Not long ago my friend Sara Bozich joined me in teaching my class to discuss blogging, marketing, and social media. Near the end of the class my students were asking us questions, and there was one that I thought would be good to address here because it’s something many of my clients are also curious about.
The student asked how Sara and I stay on top of all the advances in social media, and how we evaluate new platforms and determine which ones we will use.
This is a good question, because there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t learn about at least one new social media platform making all sorts of promises. Everyone wants to make “the next Facebook.” Or Twitter. Or Pinterest. Or whatever. And I get that. There’s a lot of money at stake in the social field. If you catch lightning in a bottle and your platform takes off, you’re golden.
Sara answered the question by pretty much saying that she doesn’t spend too much time on new platforms. She is generally not an early adopter and focuses on the stronger existing platforms, with Twitter being her favorite, and also using Facebook and a few others. But for me, since I need to advise my clients properly on what platforms they should (and shouldn’t) be using, I need to stay on top of just about everything. That doesn’t mean I sign up for every new social platform that comes down the pike. There are many of which I’m aware that I can tell will either be of no use to me right away, or I get a hunch that they’ll be gone in a few months. Not that all my hunches are correct, but you know what I mean.
So what are some of the things I’m looking at as I evaluate new (and existing) platforms to determine what they mean to my clients and me? What things should you be looking for as you evaluate them for your business? Here are a few of the important things to consider before jumping on board with whatever shiny new social media object crosses your path:
1) What’s new and different?
Does the new platform anything new and different from what already exists? New features? What new needs does it meet? What problems does it address? Many newer platforms are built as head on competitors to the stronger, existing platforms. If that’s the case, they have a real uphill battle in their quest to be the next big social network. Even MySpace has struggled in it’s attempt to come back as something new. Why? There’s a reason we have a few really big social networks that seem to have become a part of our life, culture, and language. If you want to beat out Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Pinterest, you not only have to build a platform, but you have to make it better than them if you expect people to abandon those platforms for yours.
From a small business perspective, if that new platform isn’t offering anything significantly new and different, it’s probably not worth your time and effort.
2) Is it easy to learn and use?
This is a big one. A new social media platform might promise a lot, and it might even look really nice with lots of functionality, but if it’s not easy to learn and use, either by you or your customers, then you might want to sit tight and not jump in to fast. People are very familiar with Facebook because they’ve been using it for years. But notice how they complain when Facebook makes any sort of change?
If they can’t handle a simple modification to something they are used to, how will they adapt to something completely new? For any new platform to succeed, it needs to be fairly easy to learn and use, or people won’t bother with it. Chances are, you shouldn’t either. From a business standpoint, you need to consider how much time and effort it will take to learn and maintain.
3) Are my customers there or will they go there?
This is probably the most important criteria that you should always use, whether it be for any existing platform or something new: will your customers being using it? Take a good hard look. Is it the type of platform your customers will be using? Does it meet their needs? Does it make sense for them? If not, then it probably doesn’t make sense for you.
On the other hand, if your customers start signing up and flocking there, you definitely ought to consider signing up as well. If you don’t, your competition might, and they’ll have an edge on you.
Consider all three of these carefully when you see something about a new social network, or someone tells you about the latest hot platform that you should be on. Evaluate them and weigh the importance of the platform. And also remember, in most cases there probably isn’t much to the idea of first mover advantage. There’s nothing wrong with sitting back and waiting for a bit, and jumping in a bit late if the network seems to take off. You won’t get left behind. Even businesses that are new to established platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare have just as much chance of success as those who have been there for years.
What other criteria would you use when evaluating whether or not to use new social media platforms?
- Guys’ Guide To: New Social Media Platforms (jacamoblog.co.uk)
- Why Should A Business Have A Social Media Presence? (business2community.com)
- “I Don’t Need a Website, I Have Facebook!” (aikenwebsolutions.com)
- Elevator Pitch or Twitter Pitch? (waxingunlyrical.com)
- Social Media May Soon Drive More Traffic to Your Site Than SEO (v3im.com)