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Brad Brenner

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet

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Six Criteria to Help You Decide If Your Business Should Actively Participant On Twitter, Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites

Nothing can make you feel more out of touch and irrelevant these days than ignoring the call to tweet. Social networking has become so ubiquitous to the marketing conversation that not including a Facebook or tweeting strategy in your marketing plan seems as faulty as forgetting beer at your Super Bowl party. But I’ll contend that as tempting as it is, social networking may not be appropriate for your business.

I think this is particularly true for many B2B businesses. I’ve read hundreds of social networking success stories, participated in dozens of social networking forums and attended a multitude of conferences where the power of social network marketing was the focus of conversation. And rarely have I heard examples of B2B businesses reaping huge benefits through social networking strategies. The big success stories are almost exclusively the domain of consumer-oriented companies.

It makes sense. Social networking is all about sharing and community. So it’s a slam-dunk that a cooking company like Dessert Gallery would find huge success by engaging cooking enthusiasts on their Facebook site. Or that Ford could use twitter, YouTube and customer blogs to create excitement for one of their new models.

But what about a company that sells radar speed signs to local government agencies? Or a medical lab that applies antimicrobial nanotechnology to medical devices? Or a software company that sells ERP solutions to large insurance agencies?

While it may make sense for these B2B companies to have a presence on Facebook or use Twitter to update investors, chances are, the efforts required to facilitate a major social networking campaign are unlikely to provide adequate ROI.

So how do you know when tweeting makes sense for your business or when a Facebook campaign is something worth considering? Here are a few criteria that should help you decide.

1. Is your business B2B or B2C?
As discussed. B2B companies are social networking challenged. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use Twitter or Facebook as an auxiliary communications tool – simply adjust your expectations appropriately.

2. Do your customers already join industry-related groups?
Are your customers enthusiastic enough about your subject matter to discuss it outside of the 9 to 5? A good indicator that a virtual social networking strategy could be worthwhile is by evaluating the “real” social networking strategies that already exist.

3. Are they already tweeting?
Do a search on Twitter or Facebook and see if there are already discussion groups actively participating in subject matters relevant to your business. Perhaps there are already people talking about your company or its products and services. If so, you’ll want to be part of the conversation if nothing more.

4. Do you currently host well-attended speaking events or forums?
A speech therapy clinic we work with regularly holds open house events featuring guest speakers and monthly topics of interest. Each event usually attracts a standing room only crowd –a great indicator that these topics would be ideal to share via social networking and that this client could use Facebook or blogging to extend its customer base.

5. Do your customers have common lifestyle interests?
Even if your target audience has little interest in discussing your company or products, they may have mutual auxiliary interests you can leverage. Mountain Dew drinkers may be interested in snowboards and motocross. Jo-Ann Fabrics customers may enjoy sharing information about family events or fashion.

6. Are you trying to establish expertise?
Being an official industry expert used to mean that you have authored a book on the subject. Now, bloggers and tweeters are popping up on news programs and are being quoted in the press as industry experts. If one of your business goals is to establish market leadership and expert status – social networking may be a vital tactic in your strategy.

Even if your business meets none of these criteria, tweeting, blogging or developing a Facebook page may offer value – from SEO to lead generating. It’s all a matter of degrees of involvement and ROI. In many cases, its’ ok that social networking is not the cornerstone of your marketing strategy.

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Brad Lee Brenner is a master blogger, radio host and founder of Brenner Associates, a public relations / communications firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Over the past thirty years, Brad has written hundreds of articles that have been published in trade journals, newspapers and online news sources. His focus of expertise includes technology, the medical industry and communications for the digital age.