Most people are doing too much online, but accomplishing too little. Unless you have clear goals and prioritize where you spend your time that is bound to happen. What you need to know is going to take more than one post, so this is the first in a new series. This post lays out how to figure out where you need to be active first.

Why Are You Using Social Media?

You can not prioritize where you should be active and what you should be doing until you know what you intend to accomplish. Here are the key reasons to be on the most important social networks in the order I believe makes them important:

  1. LinkedIn is first because who you know and who knows about you is the most essential task regardless of what your goals are. With rare exception, all of those who are successful and making a good living are succeeding because they are getting referrals and recommendations.
  2. Twitter is second because you can quickly spread your message to influencers and connect with people who are so busy that gatekeepers answer their phones and email. While they may have “their people” answering their Twitter, too, at least you can get a response IF they use it. (Not everyone does, but influencers and social media savvy bloggers do.) Everything you need from how to get started videos to advanced professional strategies can be found in my Twitter Best Practices.
  3. Google + is third because for many people getting more search engine traffic is important and Google has a monopoly on both paid and organic traffic. Their goal is to be all things to all people so you need to be active there. They just rolled out Google Plus Communities and Photos.
  4. Pinterest can drive viral traffic and is extremely popular in some niches. Because they offer group boards you can grow a network and collaborate with people who are already influential there. They now have private, secret Pinterest boards.
  5. YouTube is at least 5th and for many who love making videos it would rank as high as third on this list. Google owns YouTube and videos can drive a lot of traffic. They are also frequently embedded by bloggers in new content which can add to your reach. If you learn how to use viral marketing you can focus on YouTube viral marketing.
  6. Instagram is next because photo sharing has surpassed music for where people spend their time. Read Getting Started on Instagram for tips.
  7. Facebook may be more important for some, but it has major drawbacks. It is best for connecting with people you already know unless you use a fan page. Many have invested time and money growing their Facebook fan base only to find out they can no longer reach those Facebook fans without paying more than it is worth to them.
  8. StumbleUpon can still send massive amounts of traffic, but isn’t as useful as it once was. They continue to send regular traffic to posts like this Best Quotes of All Time on DIRJournal which has 1.8 Million stumbles.
  9. Reddit is not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle it and your content hits the first page there it can stay on the first page at Google for a really long time. Before you try it you really need to know the score or you risk getting banned. Start with my Reddit Tips: How to Use Reddit. 
  10. Quora seems to have picked up where StumbleUpon once shown as the place for the most intelligent people to exchange insights and ideas.

There are over  550 social networks and others may be important in your niche, but those mentioned above are the most used and effective for most individuals and businesses.

Focus on optimizing one network at a time. Pick the one that is most important to you and build some influence there before moving on to the next one.

You will want to choose a username that you can use on each social network. Using the same name is essential because you can not expect people to remember which username you use on which site.

You can check availability for free using the Knowem check social media username search. Choose one that is available on at least the most important networks listed above and register them all at the same time.

I encourage you to use Knowem to claim your usernames
BEFORE you get started or you may lose them!
Your time is worth too much to do this manually
unless you just can’t afford to use them.

As soon as you get any influence at all or your competitors see you are active online, someone is likely to claim YOUR preferred username. There is a section about the importance of Knowem in Google Places vs Google Local Plus.

Most social networks operate on a first claim basis.
If you don’t have your username claimed before someone else does, too bad for you.
They might try to sell it for a high price or they might compete with your business
or just use it to muddy your reputation and confuse your potential connections.

If you are a business and can afford it I strongly advise hiring a social media consultant or at least getting a mentor. You may want to pick up a copy of Tamar Weinberg’s Social Media book The New Community Rules. It provides the best overview of social media and will help you decide what tools you will need.

This is the first in a series of posts I’ll do that explains how to make sure you aren’t just spinning your wheels and wasting your time and money.  Why not subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss anything.

As always, if you have questions I will get you answers.
If I don’t know I will know who does. Just leave a comment.
If you want me to write about something specific next, just ask.

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  1. Thanks for pointing out Knowem – it looks like a handy tool! Very helpful for setting up a new brand.

    I don’t think there is an answer to what Social Network is best for who. There are so many choices because we are all different and the connected consumer will ultimately decide what we should use.
    Successful social media requires communication with your audience – it’s not enough to get them to see your offer, you have to build trust and gain brand ambassadors.

    It seems like everyone loves to hate Facebook but for most consumer oriented businesses it’s the place where the customers are.
    In my books LinkedIn is not a social network – the way it is used it is a place where marketers trade self promotions. In my experience most regular users use Linked in once a week – by far too little for real person to person connections.
    I agree with you that Twitter is the most important to find and connect to new contacts!
    While Stumble upon sends a fair amount of traffic to my blog I question the value of the traffic however. Whenever I use SU I cruise the net to see cool images and move on without reading more than the headline. I suspect the traffic from SU is not very helpful for my bounce rate

    There is a quote by Brian Solis that sums up how I feel: ” Social Media is not about Business to Business or Business to Consumer, it’s about People to People

    Thanks again for your list and sharing it on my blog

    • Hello Frithjof,

      It would be impossible to overstress why having one consistent username wherever you are active – but almost no one does that and far too few outside the corporate world even know about Knowem. Like many companies that move primarily in the corporate world, they believe everyone knows about them when in fact the only people who know about them are those whose connections are in that world. That leaves out most people and even most serious social media marketers.

