Managing your kids’ schedules is a lot like social media marketing … Wait. What? Though it sounds like a non-sequiter or at best an odd comparison to make, the scenarios prove-out surprisingly well when you consider the challenges and choices that kids, parents, and social media marketers face in our fast-paced culture. 

Sitting down to write this post late on a Saturday night I was reflecting on the week that was as I readied myself mentally for the week that lie ahead. In doing so I realized we had kids’ activities every night of the previous week. Two nights, two different children were double-booked. At the risk of drifting off on a modern parenting rant, I think it’s safe to say that kids today can get over-scheduled.

In talking to my own kids and mentoring other college-aged kids, I always advise taking stock and focusing on what makes the most sense for what you want to accomplish. Now that you’ve tried soccer and choir and 10 other things maybe you should focus more on soccer if you want to play collegiately — or some variation on this scenario. It’s better to do one or two activities really well then to do eight poorly and be tired all the time.

How Does This Relate to Social Media?

You see, as marketers we’re also getting over-booked on social media commitments. New platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are emerging, sites like Facebook and Twitter are always adding new features, and even forgotten channels like MySpace are poised to make a comeback. What’s a marketer to do? Especially a marketer without a six- or seven-figure marketing budget and a huge staff of social soldiers in the trenches?

Should Your Brand Really Be on Every Social Network?

What I say when faced with this question — it surfaces frequently when speaking to business groups — is quite similar to the above advise to kids and students. Tackle one or two social networks and do them really well instead of being tempted to simply check all of them off of some sort of social laundry list. This can be hard, especially given our industry’s propensity for “Shiny New Thing Syndrome.”

If I’m Focusing on Just 1–2 Social Networks, How Do I Know Which Ones to Pick?

This is where strategic grounding of you social initiatives comes in handy. I often set this up with Rudyard Kipling’s 6 Serving Men. Simply put, you need the basics — why, what, how, when, who, where — to get started. To determine which social channel to focus on we need to have a clear idea on (1) why we’re doing this and (2) what we’re hoping to accomplish.

This needn’t be an exhaustive navel-gazing exercise either. At the end of the day, there are six core business objectives that social media can accomplish:

  • Branding
  • Community-Building
  • Public Relations
  • Market Research
  • Customer Service
  • Lead Generation/Sales

Keeping inline with the simplicity of the exercise, focus on one of those objectives and flesh it out. In so doing, you’ll start to find natural alignments for your brand. Are you hoping to drive traffic and leads? If so, then link-referring players like Twitter and Pinterest might be a fit. Are you looking to build an engaging brand or community? Then Facebook and Instagram could be stronger contenders.

Once you’ve identified the network or networks — don’t fear the focus if it’s just one — work on engaging effectively. Respond to every comment, even if it’s just to acknowledge praise with a quick “Thanks!” Get to know your community by asking them questions about what they’re doing, what’s important to them, and how your brand can provide useful content on social media.

Ultimately …

This is what social media is all about — the potential for meaningful, human connections and interactions between people and brands, the opportunity for brands to listen and, of course, provide insight and value to customers.

Social media is NOT about keeping up with the Joneses, their kids, or the Starbucks of the world either. Your brand doesn’t need to be everywhere to be effectively leveraging social media. Like the over-committed child, you’ll likely meet yourself coming and going while not providing the value you hoped.

What do you think? Should you show restraint in committing to new social networks or should you try to be on everything? How do you and your brand wrestle with this very real issue of where to spend your time and talent?

Photo via Flickr user alexanderdrachmann