In today’s business climate, a social media presence has become as much of a basic necessity as a website or a business card. However, unlike websites and business cards, there are many more options and strategies to consider and social media accounts are much more dynamic. Also, social media accounts must be continually monitored and utilized in order to prevent wasted effory. Or worse, a non-response to negative feedback. So it’s important to choose the social platform(s) that your company participates in wisely.
But how do you pick a social media platform? There are many to choose from, each with its own nuances, pace and tone. Do you use Facebook or Twitter? Everyone uses those right? Maybe Instagram or Pinterest? Or lesser known platforms like Tumblr? You hear about the popularity of video platforms, but is it right for your business? The answer is….
There are several factors to consider when investing time, effort and money into a social media platform. Below are several questions to ask yourself about your business and marketing strategy that will inform your decision. Along with that is a list of pros and cons for several social media platforms.
What do you want from social media? – You can’t determine the best platform for your business if you don’t know what your goals are in the first place. Do you want to raise awareness for your company (the most applicable purpose for social media)? Are you promoting a product or an event? Do you want to raise awareness of an important issue or bolster your customer service efforts? Social media has a myriad of ways in which it can add value to your company, but you have to know what you want to do before you can determine which tool to use.
What social media platforms do your customers use? – Once you’ve determined your goals for social media, it’s now time to turn to your customers. What platforms are they on? How do they use social media? This takes a great deal of analysis in regards to the demographic of your customers, how they spend their time and how they relate to your product or service. You probably have a good idea of who you sell to, dig deeper into how they use social media platforms. Examine people in your community that fit your customer profile. What are their habits on social media? What platforms do they like to use? Build a social media persona based on that and let it dictate your social media strategy.
What content resonates with your customers? – Your customers are likely on a social media platform, but what content do they respond to? What content motivates them to comment or click a link? Once you know which platforms your customers use, the next step is determining which ones lead them to take action. And beyond that, which ones promote the type action that’s aligned with your goals. Most customers in any industry use Facebook. However, Facebook may not promote the type of engagement that’s necessary for you to reach your goals. “Likes” are great, but if they don’t lead someone to your website, it’s not effective (see effective metrics).
Does a platform make sense for your content? – In variably, there will be one type of content that you will be more proficient at producing or that is better for marketing your product or service. Restaurants and fashion designers tend to use visual content. Agencies tend to use how-to content, which can be visual, but is typically text-based. Whatever content you most consistently produce, choose the platform that best showcases it.
How much time can you invest in a particular social media platform? – There are two things to consider here. For one, there are many social media platforms to choose from. Attempting to be on all of them, especially if the social media strategy is being carried out by one person, is an exercise in futility. It’s much better to be strong on a small group of platforms. Also, there may be some crossover on certain platforms, so your efforts may not be attracting different sets of people.
Second, what type of content do you have the time and energy to produce? If you cannot produce useful or entertaining video content, steer clear of YouTube or Vimeo. If you are not willing to produce or curate informative and helpful content, avoid Twitter or LinkedIn. Also, a note about Twitter: because of the rapid nature of communication on Twitter, a consistent mix of posting on and monitoring your account is required. Consider a Twitter app for your phone. You never want to appear unresponsive, especially if a follower says something exceedingly positive or negative about your company.
What platform do industry influencers use? – What platforms do thought leaders in your industry use? What platforms do your competitors use? Endorsements from industry influencers are powerful tools for building your overall brand. Social media provides a tremendous pathway for connecting with influencers because of the open nature of many platforms.
Pros and Cons of the top social media platforms
Pros- With over 1 billion users, it’s certain that your customers are on this platform. Due to challenges in gaining Facebook fans, they tend to have a greater sense of brand loyalty.
Cons- The only true way to reach your Facebook fans is to boost your posts, which comes at cost. Competition is fierce on Facebook.
Pros- You have open access to nearly all of the 974 million people who use Twitter, from the POTUS to that food truck with those sloppy, delicious burgers. If you have something to say or information to share, Twitter likely provides the most robust audience.
Cons- With 500 million tweets being sent per day, it’s hard to stand out.
Pros- LinkedIn is built for connecting with people who can advance your career or business. It’s great for consultants and agencies because people on LinkedIn are looking for a boost and are typically receptive to connecting with your brand and its content.
Cons- LinkedIn has a professional tone. Professional isn’t always fun. It’s hard to show your company’s personality via this platform.
Pros- Instagram’s a dream come true for companies that can benefit from visual representation. Instagram is also what I call “cruisable”. It’s easy to mindlessly sit at your desk, in bed or on your throne (if you’re a queen or king of course) and aimlessly view images and short videos. Twitter, on the other hand, requires focus to sift through a sea of comments and links.
Cons- It’s a little harder to get users to your website if you aren’t selling a product. Instagram is driven on engaging visuals so representing a service is much harder than representing a cute blouse.
Pros- YouTube has a tremendous amount of users (1 billion). Video is a dynamic medium but it’s also a flexible one. Videos don’t have to be visual stunning or funny (although that helps) or feature famous people. Simple “how-to” videos are the most popular on the platform.
Cons- Creating a credible video requires more effort than tweeting a statement, posting a picture or even writing a blog post.