This seemed to be a common question for many following the New Bern Now Social Media Summit last September, and, in my opinion, the answer is a definite “Yes.” That answer usually brings the next questions which are “Do I have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.” and then “who has time for all that???”. No, I don’t think you need to be on every network. I feel that you should investigate each of the more popular social media networks and determine one or two that works for you. As for time, I recommend that new social media users schedule time to interact online whether it be daily, weekly, or whatever you decide. This will help you be consistent with interactions, but also help you avoid the inevitable time suck that can come from getting lost in your community’s conversations.
Your business or non-profit usually revolves around a particular product or community that will more than likely be better associated with one or two of the bigger social networks. Searching for conversations that include your product or non-profit area can help you narrow down a network as well. Google+ and LinkedIn even have individual communities within the network for common groups like “IT Professionals” or “Cavalier King Charles Spaniels” for example.
When you select a social media network to become involved in, it’s good to remember that you are still communicating with people. Those are real fingers attached to a real person typing at that keyboard or phone keypad on the other end of your conversation. This is a real community and you should be interacting genuinely with others as you would do in person. Just as you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) enter a room of strangers and shout that you have the best widgets in town and that you are selling them for $XX.00, you shouldn’t do that online either.
I believe the most important rule for social media interaction is this – be HELPFUL in your community. I like the formula that Chris Brogan of OwnerMag.com shared in a recent email – “Be helpful + meet helpful people + connect really helpful people = potential for future amazingness.” I think that is a good strategy for online and off, and it reminds us to put other’s needs before our own.