As you know by now, using social media for business is practically mandatory. The benefits of using social media to market your brand, engage with your customers, provide customer service, increase brand awareness and build your customer base are huge – so huge that you’re in essence hurting your marketing strategy by not using social media.
But the thing is, there are hundreds of social media platforms out there. Even if you narrow it down to the most popular and effective social media networks, you’ll still have a dozen or so that you’ll need to choose from. Unless you’re a large corporation with a dedicated online marketing department, you’re not going to have the resources to be able to maintain a presence on all of these different social channels.
Instead, you’re going to have to pick a handful that will benefit your business the most. The question, of course, is what social media platforms should you use? There are basically six things to look for when choosing what social media platform to use – but keep in mind, the platform (or platforms) you decide on depends a lot on what kind of business you are running.
1. Number of Users
The popularity of a social network can be determined in part by their number of users. The more users a social site has, the more potential you have of exposing your brand to a bigger audience. In comparison to traditional display ads, think of the number of users that a social media network has as the amount of potential ad coverage or impressions you could get. Of course, this does depend on whether the audience of a social network aligns with your particular target audience.
Social media population gets bigger year after year.
In addition to the number of users each social platform has, you’ll also want to consider how often each user uses the site. A social network with 10 million users in which the average user only uses the site once every other day probably isn’t as popular as a social network with 5 million users in which the average user uses the site three times a day.
2. User Demographics
Like we said before, while the number of users and active users of a social network platform are very important, you’ll want to make sure that your target audience is part of their target audience. The demographics of your particular business need to match up to the social media network you decide to use. This means that you will need to figure out who your buyer persona is before you make any decisions regarding what social media networks you are going to use.
Age is one of the many factors when considering the demographics of a social media population.
For example, say you represent a business that sells universal design home improvement features, such as grab bars or stair lifts. The odds are pretty good that the demographics of your target audience will be retired senior citizen homeowners with some money to spare. If you do some research, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that Twitter, whose user base is generally under the age of 50 – the majority of which are between 20 and 29 – is probably not going to be an effective platform for you – even though Twitter is one of the biggest social media networks out there.
Also keep your particular niche in mind. Say you sell clothing for cats. A social network such as LinkedIn, which is aimed at professionals, may not be the best option, whereas a more niche-oriented social network, such as Catmoji, will connect you with people in your target demographic more effectively even if the user base is much smaller.
3. Type of Content
Every social media platform specializes in a certain type of content. For example, Twitter is mostly about posting a short amount of text, whereas Instagram is all about images. The type of content a social platform specializes in will have a big impact on whether it’s suitable for your brand’s needs.
For example, if you are running a website that sells graphic T-shirts, then Instagram is a great choice. However, if you’re selling accounting software, Instagram probably isn’t going to be the most effective option, whereas LinkedIn might be more helpful for B2B companies.
You’ll also have to consider what type of content you plan on creating for your target audience. If you are planning on writing short pieces of content that are casual in tone, then Facebook is a good place to connect to readers. However, if you are planning on writing more in-depth articles, they may not get much attention on Facebook and will most likely do much better on LinkedIn.
Almost any content type goes into Facebook, from simple status update to a long-winded article.
In comparison, Twitter is much more condensed. Defined character limit makes it necessary to be very concise and straight to the point.
Meanwhile in LinkedIn, you will be hard pressed to find cat picture or memes, being used mostly for professional contents.
Then there’s your updates to consider. Content doesn’t just refer to your articles and blog posts, it refers to the posts you make on social media. Announcements work better on sites such as Facebook instead of Twitter, which is more suitable for short greetings or questions.
Consider how often you plan on posting content as well. If you aren’t going to be posting updates every hour everyday, then Twitter may not be for you. A Twitter presence requires multiple daily posts to keep up with your user base, whereas you can get away with two or three quality posts a week on a site like LinkedIn or Facebook.
Additionally, consider whether the content on social channels compliment each other. For example, most companies will use Twitter hashtags on their Instagram page and many companies will also post YouTube videos on their Facebook page.
While posting promotional content on some of these sites is a good way to advertise, you won’t be getting as much penetration as you might want to. You don’t want to depend solely on your followers’ decision to share or like your content for your advertising campaign to succeed.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to explore social media sites that have paid advertising options. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for example have paid advertising tools that allow you to target your content to your specific audience for a price.
Given how much time people spend on social media these days especially on mobile, it’s a no-brainer that advertising on these platforms is a very good idea.
However, if paid advertising is something that isn’t part of your marketing strategy, then maybe you’ll want to focus your efforts on a social platform that emphasizes organic marketing so that you don’t have to compete with companies that are using paid advertising. You should also keep in mind that social media sites that have too much paid advertising could end up lessening the impact of your own advertising efforts and could also end up annoying your users (not something you want to do!).
Too much ads that shows up too often can be a turn-off. With retargeting ads used widely these days it can even be a bit creepy. That’s why some users migrate to platforms with less ads.
You’re going to be pouring a lot of resources into your social media marketing campaign, no matter what social platform you decide to use. Because of this, you’re going to want to use a social network that provides you with analytics tools. Fortunately, most social media sites provide built-in analytics tools. These tools can help you by providing you with valuable data about your followers and page activity.
This in turn can help you to adjust your social media marketing strategy where necessary in order to ensure that your social media marketing campaign is as successful as possible. For example, Facebook provides a free analytics tool called Facebook Insights. This tool lets you find demographic data about your audience, lets you see how many people are discovering your posts, lets you see how many people are responding to your posts and much more.
Even in-build analytics like Facebook Insights can be quite comprehensive.
A little research is required as every social media site offers different types of analytics tools – some are more in-depth while others are more simple and user-friendly. The type of tools you should look for depends on your needs and skill level.
Another thing to keep an eye out for are social media platform tools that are supported by third party analytics tools, such as Buffer or Social Metrics Pro. Third party analytics often allow you to gather and utilize stats from multiple social media platforms simultaneously.
Social Metrics Pro is a great plugin to have if you have a lot of social media accounts across different platforms.
6. Additional functionality
Some social media platforms will provide its users with additional functionality. This can be helpful in creating a more rounded social media campaign and by allowing you to implement more than one strategy.
If you don’t need extra functionality, then platforms like Pinterest will be perfectly fine. But if you want to provide live streaming video, then maybe you’ll want to use Twitter’s Periscope app, which allows you to do just that. This can be really effective in doing live product unveilings or live question and answer sessions with your followers.
Image uploading is present in all social media platforms, but each of them deals with photos differently. Facebook for example allows the creation of photo albums.
Instagram on the other hand boasts a number of different filters to enhance photos prior to be uploaded, perfect for showcasing products.
Or maybe you want to be able to join groups or create groups in order to engage with potential leads and build relationships, in which case you might be enticed by Facebook Groups or Google+ Communities. Remember what your needs are when making your decision. If you don’t need extra function, then social sites that provide extra function might also be too much of a hassle to use and might distract you from what your main strategy.
As you can see, when it comes to using social media for business, there are a lot of things to consider. These are 6 of the main things that you’ll want to research when you are deciding what social platforms will be most effective for using social media for business.
While we’ve mentioned some of the largest social platforms out there, don’t limit yourselves to these. There are plenty of smaller, niche social networks that can be incredibly effective for your social media marketing campaign even though they may not the enormous user bases as Facebook or Twitter.
For example, if your company sells baby products, then maybe CafeMom is a good option for you. It may only have just over a million users, but most of them are mothers, which means there’s a good chance a large part of them are your target audience.