Twitter or Facebook?

I came across a blog article titled “Social Media 101: Get your feet wet with Facebook” written by Jeff Larch of Digital Solid.  He was participating in a panel discussion the other day on the hot topic of social media when a member of the audience asked, “I know of MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., but the only one I am a member of is LinkedIn – and I barely know how to use that.  How do I prioritize as I get my feet wet in them?”

Mr. Larch went on to give four valid reasons to why he would advise Facebook over Twitter.

I would like to take a moment to offer my advice to the questioner along with any of you that may have the same question.

Before making any clear calls, I would ask the #1 question we ask all of our clients prior to offering any advice, consultation, or service:  “What are your objectives?”  The questioner did state that they wanted to get their “feet wet” in the social media universe.  But I’m curious to know, “Where did they plan to go or what did they plan to do once they learn how to swim?

Based on their response to that question, then, and only then, do I believe you can offer the best advice on which would be better for a beginner because usage of each current service can lead to a different result.

What is the purpose?

If the questioner simply wanted to connect with friends and family, then Facebook may be the best option at this time.  If they had an interest in music and entertainment, then a few years ago, MySpace would have been a better option. Although today, that social media platform is largely considered defunct, even for those in the music industry. If they wanted to professionally network, then LinkedIn would be a better fit.  If they were an information junkie and had an interest that they wanted to read or share frequently, then Twitter may be the best option.  In addition, the questioner should know that some sites are limited to only allowing the user to brand themselves, while other sites are more business and organization friendly.

Learn how to use multiple networks to reach your audience

Getting your feet wet in the waves of an ocean is a different experience from getting them wet in the calm of a pond.  Knowing which experience the questioner was looking for would best determine which direction I would point.  Based on your objectives, you may need to familiarize yourself and learn how to use multiple networks and tools to reach all of your target audience.  I can tell you from firsthand experience that beyond the signup stage, each site and tool is unique in how it can be and should be used so test driving one will not give you a beginner’s understanding of them all.

If the questioner was a business owner or executive, then there are even more questions he or she would need to answer before I could offer my best advice.  Do you have a marketing plan?  What is your market?  Can you describe your ideal customer?  What is your annual marketing budget?  And in terms of social media marketing and/or networking, I would definitely need to know if he or she had “more time than money, or more money than time.”

Most importantly in terms of business, Tom Snyder said it best in his Trivera blog: “Social media is an advertising activity, and not marketing.  Social media is a tactic, and not a strategy.  Advertising = Tactic  /  Marketing = Strategy.”

Social media is only part of the plan

At 360 Direct, we agree that social media should be part of an overall marketing plan.  If it’s done in an ad hoc fashion, especially since most of your potential customers and clients are still unfamiliar with social media, then it poses the risk to either disappoint or possibly damage you and/or your company’s brand.  Based on the news reports I’ve seen time and time again, it’s clear that simple mistakes like posting a politically incorrect comment, or sharing a private picture can lead to big problems for you and your company.  Once it’s on the web, you lose total control over how it will be used or depicted by everyone who views it.

Look before you leap!

If you or the questioner would not be comfortable handling a public relations campaign for yourself or your company, then you should think twice before promoting and branding yourself or your company through social media without consulting with a professional prior to creating your first screen name.  No matter which new social media services you ultimately choose to “get your feet wet” in or implement into your larger marketing strategy, the old axiom still remains true:  “If you fail to plan, you fail to plan.”  So look hard before you leap.

For whatever it’s worth, in case you are wondering how I came across Mr. Larch’s article… was through a “tweet” on Twitter.