When looking at all the options on social media channels, it’s easy to get lost in the online chatter.

Social Media
Source: Shariff.org

With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Quora, Slideshare, and on and on and on, its no wonder that so many small business owners immediately feel intimidated by social media. After all, how can you possibly keep up with it? How can you get ROI? How can it work, while you still run your business? How?!

The problem with this thinking for entrepreneurs and independent business owners is that they then choose to tackle this in one of two ways.

1. Try and have a presence everywhere, connecting with very few people as time on each platform is limited

2. Avoid social media altogether

Now number one has some faults, because if you’re this type of person then you’re wasting time and resources that could be spent elsewhere. That’s certainly a serious problem. But number two is much riskier. First, because you’re missing opportunities to connect with a new customer – one that’s wiling to share their quality experience (for free) with your company to others. Secondly, you’re missing out on better search results when others try and find you on Google, Bing, etc, since social media has now become an intricate part of the search engine algorithm.

But, probably most importantly, no matter how you feel about social media, it doesn’t mean your customers share your sentiment. They will talk about you on the social sites of their choice, and without you on there, the customer will control the conversation. So this can lead to negative discussions about your product or service, without giving you a chance to respond. That doesn’t sound like a good customer service strategy to me.

Instead, if you had a presence on the site your customers choose most, you can respond to any negative post, offering a way to solve the issue. By answering publicly, you have also shown your customer service skills to potential new clients. So it’s not just about responding to negative posts, but controlling the conversation about your company as much as possible.

Of course, that leaves another big question: which platform to choose? I’ve got a little secret, actually. You don’t have to be everywhere on social. It’s a myth that large organizations and marketers create, to show their reach or expertise on a variety of platforms.

Why don’t you have to be everywhere? Think about how people interact on social media. I bet a number of them enjoy Facebook and Twitter. So what’s the purpose of connecting with the same person on Facebook and Twitter? There’s very little. It’s overkill. When you have budgets in the millions to reach users on both platforms, then you should do just that. Just make sure, in the meantime, you have Google Alerts set up for your business name, in case you’re mentioned on a platform you don’t monitor on a day-to-day basis.

But for now, hone in, and figure out which platform works best for you and your business.

Picking the Platform

Now, how do you pick the platform that will connect you with most of your customers, and leave you in a position to update regularly, creating a dynamic presence? I’ve created a list of criteria, which will help you as you decide what platform to focus on:

1. Think About What Your Business Does: Do you sell a product to consumers? Or do you offer consulting services to high-tech firms? For the B2B consultant, you would likely look towards LinkedIn and Twitter, since you need to show off your expertise and network. While a consumer product may want a Facebook presence to highlight deals and offer fun posts.

2. Discover Where Your Customers Interact: Most successful businesses have a target audience that they appeal to. And, in order to do so, businesses try to know everything about people that make up this audience. It’s also important to include knowing your customer’s social media habits, as well. Where do your customers interact with each other? Do they like LinkedIn Q&A groups to discuss the finer points of accounting? Do they share videos constantly on Youtube? You likely have an idea, since you also have interest in that audience. Keep this in mind as it will dictate where you end up on social media.

3. Take Advantage of How Your Customer Purchases Your Product or Service: There are a number of independent business owners that sell digital products or only sell to online audiences. For these businesses, a strong Facebook or Pinterest presence could not only endear you to potential customers but also drive direct sales through digital storefronts. On the other hand, if it takes longer conversations to secure sales, then look towards other platforms.

4. What Social Media Sites Do You Enjoy: This is often overlooked but important, since it’s you who will be trying to engage with customers and develop a fun, informative or eye-catching feed. In order to take the time to do this, you (or the person within your organization that you dub ‘social media manager’) will need to enjoy it. If you don’t, then your audience will know, and you will get very little out of the feed.

With these thoughts in mind, you should be able to narrow down your options to only one or two social feeds. After that, it’s all about developing a dynamic presence. While there’s still work ahead, it’s much easier to tackle one target instead of 20, don’t you think?

Any other criteria you’ve used to select a social media feed? Let me know in the comments section as these tips, like social media, are constantly changing.

Ryan Derousseau is Director of R.M.D. Media and a freelance writer. You can read more of his thoughts on media outreach and social media on his site ryanderousseau.com. And receive a free media-pitching template by signing up for his newsletter here.