking on a social network, is to build a strategy.
Part of that strategy should identify which social networks you will be using.
Even though you might have your favourite networks, they might not be the right networks for your company.
You should be looking to join the network that has an active community that discusses topics from within your industry.
This will enable you to become the professional in that network, and build relationships with those who could turn into clients, or refer you to someone else who could become a client.
This article will show you how you can find the social networks that already have users that discuss your industry.
Ask your customers
Let’s start by getting the obvious out of the way.
Asking your customers where they hang out online is a very simple and effective way of finding out.
There are a number of ways you can ask your customers:
Set up a survey using a tool like Survey Monkey, either embed the form into your website, or send your customers a direct link.
This will allow you to gain information from both existing customers, and general website visitors.
If you don’t want to use a third party tool, you can create a contact form equivalent and host that on your website.
You can then create call to action buttons asking people to answer a few questions, add it after articles or send a link directly to the form within an email.
It’s extremely easy to send your clients an email.
It will take a short message, something along the lines of:
“Hi [Client Name],
We’re currently looking at expanding our services by becoming available on social networks and we’re trying to decide which network would be most useful for you.
Do you have a profile on any social networks? Would you find it useful if we were on a particular network?
Many thanks for your help,
Use listening tools
Using listening tools, you will not only find out which social networks talk about your industry, but which websites and forums talk about your industry too.
In some cases, being an active member of a forum can have a far greater impact than having a presence on social networks as they are typically industry specific.
Using listening tools, you can identify whether this is true for your industry or not.
There are 3 tools that spring to mind for this:
Google Alerts / Google search
By setting up a Google Alert for your company name and industry key words, you can receive email notification whenever that term appears on the internet.
If you’re looking for fast results and not interested in receiving regular emails, you can also use this tool as a one off search engine for those specific terms.
Of course you can always use Google search for this too. Simply change the search settings to show results from the last week, then enter your terms.
Mention is similar to Google Alerts, except it has a nicer interface and can provide statistics on trends if you go for the premium package.
Even without the premium package, this tool is still extremely useful, just be careful not to add a term that will return thousands of results as this will kill your monthly allowance!
Again, another brilliant tool like Mention and Google Alerts. As Sprout Social is a premium tool, you won’t need to worry about limits on the number of terms you can see.
Of course you can always sign up for a month’s free trial as you are only researching after all – Word of warning, you will probably end up wanting to pay for this tool as it’s very useful!
Social network searches
Quite possibly the quickest way of finding out if your customers are on a specific social network, is to go onto the network itself and use their search.
Google+ – Using the generic search in Google+ will find you some relevant results, but you want to be focussing on the communities section. This is where any industry specific topics will be discussed. It will also allow you to find the individual people who are interested in a topic
Facebook – Unless you live in America and have the Graph search available, the Facebook search is pretty rubbish when it comes to searching on a specific topic unless you are searching for individual pages. Check out the pages and see if people have ‘liked’ the page, if they haven’t that could be a sign of lack of interest on that topic within Facebook.
A better place to search is creating an advert. When you create an advert, you add keywords that you would like to target, those keywords match peoples profiles, so the “target audience” will show you how many people have said they are interested in that topic.
LinkedIn – You should treat LinkedIn search much like you would a Google+ search, the main areas of interest will be within the ‘Groups’ section. This is where any industry conversations will occur if there are enough people interested on LinkedIn
Twitter – Twitters advanced search is probably one of the best out of the social networks. The search results will bring back a load of tweets on your topic, but you should be looking for how regular people are posting, and whether those people have followers or not.
Pinterest – Pinterest’s search will work in a very similar way to that of Twitter, it will bring you back lots of images (hopefully) of your industry. If it doesn’t, it’s because no one is talking about it on Pinterest, so there probably isn’t an audience. Again, look at their follower numbers and how often people post content.
After all of this research, you should have a clear and informed idea on which social networks would work best for your company as they will have an audience.
There is no point starting social media for your company if you will be sending messages to people who aren’t interested.