There are so many social networks out there, with more and more launching every week. With invitations flying through cyberspace to a whole host of emerging networks in alpha or beta testing, how do you decide which to accept and which to ignore?
When I’m faced with this decision, I recall a saying of my dad’s: “It’s not or; it’s and!” This alters the situation entirely. Suddenly I no longer approach these decisions considering, “I could join Plurk, or I could join Kwippy”. Instead I think, “I could join Plurk and I could join Kwippy“. By adopting this attitude re-adjustment, I no longer operate from a position of lack, but of abundance.
Your response, however, may be that there’s not enough hours in the day to invest the time and energy required to establish strong connections within each individual community. And you’d be right. I’m not here to tell you to relinquish all ties with the offline world in order to cultivate multitudinous online communities! But, I can think of many benefits in following the advice, “It’s not or; it’s and” when approaching social media. You can:
- Direct traffic: By maintaining a profile on multiple social networks you can inform others of your blog/site/project etc. You can use your profile as a promotional space, directing others to connect with you wherever you so wish.
- Ensure brand consistency: Claiming your username across a number of social networks will prevent others appropriating it. Their reasons for doing so could be completely innocuous & coincidental, but they could also be maliciously intended to cause your brand identity harm. For whatever reason, this can lead to confusion and a lack of consistency. Maintaining the same username & avatar will limit any confusion.
- Strengthen already existing connections: Different social networks focus on different aspects and interests. For example, LinkedIn has a professional focus while Last.fm has a music focus. By connecting with the same people on both, you learn more about your contacts and establish multiple points of commonality.
- Back-up: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s a well-known saying, but with social media, this advice is so often ignored. Let’s say you’ve limited yourself to a Twitter account; you’ve made lots of new contacts, re-established others and you’ve worked hard at nurturing these online relationships. What are you going to do if Twitter was to disappear tomorrow? What happens to your connections? What happens to your online community?
- Experiment and play: Creators of social media are ceaseless innovators. New networks tend to function in different ways, offer new ways of communicating and have many different features to explore. Think of social media as a space of infinite possibility and take the time to investigate and play. Who knows where it’ll take you!
While you may, and indeed should, limit your focus to a few networks for the majority of your community building, I think it makes sense to establish a presence on as broad a spectrum as possible. A little effort goes a long way!