Social MediaIf you conduct business online, you need to have a social media presence.

Up until recently, that statement might have been more debatable. But with the new moves by Google, plus the continuing growth of social networking across the board (1 out of every 6 minutes spent by users online is now spent on social networks), there’s no longer much doubt. Not only do social profiles drive traffic directly to your site, but they increasingly affect your site’s overall SERP rankings. Social media marketing is quickly merging with search engine marketing.

But before you go and throw time, money and effort into creating a hundred different social media profiles for your brand, realize that not every brand ought to be on every social network. Posting every hour to Twitter does you no good if none of your customers are there and no one ever retweets your content. You must tailor your social media strategy to your industry and target demographics. And that takes careful consideration.

So how do you know what social networks your brand should use? Thankfully, there’s quite a bit of data out there to help you decide. For example, the PEW Internet & American Life Project released a study last month with extensive data on how Americans use social networks. They share much about the demographics of the different social networks. A few things to consider include:

  • Age: MySpace has the youngest users, LinkedIn the oldest.
  • Gender: LinkedIn is the only network with more male users than female.
  • Education: LinkedIn has the most educated audience.
  • Income Level: LinkedIn also has the most affluent user base.

However, this information alone still isn’t enough to help you make the best decision for your brand. Other questions to consider include:

  • Is your business primarily B2B or B2C?
  • On what networks are people already talking about your business?
  • Where are users most likely to engage with your business (i.e. not just look at your content, but talk about it and share it with their own networks)?
  • What networks are most conducive to publishing the content you already produce?

There simply is no cut-and-dried solution that works for every business when it comes to social media marketing. But with some careful research and planning, a strong social media campaign can be the key to staying ahead of the competition. Does your company have a solid strategy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.