Benefits of social media
At this point in the game, social media has become a part of our daily lives. Almost 70% of Americans are on social media and that number continues to grow every year.
With so many people spending their time on social platforms, it’s crucial for businesses to join in as well.
By using the social media channels where your current customers and potential prospects already choose to spend time, you’ll be able to boost brand awareness, engage them with interesting content, and earn their trust as a relevant brand.
But with the plethora of social platforms out there, it can seem like a daunting task to tackle all of them. Creating engaging social content is a challenge, and the thought of taking on the myriad of mediums is enough to make many small business owners throw in the towel.
But just remember, it’s not so much about being on all the platforms, it’s about being on the right platforms — the ones where your customers are.
If you’re using social media for your business, you can relax — there’s no reason to be active on every single social platform. The key to success is maintaining a consistent presence on the select channels that appeal to your target audience.
How to determine which social media platform(s) to use
Before you decide which platforms to use, you should take a step back and look at your company’s unique position and objectives.
You can narrow down your options by evaluating these four elements: your goals, audience, content type, and ads.
1. Determine your main goal
What is your main goal? Do you want to boost brand awareness? Encourage active engagement? Provide product updates? Answer customer questions? Drive traffic to your website?
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of potential goals, think about what you’re trying to achieve and make sure that the social platform(s) you choose are going to help you reach that goal.
2. Identify your target audience
What age is your typical customer? Are you a B2B or B2C business? If you are focusing on social platforms where your target market isn’t spending their time, you are wasting yours.
3. Pinpoint your preferred content type
What kind of content do you want to post — Video? Photos? Text? How frequently do you intend on posting — Weekly? Daily? Multiple times a day?
While you want to create an engaging experience for your audience, don’t set yourself up for failure by committing to a content type that you can’t create or a schedule that is too aggressive for you to maintain.
4. Evaluate your ad options
Do you want to run ads? Some platforms give you options ranging from simply boosting posts to executing complex targeted strategies.
How much do you want to spend? The cost of advertising varies from platform to platform, but a highly targeted campaign on the right platform might be worth a higher cost if you’re sure to reach exactly the right demographic.
Once you’ve determined your audience and objectives, you’ll have the tools to identify which social platforms are perfectly suited to help you reach your customers and your goals.
Social platforms to use
While there are many options, you should make sure that the social platforms you choose are a good fit for your business goals, target audience, content type, and ad preferences that you’ve identified.
No doubt, you’ll be familiar with some (if not most) of the platforms on the following list, but you might not have considered how they could be used for business. Consider the benefits and disadvantages of each platform as you evaluate which ones line up with your ongoing business strategy.
Facebook was introduced in 2004 and quickly established itself as one of the top social platforms. The most widely used social platform today, it also allows you to share a variety of content types.
Advantages of Facebook:
- Largest consumer reach – as of Q4 2018, Facebook had 2.32 billion monthly active users
- Users of all ages and backgrounds
- Lots of content options – video, photo slideshows, stories, post sharing
- Highly targeted advertising options, which are generally quite affordable
- Ability to provide customer service via Facebook Messenger
Disadvantages of Facebook:
- Decreasing use among Gen Z – while many baby boomers have taken to this social platform, unfortunately many under age 25 are abandoning the site so they aren’t on the same platform as their parents and grandparents
Instagram launched in 2010 and has since grown into one of the largest social platforms in the world. Businesses can use it to share visually engaging content.
Advantages of Instagram:
- Owned by Facebook – overlap of audience, 1.1 billion users per month
- Content is visual, including photos and stories – great for telling your brand’s story
- Best for building awareness and engagement with your audience
- Engage with influencers and partners for “social media takeovers”
- Top platform for teens – users under age 25 spend an average of 32 minutes per day on the app
- Introduced shoppable posts/checkout feature in 2018 – provides the ability to buy products without leaving the app
Disadvantages of Instagram:
- If your products or services don’t lend themselves well to visual content or you don’t have a dedicated designer or photographer on staff, it may be challenging to produce content that will engage your target audience
Twitter launched in 2006 and is now one of the leading news and social networking sites. It’s ideal for businesses wanting to update and engage with their customers and prospects in just a few characters — 280 to be exact.
Advantages of Twitter for businesses:
- 321 million monthly active users, with approximately 46% of users visiting the platform daily
- Short posts allow you to be hyper-relevant and live-tweet events
- Great way to provide customer support – 85% of SMB Twitter users provide customer service via the platform
Disadvantages of Twitter:
- Users expect frequent posting
- Scheduling time to tweet can often interfere with daily on-the-job activities
YouTube is the top social site for videos and is now owned by Google. Businesses can take advantage of YouTube by posting helpful videos and embedding them throughout their site or on other social platforms.
