The Most Important Platforms Are the Ones Your Current Customers and Target Audience Are Using

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to members of the Portland Regional Chamber. The event was held at the Woodlands in Falmouth, the muffins were hot out of the oven and the topic was Creating an Online Marketing Plan and Maximizing Your Marketing Dollars (full slide deck is below). I gave those poor folks as much information as I could in the time I had.

One of the major points of the breakfast was that there are hundreds of tools you can use for free to market yourself and your business. Of those hundreds of tools and platforms though, the only ones that matter are the ones that show return on your efforts and that your current and potential customers are participating in.

You can show return for your efforts

The problem is there is no magic ROI button. You need to track the resources you spend, time and any and all successes you see. It takes work internally. For more information on Social Media ROI you can view Paul Gillen’s presentation from Inbound Marketing Summit, my presentation from Social Media FTW or a post I wrote about setting goals and tracking your efforts.

Spend time researching what communities your potential audience are already participating in

With the number of people who are participating in one social media site or another, there is a pretty good chance you current and potential clients are already participating in this space. They may be Facebook users, Twitterers, Bloggers or on LinkedIn but it will again take a little work on your part to find what communities they are participating in. They may not be participating in your favorite online space but this isn’t about you as much as connecting with those people who need you.

Here are a few things you can do to research where your target online audience are:

  • Do a Google Blog Search for keywords in your industry. See who is posting, what they are saying and if (and who) is commenting on it.
  • Search LinkedIn. Upload your contacts to LinkedIn and see who is already active on LinkedIn. Also search Groups for active groups you would be a good fit for. Remember to search groups your potential customers would be in, not just the groups your competition is camped out in. Lastly, browse through the LinkedIn Answers section to see how frequently people are posting about your industry.
  • Facebook has a robust search function as well. Use Facebook search to find connection on the site and for groups and fan pages you may want to connect to. If you want to do some serious detective work play around in the Facebook ads section. You can customize your Ad Targeting to your target audience and see how many people that you are trying to reach are on Facebook. For example you can target your ad to be males, 30 – 45, in the greater Boston who are college educated and like outdoor activities and biking (5,220 just so you know).
  • Use search.twitter.com and more specifically the advanced section to get real time results on what people are talking about. Again search for keywords or within a geographic area to get a feel for if you would add value to this space.

Those are just a few ideas on how to do your homework before investing your time and energy on a social media platform. To show return for your efforts you need to start with a goal and a plan. From there you need to determine the metrics that will prove to you that your time is generating income or making a difference in your organization. There is no magic formula, unfortunately it just takes a little hard work on your part.

Presentation from the Portland Regional Chamber Event: