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MasterMinds: Social Studies: Networking Sites & Master Agents

**Editor’s Note: MasterMinds is a biweekly feature in which we invite leading master agents to share information, insights and expert opinions about what’s going on in their agencies, the IT/telecom channel or the business community in general.**

There’s a lot of liking, retweeting, following, pinning and endorsing taking place on social media sites these days. We Are Social’s current Digital in 2017: Global Overview shows that of the nearly 3.8 billion internet users worldwide, almost 2.8 billion are active on social media. It’s no wonder that 92 percent of marketers responding to a survey by Social Media Examiner said social media is important to their business.

You probably know all the reasons why your business should be on social media: the platforms are free, you can maintain ongoing contact with your clients and customers, social platforms can drive traffic to your company website, social media “communities” can build brand loyalty, ads on social media are inexpensive and can be used to target a specific audience, etc. But are you sure which social media your business should be on?

MicroCorp's Karin Fields“It’s complicated,” admits Karin Fields, CEO/COO of MicroCorp (who discussed marketing on social media websites as part of a November 2016 article for MasterMinds).  “It depends on what audience you want to reach and for what purposes. To be seen as an industry leader or a resource, then LinkedIn is my vote. Posting articles, making comments to others’ content or being active in a group brings you visibility and helps drive your website for SEO. Twitter would be #2.”{ad}

It’s a new twist in online matchmaking — finding the best social media platform(s) for communicating with your target audience. The first step would be to identify the leading candidates. eBizMBA’s list of the six most popular social networking websites as of January 2017, based on global traffic figures for unique monthly visitors, shows: Facebook (with 1.1 billion), YouTube (with 1 billion), Twitter (with 310 million), LinkedIn (with 255 million), Pinterest (with 250 million) and Google+ (with 120 million).

These websites are the favorites of the master agents we queried for this article as well, with many echoing Fields’ preference for using a variety of websites, depending on the message and the audience for whom it’s intended.

Telecom Brokers' Nancy Ridge“I find myself jumping from one platform to another,” says Nancy Ridge, executive vice president of Telecom Brokers. “For me it sometimes just depends on…

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…the post. When I am live at an event, I prefer Twitter. If I want to make a more lengthy statement of my own or share a juicy piece from a thought leader and reach a wider swath of people, I will choose LinkedIn.”

PlanetOne's Ted Schuman“For us it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn,” says Ted Schuman, CEO of PlanetOne Communications. “Our target audience tends to gravitate to one or more of these four platforms, so that’s where we focus our efforts.”

But never forget that social media should be about communicating and not competing for attention. “Social media is an essential part of building your company’s and your personal brand,” emphases Fields.

“Social media is a free way to increase your online presence,” says Angela Welby, director of corporate communications for SOVA. “It never hurts to post and engage. Just don’t get fixated on the vanity metrics of social media. Having 5,000+ followers does not always equate to social media success.”{ad}

Let’s take a brief look at what each of the top social networking sites has to offer.

Facebook

It should be no surprise that Facebook leads the pack. According to the Social Media Update 2016 from Pew Research Center, 79 percent of American internet users — and 68 percent of all U.S. adults — use Facebook. Eight-eight percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 84 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds online use Facebook, making it prime marketing territory.  And if you’re looking to go global, Facebook reports that nearly 85 percent of its daily active users are outside the U.S. and Canada.

There are 60 million active business pages on Facebook, which encourages users to create a community where they can connect with customers.

“If you’re looking to build a more personal relationship with top customers or even people at the providers, then SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook would be the right place to go,” says Fields.

“My company has a very active Facebook page,” says Ridge, “and we enjoy posting partner pictures there and using it for lighter posts.”

YouTube

YouTube states that by “making search more visual and engaging,” it has become the second largest online search engine. Widely regarded as the premier source of instructional and informational videos, YouTube points out that “Millennials and today’s independent buyer turn to…

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…YouTube to get quick answers, and you can easily become their go-to expert with incredible ‘how-to’ video content.” It could be a great place to establish yourself as a trusted adviser.

Like Facebook, YouTube is also a good venue for a globalization campaign, as it is localized in 88 countries and can be accessed in 76 different languages, enough for about 95 percent of the world’s internet population.

Twitter

Keeping the message short and sweet appeals to a lot of businesses. According to Brandwatch, nearly a third of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees use Twitter for marketing. Ninety-two percent of companies tweet more than once a day, 42 percent tweet one to five times daily and 19 percent tweet six to 10 times every day. This could be one reason why: Fifty-four percent of users surveyed by Twitter reported that they had taken action after seeing a brand mentioned in a tweet.

Also a good venue for a global campaign, Twitter supports more than 40 languages; 79 percent of its accounts are outside the U.S.

LinkedIn

According to LinkedIn, IT and services is the most represented industry among their 433 million registered users, 40 percent of whom check the site daily. By the way, 70 percent of those users are based outside the U.S.; LinkedIn is active in 200 countries and territories.{ad}

“LinkedIn is the most vital social network for us,” states TBI. “This is where our customer base resides, and where people go to improve themselves professionally. Our following responds best to posts from our executive leadership. Whether it’s because audiences like putting a face to a name or reading industry leaders’ thoughts about current events, we’ve seen high engagement in these posts. Twitter and Facebook do provide some benefit as well, but the quality of the traffic pales in comparison to what we receive through LinkedIn.”

SOVA has also had great success with LinkedIn. “SOVA uses LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+,” Welby reports. “Out of those four, LinkedIn is definitely our go-to. We’ve had both proactive and reactive success with LinkedIn. We use it to introduce ourselves to new people, or say hello to colleagues we may never get a chance to ‘see’ otherwise . We’ve also had people…

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…reach out to us because of content that we’ve posted. One of our largest mobility sales came through thanks to a LinkedIn post!”

Sandler Partners' Curt AllenCurt Allen, president of channel, says that Sandler Partners has put LinkedIn to work for them as well. “We find LinkedIn to be a very valuable sales tool. We use a social media consultant that trains our agent managers on hunting with LinkedIn and using it as a tool to more deeply connect with existing partners.“

Pinterest

While the vast majority of Pinterest users have traditionally been female, figures from Omnicore show that 40 percent of new signups are now men. More than 5 percent of all referral traffic to websites comes from Pinterest. The image-sharing site also widely influences users’ buying decisions — 87 percent of “Pinners” have purchased a product because of it. “My daughter, who is 21 and a social media coordinator for a bikini store chain, tells me Instagram is the way to go if we want to reach millennials,” says Telecom Brokers’ Ridge. {ad}

Google+

Mixed reviews after its initial launch in June 2011, followed by its redesign in November 2015, made it difficult for Google’s interest-based social network to attract followers. In September 2016, however, Statistic Brain showed that the site had 375 million active users, split roughly between 76 percent male users and 24 percent female. The majority (55 percent) of users are in the United States. Forty percent of surveyed marketers said they use Google+, hoping to capture users’ attention during their average visit duration of 3:46 minutes.

Google+ is not in wide use among the master agents we talked to, although PlanetOne’s Schuman admits, “We do invest some time in Google+, namely to boost SEO.”

AVANT's Drew LydeckerIn choosing the social media platform(s) you want to use, worry less about the site’s popularity and more about what you want to do and how much time you can commit to doing it. “The most vital form of social media is the one you are most likely to use,” advises Drew Lydecker, president of AVANT. ” The truth is, people engage on different platforms in different ways with different kinds of content.  If you only have time to focus on one platform, then you probably don’t have time to…

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…execute a complex strategy. Pick a platform you like and will be able to consistently maintain and manage because consistency and momentum are the two most important factors to gaining traction.

“A proper strategy needs to be developed, as social media takes time,” Lydecker adds. “There is a real difference between being busy and being productive. The real value we see in social media is not as a demand-generation tool, but rather a publishing platform for your own unique content.”

eXemplify's Robert HayesFor eXemplify, that unique content translates to memes, reports CEO Robert Hayes. “eXemplify has seen success from visual content such as memes shared across multiple social sites,” says Hayes. ” For example, two memes eXemplify published recently have outperformed other content as far as clicks back to the company website. One meme alone drove 19 people to the website, and another meme drove 20. As a trend, we are driving traffic to our website with visual content, are seeing longer session durations on our site as a result and are able to promote company successes such as our platinum partnership and events. For us, the focus is less on which social media site is more useful, and more on what social content is promoting us successfully.”{ad}

PlanetOne’s Schuman emphasizes the power of online connections and communications. “Social media is a great listening and learning tool across all platforms,” he says. “What you say online stays online, so take the time to make it work for you and your business. Know your audience, measure your efforts and keep it fresh, real and relevant to your business, the industry and your customers.”

Have a question or topic you would like considered for discussion? Submit it to buffy.naylor@informa.com


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