Advantages of YouTube:
- 1.5 billion users per month
- Second largest search engine after Google
- Video is a great way to showcase products, demos, thought leadership — very engaging
- Everyone loves it – Millennials show a strong preference for YouTube over traditional television, and baby boomers turn to YouTube to learn about products and services
Disadvantages of YouTube:
- Difficult to stand out as there are so many content creators using the platform
- Advertising can be pricey
LinkedIn launched in 2003 and is a great way for businesses to network, look for new employees, and post relevant industry and company information.
Advantages of LinkedIn:
- 260 million monthly active users
- Professional audience – reach senior-level influencers and decision-makers
- #1 social channel for B2B marketing – 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content
- Advertising is highly targeted – enables you to reach extremely specific audiences with ease
Disadvantages of LinkedIn:
- Advertising is expensive
- Requires a learning curve to learn the ins and outs
Pinterest launched in 2010 and is a visual social platform that serves like a digital scrapbook. Businesses can use the site to highlight highly visual content like photos, illustrations, and infographics.
Advantages of Pinterest:
- 250 million active monthly users
- Drives online sales – 93% of Pinterest users report that they use Pinterest to plan future purchases and 87% reported that Pinterest has helped them decide what to purchase
- A rising platform for shopping – recently introduced “Catalog” function
- Great for inbound link generation
Disadvantages of Pinterest:
- Disproportionate number of female users – 41% of women say they use the site versus just 16% of men
- Not ideal for all industries – popular content revolves predominantly around food, fashion, decor, and makeup
Snapchat, released in 2011, is a popular multimedia platform for businesses to showcase timely content. The platform’s format of shared images and videos that disappear after a short period of time promotes daily user engagement.
Advantages of Snapchat:
- 301 million monthly active users
- Great for reaching young customers – 82% of Snapchat users ages 18 to 24 say they use the platform daily, with 71% indicating that they use it multiple times per day
- Geofilters offer opportunities to increase user engagement
- Average daily active users open the app over 20 times per day and spend an average of 30+ minutes on the app each day
Disadvantages of Snapchat
- Relatively homogenous user base – features a niche demographic of 13 to 34 year olds, and about 70% of that demographic are women. If your business doesn’t have a target audience in this demographic, Snapchat may not be the appropriate platform
Since 2004, Yelp has functioned as a local search service powered by crowd-sourced reviews. While it isn’t a place where users necessarily go to interact with each other, it is a platform where customers can interact with and reach out to your business.
Advantages of Yelp:
- 145 million monthly users on average
- Allows you to create a reputable brand image
- Reviews boost SEO and account for 8.4% of organic results
- Utilize reviews to grow your business – 89% make a purchase within a week of visiting review sites and 29% will do so within a day
- As a paid option, an enhanced business profile allows you to block your competition's ads from appearing on your profile page and lets you place ads on your competition's profile pages (unless they have also paid the fee).
Disadvantages of Yelp:
- Advertising is expensive
- Enhanced business profiles start at $300 per month
- No control over posted reviews, though you can respond to them
Industry- and demographic-specific suggestions
Even if you’ve evaluated your business goals, target audience, content type, and ad preferences, you might still be stuck — and that’s okay. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- In the B2B or SaaS industry? Start with LinkedIn to reach a business-focused audience.
- Interested in reaching a local audience? If your retail outlet, restaurant, or service center needs a boost, start by showcasing your business on Yelp and Facebook.
- Want to share beauty or fashion content? Pinterest and Instagram are a great place to start.
- Trying to reach a younger audience? You might want to try your hand at Snapchat and Instagram.
- Got video content to share? Get it out quickly on Facebook. Is your video horizontal? Make sure you upload it to YouTube. Is it vertical? It’s perfect for Instagram!
Your social strategy should be as unique as your customers
It is worth mentioning that the list above is by no means comprehensive. While we think that these few platforms might be key for most businesses, your niche audience might be found on other platforms like Periscope, Tik Tok, or Reddit, to name a few. In fact, by the time this is published, there will probably be a few more new platforms to consider!
No matter which social media platforms you choose to use, what really matters is that you focus your efforts on creating quality content that will engage your customers.
You are the expert on your unique customer base, so you’re in the perfect position to determine which social media channels will allow you to connect with them best while fulfilling your business goals. Go forth and be social!