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Summary:

I think of my Social Media Triad: Three social networks where I’m building a good following and where I can do the bulk of my promoting. Everything else is the icing, while those three places are the cake. My triad consists of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

I recently led a webinar for AT&T Small Business Insite about small biz technology and received a question from photographer Lemuel Fillyaw about managing social media marketing efforts:

I’m a tech addict. How much tech and social media is too much? Not monetarily, mind you, but quantity (in order to) produce quality?

My response discussed one of my personal theories on social media marketing:

I think of my Social Media Triad: Three very strong social networks where I’m building a good following and where I can do the bulk of my promoting. Everything else is the icing, while those three places are the cake. My triad consists of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Then when I want to cast a wider net, I use HelloTxt or Ping.fm to spread a little icing!

The term “Social Media Triad” is my own, just my way of stating that three good social media sites or tools can be your foundation; where you need to focus to build a following, engage meaningfully with others, and promote what you do in appropriate ways. Sure, it is tempting to have presences and profiles all over the place, but when it boils down to it, there are only a handful of places where you need to spend most of your time.

Your Social Media Triad could consist entirely of social networks, comprise a blog, microblog and a social resume, or be any combination that provides you with the right doses of:

  • Presence. You want to be places where it makes sense for you to be. If you are a graphic designer, LinkedIn might not necessarily be your first choice; perhaps a more portfolio-based network could be more appropriate. For a photographer? Maybe Flickr is the right place to start.
  • Reach. You want to have the potential to not just reach a lot of people but a lot of the right people. But remember, sometimes you can reach the right people through others who know and trust you, or can vouch for your work.
  • Interaction. You want to choose a place where you can interact with others in meaningful ways — in this case, for business. If you hate tweeting, chances are that Twitter is not a great place for you to be in terms of interaction.

Here’s how I break down my own Social Media Triad and how each one has helped me business-wise so far:

Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter since March 2007 and have taken a very personal approach to my main account @alizasherman. I dance on the tightrope that divides professional and personal. I share a lot of my own writing and work, my client projects, interesting articles and posts I’m reading, and my thoughts on all things social media. But I also riff about food, share personal photos, talk about how I’m feeling — and can get a bit confessional after a glass or two of wine. Blending the personal and the professional can be risky for many people, but that’s who I am and who I’ve been since I started my first website in 1994. I “live” online in ways that may make some people uncomfortable, but it works for me.

For business: Twitter helped me to re-establish my visibility in my industry after a several-year hiatus. Twitter has helped my company find some of our key team members. I get my daily news and information about my industry and the world around me from Twitter. I get answers to my tech questions, lots of feedback on my projects and ideas, and some incredible business advice in general. My support network on Twitter is phenomenal, even for business.

LinkedIn

I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2002 although my original LinkedIn account became inaccessible to me so I actually have two accounts; this is the corrects one. I love LinkedIn and know that you get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. When I’m diligent with updating and reaching out to my contacts in meaningful ways, LinkedIn becomes a bustling hub of true business networking. If I need to find someone or something strictly for business, LinkedIn is the first place I go. But when I neglect LinkedIn, it tends to sink back into the shadows and is far less fruitful.

For business: I’ve found excellent candidates for positions with my company and some leads to new clients. I’ve been able to get top-notch advice on business issues, and try to reciprocate with answers to questions where I have expertise.

Facebook

I’m not a huge Facebook user. I jump in when I have something to share but tend to leave it for days at a time. I struggle with keeping my Facebook Page updated and have yet to engage often with people there. The real engagement that I get with my actual friends on my Facebook Profile is a wonderful thing, just not directly business-related. Still, I cannot deny the power of the sheer number of people using Facebook and the friendly networking that goes on that could lead to business deals and strategic partnerships. To me, it feels like while LinkedIn is the high-powered networking event, Facebook is more like the backyard barbeque.

For business: I’ve gotten a few client contracts from Facebook, back when I was still a sole proprietorship. Now that my consultancy has grown into an agency and our charge is to reach Chief Marketing Officers and VPs of Marketing at bigger companies, Facebook is a good place to have a presence, but in many ways it requires a lot more time and finesse for true B2B outreach.

