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With so many social media networks available and different people getting excited about different ones, the choice of which social media platforms to choose can be quite overwhelming for busy business owners.

Having been on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for around 7 years – and Google+ and other networks more recently – here’s how I position the main social networks to people who ask.

LinkedIn for substance – this is a social media platform where we can position ourselves and our businesses, describing who we are, what we do, and why people should care, in the many 2,000 character sections in the profile. Then we can add multi-media, status updates and much more to build a rich picture, to attract, engage and nurture business relationships. As the leading business to business network, with over 400m personal profiles and 8.5m company profiles, being on LinkedIn is a logical choice for B2B professionals and businesses. If you and your business have knowledge and expertise then showcase it on LinkedIn using an educational marketing strategy. If you want business customers or business partners look on LinkedIn.

Twitter for Soundbites – 140 characters creates brevity that makes reading and creating Tweets an art form. It’s a quick way to share a thought, a resource, a moment or an emotion. It’s also an incredibly useful source of information. Want to know how a football or rugby game is going? Look on Twitter. What to know who’s influential about a topic? Check the #hashtags on Twitter. Does your business create, or can you curate lots of quick, short messages? If that suits your business schedule and customer relationship style then get active on Twitter.

Facebook for Family and Friends – and it’s also great for businesses and brands who sell to consumers. It’s also good for local businesses, especially ones where casual, friendly, person to person relationships are a big part of the business essence. If you and your business offer products or services aimed at consumers then you should definitely be present and active on Facebook. If you can create a community feel and involve people in your Facebook activity then you’re onto a winner.

Google+ for SEO – although the Google+ community is not as far reaching as Facebook or Twitter, or as business oriented as LinkedIn, I’ve still found it’s very good for getting status updates indexed because it’s a Google network. So, if you want to appear in search results pages then put status updates including keywords into Google+ with links to your website landing pages or blog articles, and build a power group who will share them on a reciprocal basis.

Many other social media networks exist, such as Instagram and Pinterest, and content network such as YouTube, Slideshare and Periscope. It’s worth having a presence on all networks, even if most are passive place-holders and sign-posts to your primary network.

And I’d say there are three factors to bear in mind when choosing which network(s) to use.

  1. Where are your ideal customers or your target audience if you want referrals or partners?
    Go where your current customers are, because the likelihood is that there will be similar people who are not yet customers on that network. And consider specific audiences such as partners, suppliers, introducers, media, investors etc. as they may be on a different network to your customers.
  2. What type of content do you want to share? If your content is visual then you have a more difficult choice. If it is primarily written then LinkedIn is best.
    If you can make your content visual as pictures and images then check Instagram and Pinterest, if infographics and presentations then look at Slideshare and LinkedIn, or if video then it’s YouTube and Periscope. Having said that, all networks have become much more visual. When a picture says more than a thousand words it’s worth finding a theme about your business that you can show visually. Then choose a network that allows you to really showcase that content, and encourage people to share and distribute it for you.
  3. What type of conversation do you want to have? Chatty and informal or considered and professional?
    If you want to be chatty then Twitter and Facebook are good. If you want to have a more serious business discussion then LinkedIn is better. Each network has an etiquette, and we risk looking out of place if our behaviour is inappropriate.
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