While there is an element of personal preference to choosing a social network, there are a few things that you should check for before you make a decision to invest your time and energy there. Following are six core elements that any good social network should have, and the bare minimum criteria when defining a world-class network.
You want to make sure that the people you’re meeting in this network are actually going to be interested in what you’re selling. No matter how highly a site is ranked, if it is inhabited entirely of kids from 14-18 and you’re selling life insurance; you are not going to get a good response. Determining who uses the site, and what percentage of the users fall within your target demographic is a great way to isolate the best sites for you to spend time on.
2. Flexible Search
If you’re working on a popular social network, you may have millions of potential contacts. It would be pointless to try to include them all as your contacts. You want to be able to locate people within a certain age group, in a specific location, or with special interests that pertain to your company. The better the search function, the better you’ll be able to use the network. You need to be able to do advanced searches using multiple criteria to really zero in on your ideal contacts before you spend any time adding them to your profile.
3. Video Capability
The single most important development in Web 2.0 in the last year is the use of video. This doesn’t require sophisticated production or high end equipment. In fact, the amateur quality of these videos seems to add to their appeal. Regardless, you need to be able to utilize this important marketing tool on any site you choose for your networking.
4. Mobile Capability
Another important development is the use of mobile or handheld devices for web use. More and more people are surfing the web from their Blackberry, iPhone, or cell. However, not all websites are set up to be accessible by these mobile devices. You must be sure that any site you’re using translates to this important platform.
5. Bulk Messaging
While I am opposed to using bulk messages to your whole network, there are times when you need to get some information out to everyone you know…fast! Bulk messaging allows you to send a single message to everyone in your personal contacts, which means you can be the first to break industry news and share other important information quickly and efficiently.
It’s true that a lot of people go way overboard with these customizable templates. Some sites are full of all kinds of crazy graphics which make them look more like the inside of a junior high school locker than an adult social network. Nevertheless, you do want to make sure your profile is sufficiently customizable because you need to be able to stand out in the crowd. Some sites will even let you use your company logo and other easily identifiable graphics. Several of the sites allow you to name your own URL which you can use in conjunction with your regular company website.
These are very basic requirements, and many sites fulfill most, if not all of them. So in the end, it really boils down to user preference. What do you think? What are some of your criteria?