4 Questions To Ask Before Joining Social Media Networks
Do you really need to network via social media?

I love social media and its marketing value. The power of social media marketing is hard to ignore. For small to medium businesses, joining and effectively using a social network is vital to growing your customer base. I do not believe you have to join every single network that appears. Not long ago, the choice was simple. Join Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter.

Now, many businesses have discovered the social giants aren’t right for them. How do you know which networks to join? Ask yourself these four questions to see if the network is a good fit for you and your business.

How Much Time Is Necessary?

Depending on the social network, the time required to effectively market your business will vary. You must also add in the time necessary to learn how the network operates. For instance, Facebook adds and changes features on a regular basis. The site lets you post text, links, images, videos and more. You can create notes, events and contests.

On Twitter, you post text and links only of up to 140 characters. The most confusing part is mastering hashtags and keywords. Less of a learning curve, but not as many features.

LinkedIn is more of an online resume but a great way to network professionally. It a a great way to have a static presence that resonates with professionals.

Consider joining a network that is simple to use, if you only have a few hours a week to devote to social media marketing. If more time is available, join a site with more features. Remember you can also outsource social media marketing to save time and make the most of social networking.

Which Features Do You Need?

Social networks are as different as the businesses that market through them. Since each network has a vastly different feature set, it is vital for any business to research their options. Think about what type of updates you want to post. Do you need images over text? Think Pinterest. Are videos more your style? Create a YouTube channel. Want to post ads? Facebook has what you need.

You may also want to consider how you contact your audience. Google+ has circles so you can send out updates to just the people you want. Facebook has groups with a similar purpose. Twitter posts to all your followers. Some sites allow direct private contact, while others only allow public contact.

Is The Audience Worth The Time?

While it is important to be on the cutting edge of technology, there is such as thing as too cutting edge. Thousands of social networks have cropped up since MySpace and Facebook made social the norm. The vast majority garnered less than 100,000 members. Many never even made it past the beta stage. Remember that a small audience equals a smaller reach.

Unless the social network is targeted towards a very specific niche, a small audience is usually a good sign the network isn’t right for businesses. If you do choose to join, consider investing only a minimal amount of time in case the network isn’t able to stand up to the social competition.

Does The Network Integrate With Current Marketing?

Your marketing efforts should never be independent of each other. The most successful marketing strategy involves multiple elements working in sync. For instance, your website should list all social networks you are a member of with ways for people to share your content, products and services. If the network does not work with your current marketing strategy, don’t join. If it does, by all means, add it for a wider reach.