Do you or someone you know suffer from Social Media Information Overload (SMIO)?

SMIO is caused by too much information about too many social media platforms and not enough information about why these platforms are right for your business.

It’s exhausting and for some, incredibly frustrating.

Luckily there’s a cure.

I sat down with Erica Ayotte, social media manager at Constant Contact, to talk about which sites are best for helping small businesses market their brand.

Watch this week’s Ask an Expert to see which of the top sites are best for your industry and learn how your business can experiment with new social media platforms to find out if they work for you.

What do you think are the most important social media sites available to help small businesses market their businesses today?

Well I don’t think this would be a surprise to anyone to hear that Facebook is probably the most important platform. It’s really the industry standard and it’s the platform that all other companies develop to now – it’s the behemoth that keeps acquiring and gobbling up more startups. So I think that’s really the place that you want to be regardless of whether your B2B or B2C. That’s where people hangout, regardless of what industry they’re in.

The second one is not a surprise either: it’s Twitter. I think the differentiator is that you can’t use those platforms exactly the same. They’re used for different purposes. Twitter is much more of a “breaking news” platform. It’s more public than Facebook and news can travel faster and further even though each interaction may be worth less, if you will.

So there’s really Facebook and Twitter and then there’s everyone else. And everyone else depends on what your business is and does.

How can a business decide which sites are best for their particular business and which may not be as important to their social media marketing?

I would say to take a look at some of the platforms that are coming out.

So obviously there’s LinkedIn, and a lot of B2Bs are on LinkedIn. But I still think that Facebook – obviously Constant Contact is a B2B and Facebook is a more valuable property for us – but I think LinkedIn can be very valuable for regulated industries. For example, health care and legal, that might be a better spot for you than Facebook.

If you’re retail or art or graphic design – take a look at Pinterest. It’s getting a lot of buzz right now of course, but its driving a lot of traffic and a lot of web referrals. I would take a look at that if your business is visually oriented…or even if it’s not. Again, Constant Contact is a software company and we’re on Pinterest and we get a lot of traffic and get a lot of interaction. So it’s worth experimenting. Even if you think it might not be exactly right for your industry, give it a shot.

The other thing too is if you’re in the restaurant business; if you’re in entertainment – take a look at Foursquare or any sort of mobile or location-based platform. If you encourage people to check in or publicize or tweet that they’re at your business –or attending your event, that’s just extra publicity for you. The other thing about Foursquare or other platforms like that, is that it’s a mash-up between a location-based check in and review service like Yelp. So that has its own benefits.

What advice would you give to a business trying to manage their time on social media and to make the most of their limited schedule?

So that’s the issue, right? There’s so many different platforms and each one can suck up a lot of time. I would say: start with one and do it really well. Most often that’s probably Facebook – for particular businesses that might mean Twitter. I would start with either one of those and do it well.

And spend 90% of that time that you’ve allotted for social media building that network and building that community. Use that other 10% time as your experimentation time. You might want to try checking out Pinterest or some of the other platforms. Maybe you have a great Facebook presence but you haven’t really dabbled in Twitter yet. Try it…use some of that time to try it out.

It’s an industry that is maturing but it’s still very young – so, it’s okay to try and experiment. And it’s okay to use that 10% of time to try and figure out what works for you because you’ll never know unless you try it.

What questions do you have for our experts? Tells us in the comments and we may answer them in an upcoming post.