How to (Not) Select a New Social Channel

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As a small business owner, I understand the impulse to try and listen for every new social channel and hop on it in the hopes it becomes the "next Facebook."

This comes from two very valid concerns. One, that Facebook has hit some sort of ceiling, that major advertisers are backing off Facebook, saying that the ROI is virtually non-existent. Two, the Silicon Valley hype machine, designed to turn every wisp of an idea into chum to whip all the venture capitalists into a feeding frenzy.

No matter what you've heard, Medium, Konect, Diaspora and MySpace (2.0) are not going to be the next big thing any time soon (if ever). So stop hoping you're going to catch a dark horse to fortune.

Hopefully, getting this advice tames your instinct to be "on" every social network. No one needs to be on every social network, except for the people who have to talk professionally about all the social networks.

Yes, you need to be on a social network (pick one, it kinda doesn't matter), and many should be on two, but there's a law of decreasing returns on adding each new network.

The issue is two-fold. One, it takes 10-20 hours just to learn a new network's in's and out's to do you any good. That's time that could be better spent building content for your primary networks or maybe on billable work. Two, you won't have time to care and feed each network like it's it's own thing (because it is). You'll end up cross-posting the same thing to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google+, Orkut and Ning and it won't work. Cross-posting always sounds like a TV commercial read over the radio. They aren't the same mediums, so stop treating them as such.

Bruce Lee said that he didn't fear someone who practices 10,000 kicks one time, but he did fear the person who practiced one kick 10,000 times. Becoming good at a single selected social network yields far better results that spreading content across multiple networks because you can actually learn to use it right and you might have the time to add content to it regularly.

So what networks should you use? Well, your mileage will vary, but I'd suggest one text-based network (FB, Twitter, Google+, Ning, etc) and one visual network (YouTube, Pinterest, Vimeo, etc). Whatever you choose should be Google-able (a closed network means your content won't be findable and pretty much worthless) and open to anyone to join. Beyond that you're just going to waste all your time worrying if you chose the right one and what's new. Reject that fear. Get good at what you choose to get good at. Remember, email has been around for 40 years and is still an effective channel. I bet there's someone still working their old Friendster account with some success.

So pick one and stick with it. You'll be better off for it.

James Ellis is a Google Analytics-certified digital strategist who has helped non-profits, state governments, small businesses and multi-national firms get smarter about doing business online. He used to be the first @BuckyBadger, which means he can type with big fuzzy paws. You can get in touch with James at to tell him how many ways he's wrong.

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