Guest Post: Social Network Overload

p>Can you belong to too many social networks? That's a question a lot of people are asking themselves lately as new social networks seem to pop up every

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week. When all your friends and colleagues belong to different networks, and they're all to join, it can quickly become overwhelming. You're no doubt familiar with a handful of the largest ones, but some sources place the number of existing social networks in the hundreds. Imagine trying to manage roughly 500 separate social profiles—it would basically be a full-time job. What do you do? Choose the ones that will best serve your purposes.

Any business advisor or marketing professional will tell you that to get your business noticed, you need to belong to at least a few good business networking sites. They're different from general social networks in that, as the phrase suggests, they focus on business. By default, there's a social aspect to them, which is only natural when people are sharing information and advice with each other. But they mainly serve as a resource for learning and problem-solving, as well as a reliable method of gaining exposure for your business.

One of the best-known business networking sites is LinkedIn, which is now the number two social networking site. It started as basically an online resume site, but has progressed to offering job listings, allowing members to ask and answer questions, and providing news-sharing tools. Other business networking sites place less emphasis on resumes and job searches in favor of building communities and sharing business information that ranges from marketing and yes, social media, to international business and business law.

Facebook and Twitter, are ranked as the number one and four social networking sites, respectively, with Google+ quickly gaining. Facebook offers a little bit of both business and social. In addition to its personal profiles, the site lets businesses build pages that serve as marketing tools, and vehicles for engaging and interacting with customers and fans. On Twitter, it's just a matter of creating a business account, and using it to broadcast information about your business. Those businesses that use Twitter not only to share information, but to actually interact with their followers see the best results in that medium. Google+ is only just now starting to open up to business accounts, so it will be interesting to see the effect that has on the marketing landscape.

The point is, you have choices. While these sites are the largest, best-known, most-liked, or whatever label you want to apply, they're not the only games in town. Don't miss out on valuable marketing and networking opportunities because you set up accounts on the biggest networks, and then sit back and wait for the traffic to roll in. Do some research, see what the communities are like, and then select a handful that will be helpful, and that you'll be able to keep up with. To get the broadest exposure, hire a social media manager, or an agency that offers social media management. They'll set up profiles for your business over a wide range of networks, and keep up with the accounts for you, freeing you up to run other facets of your business.

Can you belong to too many social networks? Not really. It's just a matter of choosing the ones that will give you the best return, and ensuring you maintain them. There are few things worse for a business than for a customer to find a business profile that's been abandoned. A neglected social media profile as the same effect as a customer arriving at a brick and mortar store that's boarded up. They may make an effort to find you somewhere else, or you may just lose a customer.