As more and more new social media offerings are developed, it starts to get overwhelming for people. Many of my fellow bloggers have had this same feeling and have posted on it. Check out what Greg, Valeria, Drew, David (post one and two) and Ryan had to say. If these people (who live and breathe this stuff) are overwhelmed, I can't imagine how the general public feels. How would you know where to start?
First, let's agree on why we use social media. It's to connect to other people and add value to the community. If we can agree on that, here is my advice. To really gauge what networks you should participate in, try to visualize your extended network. Look at all of the people you engage with (or want to engage with) and see what networks they use. Find the commonalities and cut out the outliers.
This diagram is a representation of most of my on- and offline social network. Each entity represents say 25 people. The ones that don't have a bubble over them I reach through email/phone calls/notes/personal visits. Not everybody is participating, but more and more of them are. Look at where you have the most overlap. You can see that most of my elements overlap with my blog. I use this blog as the hub for contact where all of the networks that I participate in come together. Other people are using sites like Facebook and MySpace as their hubs. Most people haven't picked one hub and that's where a lot of the feeling of being overwhelmed comes into play.
Next, look at what the value of the network is to you. If you can reach most of the same people through an overlap network, then you may want to invite your contacts who are not there to join your other network. This shift is happening rapidly as groups of people shift from one place to anther until they get the value they are looking for.
Once you identify your outliers, like MySpace in my example, you can do a couple of things. First, maintain your profile on a quarterly basis. Keeping it up to date looks better and these networks are still being used by lots of people as well as showing up in search engine results. Second, start transitioning your contacts over to one of your strong networks. Tell them why you like the other network, explain why you are moving over and send them an invite to connect.
Conduct a monthly review of your networks to see where you are shifting. One service may fade away and another comes up to replace it. Networks may emerge that fill a new need. Here are some things to think about:
- Who is in each network? Do you have overlap?
- Are you getting value from the network? Even if a service is lacking people it can still provide value.
- When you join a new network, chart it out and see where your overlap is.
- Are there new people you are looking to connect with? Find where they are and join in.
- Limit your time per day/week for each network. Go in, communicate with people and engage, then get out. Set a schedule so you don't spend too much time on one.
- Use sites like Techno//Marketer one to gauge your interest in new products and networks. If I demo something that you're interested in, sign up and give it a try.
- Experiment with what you feel comfortable with. There is almost zero barrier to entry here except for your time.
- Remember that every touch point you have in a network opens you to new connections and experiences, but there has to be balance and benefit.
I hope this helps you evaluate your endeavors into social media. It's changing rapidly and it can seem overwhelming, but if you look at your overlap and the value you're getting you should end up just fine. Come on in and play around. You never know where you'll find the network of most value to you.
[UPDATE: Chris Grayson has a nice follow up post with his thoughts on the average consumer's position.]
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strategy, marketing, interactive marketing, user generated content, trends, social networks, blogs, Twitter, Flickr, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Techno//Marketer, Matt Dickman, David Armano, Ryan Karpeles, Greg Verdino