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So it seems, every year, there’s a new flavor of rising social community. Typically, we see some type of exponential growth trend for whatever it might be and watch as it continues to receive press and hype.

Then, inevitably, you ask yourself if you need to have a presence for your brand, persona or small business. At that point, you may find your head spinning as you realize you have to learn all about this new social network and how to use it. Stop there.

How many social networks do I need?!

Instead, ask yourself the helpful questions below – any and every time there’s a new social network on the rise. Simplicity is a catalyst for focus, and keeping things from getting unnecessarily complex will help you stay on track.

Social Networks

Are your target demographics there?

Google+ made a big splash when it launched. Of course! It’s Google, after all. Being such a powerhouse, they made (and are still making) efforts to bring big brands and celebrities into the platform in hopes of steering the audiences they carry into Google+.  However, based on recent data Google+ is dominated by men (71%) and early adopters, engineers and developers. About 50% of Google+ users are 24 or younger. Obviously, this isn’t the right demographic for everyone to chase.

Whatever it is that you market and promote, you always have to consider where your audience exists. This starts with even the most basic question of whether or not they are computer savvy enough to be online. (Ok, that one is a little extreme – but believe it or not, there is still a reasonable percentage of senior citizens that are not computer savvy and brands that target these audiences still have to ask themselves where they can target them.)

The takeaway is that if you are going to be in a social community, consider the size, geographic concentration (US-based vs. international) and popularity with the specific audience you are trying to reach. If your audience isn’t there – you shouldn’t be.

Are your competitors there?

A good sign that you might be on the right track is to see whether or not your competitors, or other personas like you, are present in the new social community. See how long they have been there and how well, or how poorly they are doing.

If they are doing well, ask yourself why. Perhaps they happen to be doing a lot of press recently, or maybe they ran a huge campaign to drive their audience to this new space. Do a little research. If they did use any of these tactics, be realistic and ask if you have the resources to do the same. If you do not have those resources, then you will need to adjust your expectations.

If you don’t see any competitors, there is probably a good reason. Even if you do see them, and they appear successful, do some research to find out why and understand how they got to their current status to see if you can replicate their success.

Do you have the right assets?

Most, if not all, social communities require a specific set of materials and enough time to manage them successfully.

On the tip of everyone’s tongue is Pinterest – the image-driven community that has been the latest and the greatest topic of conversation. To put it simply, you need images. Pinterest requires time and attention to visuals, whether they are directly from your own content or you develop a quality following based on your own curation of collections.

YouTube is clearly no longer the new kid on the block, yet I am still constantly surprised at how poorly many brands, small businesses, and personas execute in the video platform. They simply think that having one video to offer every three months is a worthwhile and engaging way to reach their audience. They are not prepared with a constant feed of video assets to really nurture and grow their audience on YouTube.

The takeaway here is to be prepared when you start a new presence with a full plan. Not just for launch, but for week-to-week and month-to-month so you can gauge the true commitment you are making to generating quality content using the key assets needed to be successful in the new community.

Do you have the ability to appropriately maintain the community?

You can’t be everywhere. At some point, no matter what your budget and size, you have to decide where to draw the line.

I’d argue that it’s best to do an excellent job in one or two social communities, than a mediocre job in three or four.

Sure, just by ‘being there’ in some communities you may organically get an instant group following, commenting, or engaging you – but if you aren’t there to really produce quality content and conversation then it will suffer and eventually that initial burst of interest will go dormant.

The takeaway here is to consider your company or personas abilities to post, produce, and monitor the community based on frequency, assets, and the skills you have in your resources.

What is the biggest benefit and the biggest challenge?

Finally, the bottom line here is how this new potential community serves your goals and whether or not it serves your goals proportionately to the amount of effort it’s going to take to maintain.

Look for examples of competitors or similar personas to see if they are doing a good or bad job of driving what would likely be their core goals. If you feel that your brand fits the social community, make sure you consider the big challenges it may represent. This challenge may be the most common issue of ‘content production’ in the form of copy, images, or promotions. It could be the development or creative expertise you may need to actually put your best foot forward, like a custom developed Facebook page.

The key here is to consider if the benefits outweigh the challenges enough to justify building a presence.

Don’t just jump into a new social community because everyone else is – you may find yourself strapped for time and without rewarding results.

One final note and shameless plug, it’s always an excellent idea to make sure you are building a strong subscriber email list to protect you from the ups and downs in social communities in general. You never know when they may fall out of favor and you don’t want to risk your entire fan base on it. MySpace is a great example of a place where many put in substantial effort to grow their presence, only to watch the audience shift to the next big thing.

Always protect your investment in your fans!

For more tips on managing your fan base, join the Fan Marketing Institute. Weekly fan marketing tips delivered to your inbox.



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