When you consider what social networks can become key marketing channels for your business, there isn’t one right answer. Take a quick look at the very different sharing patterns of the three sites below.

Mashable: Twitter is huge, LinkedIn isn’t even included.

Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert: Twitter leads today, LinkedIn is growing.

THECOOLIST: Facebook is completely dominate.

Each audience is different, and the question for your business is not what is best, but what is best for you. The general advice is to understand your audience and what sites they use. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

Unless your audience cleanly matches a common research segment, there is likely limited information available about what social networks they are actively engaged with. Actually getting this information isn’t just a quick research run. Here are three quick practical ways you can tell what social networks may be right for your business and focus additional research.

  • Competitors: where are your competitors seeing strong engagement?
  • Influencers: hand-select 10 to 15 key influencers in your vertical and search them out on social networks. Identify where you have the opportunity to engage with these individuals. Consider not just where they are, but where you have the opportunity to interact. In targeted B2B marketing, this same approach will work for breaking into individual targeted accounts.
  • Blogs and media companies: where is their content widely shared? If you are engaging at the category level, this is a good indication of where category information is shared or conversations are happening.

Listening is intentionally excluded from this list. Although incredibly valuable, it requires significantly more time and some prior experience using listening tools. What other ways can you quickly narrow, if not identify, the right social platforms for your business?