As an inbound marketing agency that focuses very heavily on social media engagement for our clients, we run into this question all the time: What social media platform is the best for any particular business?
It’s a good question, and one that I’ll answer below.
But before we get into that, there’s a few unasked questions that actually precede the asked one.
First, should your business be on social media?
To answer that, here are some facts:
Facebook now has more than a billion users. Linked In has 300 million, Google + has 540 million, Twitter is at 241 million, Instagram is at 200 million, and Pinterest is now over 20 million. Those are big numbers. Some of them could be your customers.
And social is very powerful when it comes to establishing your brand, engaging with current and future customers, promoting your special offers, and a hundred other goodwill interactions you can have with untold millions of people.
Plus, think about it this way: Business is all about building relationships. What do social sites do best? Establish and expand relationships. People are there, now. A lot of them. And your business needs people.
And they need you.
So, yeah, get on social.
The second question is this: should you be on just one social platform, or all of them?
There’s only so many hours in a day, and so we recommend that when you’re starting out on (or just starting to get serious about) social, it’s much easier and far more effective to start out with one platform and put your efforts into getting social media engagement there. After a few months, then, you can start building out.
Which leads back to the original question: What platform is the best one for you?
To answer that, let’s take a look at the who’s hanging out on each of the seven major platforms, and what each does best.
Facebook is obviously the biggest of the group. According to Pew Research, more than 70% of internet-using adults are active on Facebook. Again: Billions. And although the user spike has kind of leveled off over the past year, the 55-65 age demographic is still growing pretty steadily.
When our clients come to us with ideas about social media, most of the time they are thinking about Facebook. Truth is, Facebook is great if:
- Your products and services are aimed at a very broad demographic.
- You products are aimed especially at teens, women, and senior citizens. (77% of women, 87% teens, and 56% of people over 65 are on Facebook.)
- You are looking to engage your audience.
Why Facebook might not work for you:
Over the past year, Facebook has made it much more difficult for businesses to reach out to a larger audience organically. In fact, on average your organic reach will only be about 16%. If you want to reach a lot of people quickly, it’s gonna cost you. Even if you get a thousand likes, for example, when your next post goes out it will only reach, on average, 110 of those feeds.
Twitter is another major player in the social world. It’s mostly populated by millenials, according to Pew, and is used more by men than women (22% to 15%, respectively).
So, Twitter is great if you are aiming at men who are also millenials.
Why Twitter might not be a good fit:
Brands like Jet Blue, Red Cross, Dell and Staples have all had a huge amount of success on Twitter. But the one thing they’ve done consistently to get that success is to stay on top of both the conversations people are having about them, and also maintaining a hawklike attention to any and all direct messages customers send them. They are responsive, amazingly so. But the other side of that coin is this: Twitter can quickly become a nightmare for your business if you aren’t 100% committed to it. Not replying within a day to someone who expects an answer can quickly turn a promoter into a detractor.
Pinterest and Instagram
I’m putting these two together because in a lot of ways they are similar, at least as far as strategy goes.
The main difference is a demographic one. Users of Pinterest tend to be upper-class women over the age of 35. Instagram is basically the same except the age group is 18-35.
Both platforms are highly visual, so they work especially well for companies whose products or services are equally visual. Any business in the food industry, for example, is a great fit for Pinterest or Instagram. Flower shops, interior design agencies, gift shops… all of these lend themselves to great, shareable, visuals.
The downside for Pinterest is that it’s a patience game. The ROI for any pin generally takes months to pan out. The way a pin spreads from user to user is through repins, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing: there’s a longevity there that’s great for your branded content, as opposed to, say, Twitter, where the average lifespan of a Tweet is measured in minutes (at the most). That long tail is a bad thing simply because the results aren’t nearly as easy to see and require quite a bit of pre-planning inside the old content calendar.Tumblr
Instagram’s downside tends to manifest in the fact that it’s owned by Facebook and it’s probably not too far down the road when the latter’s anti-business attitude spills sideways.
Once set up as a direct rival to Facebook, Google+ hasn’t really lived up to the hype. Rumors have been swirling for a while now that Google+ will soon no longer be a thing. The prediction seems to be that Google is going to split it up into various separate services.
Until then, however, Google+ is a great place to be if you are hoping to target males (71% of the users are males) who also happen to live and work in the tech or IT industries.
A strong presence on Google+ will also result in some crazy good SEO upticks.
Local businesses also tend to do well on Google+.
Aimed at professionals, Linked In is often overlooked. The platform’s demographics are mainly professional men, 30-45, who make more money than you do.
If your products or services target that market segment, Linked In might be a good fit. Also, strictly for networking purposes, maintaining at least a little visibility on Linked In might be something to try. If you make doilies for a living, however, I might not start there.
Want to hit up the kids? Tumblr is where it’s at. For 13-18 year olds, Tumblr is more popular than Facebook. Also, 88% of Tumblr users are not of legal age.
This could be a double-edged sword, of course. Sure, you have a bit of a captive audience, but the age demographics of the platform also means that Tumblr is going to work differently than the other “adult” social sites.
It’s sort of a different world in there.
So, take a look around, figure out how it works, and see if that’s a good place to start your social media engagement campaign.
Whatever platform you choose, remember that you need a plan. You need a content/posting calendar. The most important thing to be on social, aside from polite, is consistent. Wherever you start, stick with it. It’s a long tail game, but for those who see it through, the results can be huge!