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Meghan Ward

I'm a freelance writer and book editor represented by Andy Ross of the Andy Ross Literary Agency. You can read an excerpt of my memoir, Paris On Less Than $10,000 A Day, and visit my website for more info about me.

How Many Social Networks Are Enough?

Last month I registered for the BlogHer 13 conference, which will take place in Chicago July 25-27 of next year, and I’m very excited! The early bird rate has ended, but there’s a $299 holiday discount right now, so grab that if you haven’t already bought your ticket, so we can hang out in Chicago next year!

When I registered for the BlogHer conference, I had to fill out a form that asked me how many followers I have on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram. I spend most of my social media time on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I post to Google+ now and then, I almost never use Pinterest, I have no idea if I have any followers on YouTube, and I don’t even have an Instagram account. But wait! Don’t I teach social media classes at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto? Shouldn’t I have a gazillion followers on ALL the big social media platforms? If I were superhuman and had no job and no kids, I may be able to achieve that, but realistically, we all have lives outside of social media (I hope) and choosing two or three platforms to really build up a loyal network of online friends and followers is better than spreading yourself too thin over too many different social media platforms.

But which two or three platforms should you choose? The biggest? (Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) But what if you hate tweeting, and pinning reminds me too much of that awful scrapbooking class you took at summer camp in seventh grade? The answer is that you should focus on the platforms that you love most. If you’re a writer, you probably like blogging. If you’re a graphic designer or interior designer, you may prefer Pinterest. If you’re a photographer, Instagram and Google+ are your friends.

Instagram has 80 million users and was purchased in April by Facebook, which recently hit the 1 BILLION user mark. Here are 10 great ways businesses can use Instagram, and all bloggers can extrapolate ideas from this list.

Pinterest is the third largest social network after Facebook and Twitter, with 23 million users. The cool new kid on the block, Pinterest is being imitated by eBay, StumbleUpon, AOL, and even Facebook, which is planning to launch a feature called “Collections” that will allow retailers to “Want” and “Collect” buttons to their newsfeeds and product ads. Pinterest is the fasting growing social network with 70% of its users women. So if you like to take photos of things you bake or sew or grow or places you have traveled, be sure to include a Pin It button.

Google+, although hardly a competitor for Facebook, does have a hearty following among photographers. Why? Because Google allows photographers to retain ownership of their photos while Facebook claims ownership of all photos posted to users’ timelines. Nature photographer Mike Spinak, of Naturography, has nearly 43,000 followers on Google+. I know Mike. He’s an introvert. And yet he’s made Google+ work for him. How does he do it? He posts his amazing photos, he posts photography tips, and he spends time interacting with his followers in a genuine, non-spammy way. Another great thing about Google+ is that its posts show up in Google searches, unlike tweets and Facebook posts.

YouTube, owned by Google, has 800,000,000 unique users every month. And you don’t have to be on YouTube to use YouTube. Bloggers and Facebook and users are notorious for sharing videos of cute cats, laughing babies, and flash mob performances. But YouTube is about more than viral videos. There are legions of YouTube users who have built loyal followings with instructional videos on everything from how to thread a sewing machine to how to make a paper crane. YouTube is where I turn when I need to know how to do something that will be easier to understand by watching it than by reading about it. It’s also a wonderful way for authors to give their readers a glimpse into their personal lives, which every reader craves.

So while Facebook and Twitter are still the behemoths of the social media world, you should spend your time where you most want to be. If it’s surrounded by images, then get pinning. If it’s interviewing rock musicians, then install a YouTube follower button on your blog and buy yourself an iPhone microphone. If it’s snapping photos on the fly, download Instagram and play with the filters.

No matter how introverted or extroverted you are, there’s a social network for you. You just need to invest a little time exploring which one is the right fit. Experiment, play. You may be surprised to find that the new kid on the block is your new best friend.

What are your favorite social media platforms? Do you use Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and others, or do you stick mainly with blogging, Twitter, and Facebook?

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13 comments to How Many Social Networks Are Enough?

  • annerallen

    Thanks for this run-down of the social media biggies. I'm a blog/Twitter/FB and sometimes Google+ person, too. People keep talking about Instagram and Pinterest, and I've felt that I should be doing them, but now I realize why they don't speak to me. I don't even own a camera and I'm much more verbal than visual. I'd love to learn more about photography and design if I had time, but, like so many other writers, I have these pesky needs like sleeping and interacting with other humans that I feel I should do at least a couple of times a week. :-)

    All I know about YouTube is the LOL cat stuff people send me links too. Sometimes they're a good break in the day. I never thought of using it to actually learn something. I might try that!

    Thanks much for another informative post.

    • meghancward

      Anne, YouTube is fantastic for anything that's easier to learn by watching than by reading about it. I've used it for cooking, for sewing, for craft projects (That makes me sound really domestic, but if I were really domestic, I wouldn't need to watch YouTube videos for everything!) ONE OF THESE DAYS, I'm going to update my YouTube account. I started with Vimeo, so half my video blog posts are over there and the other half on YouTube. As for Instagram, I have no idea how to even use it. And Pinterest ? Not my thing.

  • I once heard someone to say Pinterest is Twitter for people who can't read. Ha ha! I love Pinterest, though. I curate photos there. The boards I've created inspire what goes on my table for dinner and what I wear. Right now, I have a board of ideas for gifts that my husband can purchase for me! (Yes, he needs very obvious hints, and I love to oblige). The photos are so gorgeous that they often inspire blog posts for me as well.

    Thank you for sharing the Instagram uses for business. What a great list! I hope to incorporate some of the ideas.

    • meghancward

      Christine, I wish I liked Pinterest more. I'm almost embarrassed to have people follow me because I have about three things pinned. Right now it's not really my thing, but maybe some day I'll find a use for it (Great idea to post what you want for gifts there, by the way!)

  • This topic overwhelms me. I'm very happy swimming around in Twitter, FB, Instagram, and to a lesser extent YouTube on behalf of my "platform," and I thank Pinterest for reminding me that I am so not visual. However I'm conscious that time I spend interacting in my social networks is time that I would have spent writing five years ago (or at least making different excuses not to write.) And there's no end to it – what about tumblr? What about actually using the Google Plus account I set up and never visit? If I were to really explore and leverage all these platforms, i'd never write another word.

    • meghancward

      I agree, Nancy. We just can't do them all. And I don't think we should. Some people are more visual and Intstragram and Pinterest is for them. I prefer blogging and Twitter – I really love Twitter – and I spend some time on FB.

  • Kristan

    TOTALLY agree that people should just choose the 1-3 that jibe with them the best, and not worry about the rest. The truth is, these are all going to flux over the years anyway.

    Personally: I blog and Twitter. I do use FB to echo/broadcast those two, because I recognize that some people are more comfortable with FB. I've only recently joined Instagram, but I see that as more of a personal, for-fun thing than a social thing.

    • meghancward

      I'm like you, Kristan – blogging and Twitter are my thing, and I use FB for the same purpose. I have fantasies of getting into YouTube and Instagram, but I also have fantasies of sewing, gardening, learning web design, and organizing my photos. Maybe in another life!

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