When faced with the question of which social media channels your brand should be active on, as many as possible is not a good answer.
This is because each platform needs to be approached and managed in its own unique way. Your content needs to be adapted in order to fit the social medium, not simply copied and pasted in the same manner to all platforms.
Failing to pick social media platforms that make sense for your brand won’t just hamper your ability to reach your target prospects, but also result in low engagement and high cost per acquisition.
Your efforts and messaging should be directed where your most valuable audience are.
But choosing the right social media platform isn’t easy. Each platform has a different audience, strengths and limitations.
And the fact that new platforms are constantly popping up and growing, with the existing ones adding new bells and whistles, doesn’t help either. It just makes the decision more complex for a brand.
To make the right choice, you’ll need to gauge the benefits and audience of each platform. So you can allocate your resources properly.
You also need to know with what intent those audience visit the platform. So your message can capitalize on why people use the platform and satisfy that intent.
Image Source: MonkeyData.com
To make it easier to come to a decision, here are the biggest and fastest growing social media platforms, along with information on their audience, features and limitations.
Facebook is the biggest social network with the broadest user base. The largest chunk is 18-29 year olds, but it’s also used by 80% of 30-49 year olds in the US and 61% of 50-64 year olds.
Why people use it – To connect, stay in touch and have fun with friends and relatives through text updates, images and video clips.
Strengths – A huge user base you can reach with precisely targeted advertising. Here’s the beginner’s guide to Facebook Ads.
Limitations – A page’s organic reach is limited to only 2-5% of people who like/follow the page. So you’re better off paying for ads in order to reach your prospects.
Instagram has recently exploded in popularity, becoming the 2nd biggest social media platform, only behind Facebook.
At least 30% of the US population uses the platform, most of which is the young, college-level crowd. In fact 59% of 18-29 year olds in the US use Instagram. And about 31% of Instagram users belong to the 30-49 range.
Why people use it – To connect, stay in touch and have fun with friends through images and videos.
Strengths – It’s one of the fastest growing social networks with a high level of engagement.
Assuming you put in the same number of hours and organic efforts, it’s easier to build a following of Instagram users who engage with your Instagram posts than Facebook page “likers” who engage with your Facebook page updates.
Limitations – It’s mostly app based, with a desktop version with limited features. People using Instagram rarely want to leave the app during their browsing session. In fact, there is no option to include a link with each post you make on Instagram.
So your best bet to generate demand and capture attention is build a massive list of followers to later reach organically.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with users who already have a huge following and pay them to post your message. In Instagram terms, this is called buying a shoutout.
Twitter’s active user base has been shrinking recently but still significant enough, with 328 million users all over the world. Out of those, 21% are in the US.
Why people use it – To follow thoughts and updates by influencers, celebrities, brands, publications and other people they admire through text updates, images and videos.
Strengths – Unlike Facebook audience, Twitter users are more likely to click through, read or watch something that seems relevant and interesting, even if it’s unrelated to a friend or relative.
Limitations – Other than a shrinking user base, you can’t build a following and capture the attention of your audience on Twitter unless you post updates on a high frequency.
If you’re tweeting less than 5 times a day, your tweets will get lost in the sea of other tweets competing for exposure.
Depending on the tolerance of your audience, you may want to consider tweeting at least once every hour. Tagworth lets you find interesting content to tweet, and you can schedule tweets in advance using a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite.
One-fourth of US population is on LinkedIn, the B2B focused, professional social network. Out of this population, 50% are college graduates.
Why people use it – To connect and stay in touch with college peers and coworkers, along with potential employers, employees, customers, vendors and business partners, for new career or business opportunities.
Strengths – If you’re selling a B2B product or service, LinkedIn is a no-brainer. It’s the only, truly professional social network.
Limitations – You really can’t do any of the exciting stuff unless you purchase one of their premium plans, or buy advertising which can get really expensive. A small business can’t afford that kind of expense.
Youtube is great for sharing videos. It allows you to create your channel, upload videos and share them on other networks.
Why people use it – People love watching videos. Youtube allows them to find and follow interesting videos on topics they like. They can also upload and share their own videos.
Strengths – The importance of video content has been rising, with every social network giving more exposure to video content. By uploading videos on Youtube and regularly sharing on another social network you’re active on, you can kill two birds with one stone.
And the fact that Youtube belongs to Google and Youtube videos get the benefit of high rankings in Google search results isn’t bad either.
Limitations – It takes more effort and know-how to create an engaging video than it takes to create text or graphical content. Plus, you’ll have to practice being comfortable speaking in front of the camera, if you don’t already.
Pinterest is used by over a quarter of people, with two-thirds of them being female. It is perhaps the least social of all the social networks.
Why people use it – People don’t exactly use it to reach out to or stay in touch with friends, colleagues or influencer. The intention is more to collect, save and share their favorite design ideas, recipes, products, articles and discover new stuff through images.
Strengths – Pinterest is a godsend for women/creativity focused businesses such as those dealing in jewellery, fashion, interior decoration etc.
Other than that, Pinterest users are closer and more likely to buy your product than other social networks. They are browsing for new things and ideas, not for what’s up with their friends.
Limitations – Pinterest doesn’t have a linear, top-down feed like other social networks. And there are no text updates. The best way to get your content noticed is to create unique, tall images for everything you pin.
And similar to Instagram, Pinterest users are more likely to pin an image they like right on Pinterest, rather than clicking through to visit the source.
Snapchat has come a long way from being a photo and video sharing app to a marketing platform.
The main point of difference from other similar services, like Instagram, is the self-destructive nature of the content.
A photo or video shared on Snapchat only stays for a few seconds, and then gets removed.
Why people use it – To instantly share a photo they clicked or video they recorded in that very moment, while feeling sane and secure knowing that it’ll be deleted soon. So the content is more raw and authentic, allowing for better human connection.
Strengths – Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social platforms, especially among the young crowd.
Limitations – Authenticity and timing are everything on Snapchat. Anything you share on Snapchat should be at the time when most of your prospects are using the app.
Otherwise your post will get deleted without having gotten any significant exposure. Here’s the complete guide to Snapchat marketing.
So which social networks should you choose? Facebook is surely a safe bet considering the diverse audience mix and vast user base.
I’d suggest that start with two social networks – Facebook and one more that makes the most sense to you after considering the audience, strengths and limitations.
Don’t make the mistake of jumping into every one of them at once. Putting all your time, money and efforts to get results from 1 or 2 social networks is better than getting no return from many social channels.
Another things to keep in mind is that people don’t want to be bombarded with promotional material all the time. Share content that makes prospects trust you and want to follow you.
By inspiring, educating and entertaining them, you can keep prospects engaged, bring quality traffic and generate qualified leads.
And most of all, be patient: Organic growth takes time but it’s worth the effort. Once your social presence has been built, you’ll find leads and customers approaching you instead of you approaching them.