      They currently have almost no penetration into the 4/5ths of small businesses that do not have employees nor the additional small businesses that do not meet the SBA definition of a small business:

      SBA does not count most small businesses – they are not eligible for SBA assistance according to this excerpt from the study:

      2 To identify small firms eligible for its programs, the SBA uses industry-specific size standards that are based on sales or number of employees. If based on sales, the threshold ranges from just under $1 million to $35.5 million, but most industries employ the $7 million benchmark level. If based on number of employees (capital intensive industries), employment levels range from 50 to 1,500 employees, but most industries employ the 500 employee benchmark level. For research purposes, the SBA generally uses firms with fewer than 500 employees. See

      Companies like Knowem are primarily used by agencies hired by very large companies who have deep pockets. Those companies make using their solution part of packages that are far too expensive for the average small business, but Knowem’s pricing is within the ability of small business to pay. And they need them:

      Which marketing activities do small businesses believe they need the most help with? Social media marketing is #1 As of 2012, 66 percent of small B2C businesses and 47 percent of small B2B companies in the United States identified social media marketing as an area where they could use extra support. United States Survey of Small businesses; 728 respondents; April 24, 2012 to May 8, 2012 Source: Constant Contact

      I am currently in the process of building a business case to present to Knowem proving that they are not reaching most of the 9.4 million smbiz tax filers reporting $335 billion net business income. Only 8% of small business owners had AGI above $200,000 which was 57% of total business income. (43% of income came from the 11% of small business owners who earned more than $200,000 AGI)

      These very small businesses (by SBA standards) are too busy running their bakery, construction company, restaurant, auto repair business, veterinarians, electricians, alarm installers, etc. – even most doctors, lawyers and other professionals – to be reading Forbes or the NY Times and the probably do not even know there is such a thing as a social media marketer.

      Add to that all the sole proprietorships: many plumbers, carpenters, cleaning services, house sitters, babysitters, gardeners – the list is endless. Very few people in these professions have any idea how to effectively use social media or that Knowem even exists.

      Your comment is why we MUST collaborate, because your experience on any social network is determined by who you connect with – and you are obviously moving in circles on LinkedIn that are doing it all wrong. The last thing you should be doing there is self-promotion. They need to learn what NOT to do there. See LinkedIn: How to Maximize Results ~ Most Important Social Network and especially Andy Nathan’s LinkedIn Lead Generation System.

      People who are busy the way I am busy and the way the most important people I need to connect with are busy are not going to interact with each other once a week much less more often than that. Why do you feel that is “far too little for real person to person connections”?

      There are some collaborators I interact with almost daily, but many very important collaborators I only connect with for a minute or two on Skype once every few months if that. Usually I speak with someone for an extended period of time – often 2-3+ hours even so that I understand what their goals are and what they can do for others – and then we very rarely interact except when I have an opportunity or introduction for them.

      Most people believe everyone else is just like them and how they use various social networks is exactly the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even very experienced social media managers are using these platforms in very different ways. We need to connect with each other and share to develop best practices – and then document them in blog posts so our readers benefit.

  2. Hi there,

    This was a really detailed post, thanks. You pointed things out that I would have never considered ; I like how you related business success with referrals and recommendations. In my opinion, Twitter is good for business, but is too transient and fluid for anyone to make a lasting impact. I would choose Google+ over Twitter given it’s growing network base, and the ability to incorporate so many elements on the same platform. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Hi Alana,

      I generally only do pretty substantial posts. We’re all way too busy to read a flurry of content all day long. Few realize that even if you can drive half a million impressions on social media they rarely convert into sales. Referrals and recommendations have a really high conversion rate.

      It was hard to see how G+ was going to be useful because the conversations are so fragmented, but communities is what has changed that. Now if you get into a community with a large membership base you can get some real traction. That is what I would focus on.

      Did you see my new post with Google Plus Tips?

  3. Hi Gail

    Thanks for sharing this post with me.

    It’s interesting as recommendations and referrals are always the best type of business any one can get as they are solid leads and show that your business is doing well. I see that you have rated LinkedIn very highly I agree for B2B customers but I don’t think is has the same effect for B2C customers and that’s where Pinterest and Twitter are really making up from where Facebook has made frustrating changes.

    One big thing I am finding when I am consulting for UK SME Business is the lack of Social Media planning and understanding of the benefits of each platform. Hopefully with more users now having smart phones the UK business will realize that there customers are online as only 40% of UK SME currently use social media.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see the growth of Google+ over the next few years as tools like Google+ Hangouts are already becoming business tools.

    The Social Yeti

    • Hi Sam,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Given the importance of LinkedIn for connecting to new jobs and developing careers, I believe you’d be surprised that it will actually work for B2C as well as B2B. There are also groups and people see what they’re interested in when they log in.

      Now that down-sizing and being laid off are such common occurences, many more people are keeping their resume updated and staying active on LinkedIn even when they’re not job-seeking.

      I agree that G+ and pinterest are working well for B2C and I believe they are far more effective than Facebook. G+ communities have made a huge difference in reach. Posting to a community on G+ is far more effective than posting in general. See my post about the Best Google Plus Communities for more details.

  4. Hi Gail,

    I’ve taken your advice and added Knowem to my toolchest. Of your top ten recommended here, I use most of them (somewhat sporadically). In one of your posts on GrowMap, you recommend we add Alerti for social media monitoring; good idea and thanks for the promo code which was still working as of yesterday (14 May).

    • Hi Vernessa,

      Knowem is very handy, especially for a new business that has not chosen a username yet. I need to do more research on which social media monitoring tools are most useful and affordable for small business.

  5. Good article . you have share good information . I think today social media is the part of business . social media play a vital role in our business and social activities . you have describe the thing in unique way .
    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article with us .


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