Finding Your Triad

There is no combination that will suit everyone, and not everyone needs three social media accounts. Yet many of us have dozens, because we also have accounts on YouTube, SlideShare, Flickr, Foursquare or GoWalla, even MySpace. Then there’s Delicious, Digg, Reddit, not to mention accounts on online communities of interest and our blogs. Linking some of these sites together or occasionally using a broadcasting or cross-posting tool — like Hellotxt and Ping.fm or any number of new social media management systems (SMMS), like HootSuite and Sprout Social — can help make managing your multiple presences on multiple channels easier.

But if you want good quality business interactions in social media channels, pare down and focus — create value and vibrancy first. You can always expand out onto other networks again as you grow your connections, fans, friends and following. Always keep in mind what you are trying to achieve with your social media presences. And always remember the adage: less is more. Don’t spread yourself too thin, or real value is lost.

What is your social media triad?

stock.xchng image by blogless
diagram by Aliza Sherman

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise

  1. Hello Aliza.

    Very nice advise on choosing the “triad” as it is simply not possible to focus on scores of social media and networking websites all over the internet. Select a couple of your favorite and build a strong presence there.

    ~~ Sarah ~~

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  2. Great article, Aliza! I think that most people share the same triad as you, but there are so many other resources and social networking sites out there. A lot of people just join the crowds without looking at what might be the most appropriate for their own personal branding strategy.

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    1. You are right – there are SO MANY. But other than those of us who join many things to test them out for our clients and work, most tools aren’t strategically useful to most people. And the more you have, the more you tend to want to automate which in small doses is okay but across the board is anti-social, right?

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  3. I think it’s possibly for anyone in any field, specialty, or passion, to be on each and every form of social media. LinkedIn was just for the boring and mundane corporate pros, but even it has changed with the follow and like features now. Plus, I know many web designers, club promoters, DJ’s, and other professionals in their own right who are just killing it on LinkedIn, amongst other social media/networks.

    But I do agree you need to find what works for you and then start adding other new tools as needed. The location services are still underused, but almost anyone who wants to use them can.

    Just need to get a bit more creative, unorthodox, and not be afraid of branding yourself and you can employ everything to your advantage. Videos are almost a must for anyone, as your business may be “Big Time Corp, LTD/LLC/INC”, but your customers and market want to know who is the person(s) behind it. Transparency and authenticity rules.

    Great article!

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  4. Hi Aliza,

    Because WWD is a very early-adopter audience and many readers probably have iPhones, I also want to mention that Hellotxt iPhone/iPad V2 is now available with improved reading for organizing muliple networks…and like…a billion other new features :)

    Hope you are well,

    Ryan Sommer
    Community Manager — Hellotxt

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    1. Hey, I saw you messaged me on LinkedIn, btw, but am totally backed up on responding. I’m going to the apps store now for the Hellotxt app. Thanks for the tip!

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  5. Eric Farthing Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Thank you for this post. The Idea of a triad is great and is easy enough to pass on to others as well.

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  6. Wow! What a great way to look at Social Media sites. Often people write about how people aren’t using enough sites. Here is a game plan to effectively use Social Media as needed.

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    1. So glad it resonates. I’m the Queen of Being Practical. We’re all overloaded and going crazy with this stuff. We just need to relax, pare down, focus in. More value that way.

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  7. [...] } I was reading an article suggesting that we need to focus our Social Media time to no more than three platforms. The reason [...]

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  8. This is good blog message, I will keep this in mind. If you add more video and pictures because it helps understanding :)

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  9. Good thoughts Aliza. It’s important to identify what exactly you’re trying to do with your social media so that you can focus on really developing a couple key pages rather than putting your name on every single network out there and not having any good content. I think Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are great places to start for every business because almost everyone has heard of them and has an account so it’s a good start to get your name out there.

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  10. As an IT consultant I am fully aware that IT management is struggling with whether social media is productive or obstructive for companies and their employees. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers. The security of company networks are at stake but the potential for innovation using social media is a large enough carrot for the discussion of how to properly utilize the medium continues. Palo Alto networks came up with a whitepaper, http://bit.ly/d2NZRp, which will explore the issues surrounding social media in the workplace. It is important to not only understand the immediate benefits of doing business how one lives, but the threat it presents to a company’s greater ROI and productivity when it comes to the server’s safety and security.

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