So a bit of background on me and then we'll get on to the good stuff. I'm a 24 year old woman from Texas who loves good food, good wine and interesting people. I've been to 3 of the 7 continents and still think Colorado is where I'll eventually retire (if I don't go to Oregon to start a vineyard/B&B in my "retirement"). I also love a man in uniform! I know just enough to get me into trouble, but not enough to cure mankind of hunger, poverty or loneliness.
Now on to the good stuff.
A question that pops up alot is "How do I decide which social network to join?" There are literally thousands of social networks out there and new ones start up every day! The great news is that you can find virtually any group you want to connect with out there on the web. Alternatively, you can even start your own network and I guarantee you someone else out there will be interested in it. Take a look at your ideal consumer. What is he or she into? What do they care about and why? Where are they hanging out online?
If you're pitching a cupcake company, you'd probably have a pretty good idea of your perfect customer: moderate disposable income, sweet-tooth, has love of food. Actively seek out those types of foodies and try to connect with them on any of the platforms out there from the major social networks to blogs to even interactive recipe websites. See what they're talking about and why! If you check out Ning.com and don't find anything, you probably don't need to be there. Alternatively, if you find out there are already built in audiences on Facebook, make sure you're active and offering helpful advice to other group members!
Don't feel like you have to be on every major social network. In fact, being on every network and having a weak presence on each could be more of a detriment to yourself or your company than having one where you are a powerhouse. Unless you're prepared to staff an entire department of Gen-Y kids dedicated to updating everything, being on every network is a waste of your time. You should focus on your key networks and leave the rest up to your superfans or tribe members. Let your fans evangelize for you! That's the beautiful thing about social media and the viral nature of it all. You don't have to be in control! Simply guide the creation of your message and the rest naturally falls into place.