Ask Yourself These Questions Before Choosing Social Media


In my research preparing for a presentation at PRSA West Virginia’s recent seminar on social media, I came across some interesting data about social media’s explosive growth. The numbers have probably changed already, but they’re still staggering:

  • Facebook claims more than 500 million users of it service. The average user is connected to 80 pages, events or other communities.
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month.
  • Twitter has 175 million users; 56 million follow eight or more accounts.
  • LinkedIn has 100 million registered users and is adding 1 million per week.
  • There are more than 7.5 million Foursquare users.

There’s no denying that social media have attracted huge numbers of people. But, as I cautioned the folks who attended the seminar, you need to seek the relevance in the numbers. Astronomical numbers don’t make social media a communications panacea.

Before choosing social media as part of a communication plan, you need to ask yourself some questions, including:

  • How many of these registered users are active?
  • How often do active users log into the service?
  • How long do they stay?
  • What do they do while they’re there?
  • What groups do they join?
  • What brands do they interact with?
  • To what extent do they share their brand experiences with others?
  • Perhaps most important, are these people your target audience? And once you reach them, do you intend to engage with them?

I’m a big believer in social media as another way to reach people. Just as with any media, however, it’s critical to know if social media platforms will help achieve your organization’s communication goals. Primarily, social media are an effective way to reach your organization’s target audiences in order to engage in conversations with them. And those conversations should have a purpose. They must advance your plan’s communication and engagement goals in some way.

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