Social media is increasingly seen as the digital marketing strategy of choice for small and large businesses, alike. According to the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 92 percent of marketers believe social media is important to their business. And, as the social media giants continue to update their platforms and transform how users interact with content and communicate with each other, social media marketing surely will play an even larger role in the future.
Despite social media’s popularity, businesses that fall on the smaller scale, with 20 employees or less, tend to forgo social media activity. In fact, only 57 percent of small businesses in the US have a social media presence, according to a 2016 survey. But, the future is bright. According to the same survey, by 2017 or later, 75 percent plan to engage in social media.
As these small businesses prepare to enter the social media game, it is important for them to choose the channels that best meet their needs. This article explores three questions that businesses should consider when navigating the social media channel selection process.
Understand the Social Media Channels that are Important for your Business
The list of social media channels available seems never-ending. The big three – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – remain relevant, but Snapchat, Pinterest, Medium, and more, now join the ranks of popular and effective channels. So, how do you know which channel is best for you?
“I think people generally go toward the things they understand the most or have heard of before. … Whether they are the right channels for the business is another question.” – Jeff Gibbard, President and Chief Strategist, True Voice Media.
Choosing a social media platform that is not compatible with your audience’s online habits can be detrimental to your social media strategy.
Here are three questions to facilitate the process:
1. Who is your audience?
Depending on your business’ focus – business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-community (B2C) – the type of people interacting with your brand and using your products, services, and resources, may differ.
For example, if you own a local running store, your goal is to interact with runners in both your immediate location and the larger community. This audience is broad, representing an array of
demographics and levels of experience.
Because of this diversity, the social media channels you use should be a good mix of new and familiar platforms. A 2015 study by Pew Research shows that Instagram is most popular with young adults between the ages of 18 to 29, while Facebook remains popular across all age groups and demographics. Therefore, it would not make sense to use Instagram only. Rather, using Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook represents a more inclusive approach.
2. Where is your audience?
Communicating with your current customers and catching the eye of potential new customers requires being in the same place as them. Returning to the example above, the running company’s audience most likely is on Instagram and Facebook, platforms where they can post race photos, share encouragement, and organize meetups.
Conversely, if you own a boutique web design agency and are seeking to generate leads for your company, Snapchat most likely is not the best option for you. A better alternative may be LinkedIn, a hub for B2B companies.
3. How does your audience consume content?
Some social media channels support different types of content better than others. As creating quality content becomes an increasingly popular digital marketing tactic, it is important to understand where your audience will consume what types of content.
For example, long-form, research-driven articles may appeal to LinkedIn users who seek to learn about an industry or improve their professional skills.
Meanwhile, an image may gain more traction on Instagram than Snapchat, where it will disappear in 10 seconds or less.
Finally, Twitter is ideal for companies that emphasize customer service, such as Uber, Lyft, airlines, and restaurants. The platform allows quick, nearly instantaneous interactions in response to questions, criticism, and praise.
An effective social media marketing strategy goes beyond simply making profiles on as many platforms as possible. Selecting the social media channels that are a good fit and can meet your business goals is a crucial part of the planning process. “Not everybody needs to be on every channel, but they need to focus on the channels that will give them the biggest returns.” — Marty McDonald, Co-founder and CEO, of Bad Rhino, Inc.