How Many Social Media Sites Should Your Business Use?

by Mack Collier

I help businesses of all sizes learn how to better incorporate social media into their marketing efforts and grow their business and cultivate fans.  Perhaps the most common question I hear (especially from small businesses) is ‘How active should we be with social media?’

The problem is this:  Too often in this space, companies are told that they need to ‘be everywhere’ when it comes to social media.  They are told they need to keep and maintain a presence on every major social media site, plus any ’emerging’ one.  Because you never know when today’s ‘shiny object’ will become tomorrow’s Facebook.

Ok so let’s say you are a small business that has 5 employees, and you can only have one of those employees devote 4 hours a week to social media.  If that one person is asked to spend those 4 hours a week maintaining 8 different social media sites as well as a blog, what type of results do you think they can expect?

The crappy kind.

The worst thing you can do as a business is to spread yourself too thin with social media.  If you are ON a social media site, your customers are expecting you to be there and be engaged there.  So my advice to businesses is to do less with social media, not more.  I would much rather see you only use 2 social media tools and use those two tools well, versus trying to use 10 different tools, and failing at all of them.

For reference, I use social media to help market and grow my marketing consulting business.  Almost all of my social media usage to that aim is reserved for just two tools:  This blog, and Twitter.  I’m not active on Instagram or Pinterest or really even Plus.  Why?  Cause I am one person and can’t be everywhere.

You can’t either.  If you want to decide if you should be using a social media tool, ask yourself two questions:

1 – Are my customers using this site?  If they aren’t, then you probably shouldn’t be either.  If they are, then ask yourself…

2 – Are my customers using this site to talk about my business and/or the products/services my business creates?  If they are, then you should probably be using that social media site/tool.  If not, then you probably shouldn’t be there.

That’s it.  And if it turns out that you can find 5 social media sites that fit this bill, then you need to prioritize the sites in order of importance for your business to use.  Then see how many of those 5 sites you can find time to maintain a valuable presence on.

But if you really want to use social media effectively, think about using fewer social media tools, not more.  Start out small, and nail that, then you can expand into using more social media tools if it makes business sense to do so.

So the next time your boss worries about using social media and thinks that they can’t afford to ‘be everywhere’, tell her I said its ok to start small.  The world will not end tomorrow if your business doesn’t launch an Instagram account today :)

Lisa Raymond July 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

Great article, Mack. Businesses, be it B2B or B2C, product-oriented or service-oriented, have to determine on which social media platforms their customer base/prospects spends their time. Call them and/or create an online poll – it may be a platform they didn’t think to utilize. Spend that time wisely by creating an editorial calendar to schedule company posts and intentionally interact daily.

Mack Collier July 1, 2013 at 9:49 am

Thank you Lisa :) Great advice, simply ASKING your customers which social media sites they use using can be a huge help. Ask in your email newsletter, ask at the POS, etc. The odds are that are your customers are NOT using every social media site, hell they might not be using any of them.

You won’t know till you ask and start looking!

Dennis July 2, 2013 at 2:56 am

Nice post, Mack – we like them nice & succinct :)
We constantly advise people exactly the same thing: pick the platforms that suit your business, which are almost always the ones that your customers are on. Oh, and don’t panic that you need to be on them all, you almost certainly don’t!
That being said, what are your thoughts on having a presence on the others, ie registering an account and having a ‘holding page’ pointing people to the platforms you are active on, do you think this is worthwhile, or does more harm than good?

Mack Collier July 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

Hey Dennis, glad we are on the same page! I do think there is some value to reserving your biz name on other social media sites, especially if you are a larger brand. But for a smaller business, I like your idea of pointing them to the accounts/sites where you are active. I think bigger brands need to be active in more places, cause their customers are expecting it. But for smaller companies, they don’t have the resources or need to be everywhere.

Judy Helfand July 2, 2013 at 7:49 am

I hope you will believe me that I really do stop by and read your blog, but life and working with clients has kept me pretty busy for the…past YEAR!. Anyway, I came by here today because I saw a link to your post on my blog roll (on Judy’s Op-Ed). Remember we once talked about the efficacy of blog rolls during a blog chat. Anyway…I love this post. So often I tell our customers “If you don’t have time to do it right…you are better off not to get involved. And by all means, take enough interest to read what your employee is writing about your company.”
Take care…

Mack Collier July 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

Hi Judy, always a joy to see you here! Agree with you, if you can’t take the time to do it right, then spend that time on something you can do right! It’s not as imperative to use social media as some people would have you believe :)

Ike July 2, 2013 at 11:32 am

Mack, this is always a part of our discussion.

We’ve staked out turf on Google+, but don’t yet have any solid data about how many of our customers are there and active. I reached out to a friend at a company large enough to have a Google Rep, and asked for stats on how many G+ users there were in Alabama.

“We don’t know,” was the response.

Bu!!$#it, I say.

Until we can get some baseline on current use, we can’t possibly set a trigger-point for when we *must* be there. And the bottom line is that I am not going to open yet another content-plantation and engagement channel for our customer service team to monitor and cultivate if I don’t have a business case for it.


Mack Collier July 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Hey Ike, the one thing I have noticed with Plus recently is that new people are putting me in circles there faster than they are following me on Twitter. But I am barely on Plus, so I am guessing most of those ‘people’ are actually bots. I guess attracted by how Google keeps saying Plus is growing in users?

Funny how that works out!

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