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Five golden rules for deciding on any new social network

First it was Facebook and Twitter, then came Google+ and now Pinterest. How are you supposed to know whether your business should adopt every social network that pops up? Follow these five golden rules…

Anxiety is what I hear from business owners whenever a new social network becomes popular. They’re already pulled into so many directions in their business and now they have to decide what to do with ____________ ( insert the social network of the moment, currently Pinterest).

Business owners need to make a sound decision about investing in any new social network. This decision needs to be made without the hype, fear or the anxiety of missing out.

Here are the golden rules for evaluating any new social network.  They are timeless and they can be applied each time a new network comes to town. And believe me, there are many more to come.

1. Research user profiles and compare with your target market

It’s very important to know who uses this social network.  You can learn so much about a network, even without using it by using online tools such as presentations, white papers, research and infographics to learn more about the demographic data of this network and compare it with your target market to make a quick assessment.

For example, in this infographic about Pinterest you quickly find out that 80 percent of its users are female. If your products are mainly bought and used by males, there may not be an imminent business value in using Pinterest for your business.

2. Spend time familiarising yourself with the network or get a guided tour

I’m a big believer of trialling any new social network, firstly for personal use. Only after first-hand experience can you start to form an objective opinion and discover features or new uses relevant to your business. Unfortunately, you will have to be patient and engage with the network for a period of time to make the right assessment. Twitter is a great example, as it can provide businesses with wonderful  opportunities but it takes a while to get used to and recognise the benefits. Many businesses will drop out before they’ve reached this point.

If you can’t experiment with the network personally, find someone who understands your business and who uses the network professionally to give you a guided tour. This way, you can quickly understand how it will or won’t work for your business.

3. Assess your resources and decide on the investment

Let’s be honest here, you’d like to have a go at everything but time constraints mean this isn’t practical. Before you decide to invest in any new social network, it’s best to take a look at what you have. Do you have time? Do you have an employee who can do a good job with this? Do you have money to spend on related tools, software or professional support? Do you have the desire and motivation to support this investment?

It’s vital to look at what needs to be done and decide on the next step. Some tasks are better delegated or outsourced and some are even better cancelled all together if the level of investment is too high or it isn’t the right type of investment for the moment.

4. Decide on your goals and key timelines/milestones

Any business decision made around use of a social network needs to be clearly mapped out within your business. Even if you’re approaching it as a small experiment, it’s essential to decide what you’re trying to accomplish. What kinds of results would make you happy? When would you know a) it is working and it’s time to invest more and b) it isn’t working and it’s time to pull the plug. Will these decisions be based on KPI’s such as leads generated, database growth and website traffic? The big picture decisions will flow on from these answers.

5. Act fast, think of the opportunity costs

We are living in fast-paced times. Opportunities are grabbed by not the smartest or the best equipped business, but by those who move in fast – including your competitor. Being involved in a network can have many business rewards, but market recognition and PR opportunities are mostly enjoyed for the early adopters.

A prevailing business philosophy of today’s market is to not be concerned with being perfect or fully prepared. Many businesses make quick decisions and if that decision is to move forward, they’ll continually improve and adjust on the way. It’s more important to make this decision early on, regardless of the nature of that decision.

These five golden rules will be here for you every time a new social network appears or becomes popular. Keep this post close to your bed or bookmark it in your iPad and laptop. Re-read if you find yourself in a state of anxiety about how to deal with new social networks.

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Cenk Baban

Cenk Baban

Cenk is an online marketing consultant. Working with SMEs in Australia, he takes pride in enhancing their online presence. He has a post graduate degree in marketing and around 10 years corporate experience. He is very “ hands-on” and he loves to learn about new technology to find out the business value for his clients. He is a small business owner and a foodie. Connect with him on Twitter:@cenkbaban LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/cenkbaban or read his blog cenkbaban.com

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