Dealing with start-up and small businesses we often have to answer the question: “On which social media networks will my business get most traction?“. Unfortunately the answer is not as clean cut as we would all like it to be, and to put it bluntly: “It depends“. To answer this question you first and foremost have to look at exactly who you are targeting, and then factors such as the nature of your product or services, the time you have to invest and the budget you have at your disposal (to name but a few) also comes into identifying the channel which will serve you best.
First, a couple of myths….
It is definitely not a case of the more the better, that is for sure. Ever heard the saying “Jack of all trades; master of none?” Besides, it would take more resources than it is worth to update and perfect all of the social media platforms out there. Instead focus on the one or two networks that can best broadcast your message and raise brand awareness to your target market.
Sell sell sell
There is also a common misconception about the roll of social media posts/shares in business. Good social marketers rarely promote their product or service directly (with the exception of competitions, discount offers etc). Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule of social media? This implies that only 20% of your social sharing/engagement should concentrate on promoting your brand, while 80 % of your effort should go into producing or sharing content that your target audience will find useful, engaging or worthy of conversations. Social media works best if you are able to stimulate conversation with your audience – therefore keeping you front of mind – or if you can educate or entertain your audience while you wait for them to become paying customers.
Now that we have cleared that up, let’s look at the main factors you should consider when choosing a channel that is right for you.
Who exactly are you targeting?
To understand which platforms work best for your brand you need to figure out who you are trying to reach and where they spend most of their time. It may be that you are targeting an older demographic who are not that savvy in the use of social media, in which case it might be better to utilise traditional marketing mediums such as mail outs or postbox drops to reach them. A lot of females use Facebook, so if you are selling baby products, Facebook might be a good choice to reach mums. For the restaurateurs amongst us, Instagram can be used very effectively to put the spotlight on your best selling dishes and get more customers through the doors. So it is vital that you spend some time thinking about this and compiling buyer personas that will help you channel your marketing effort in the right direction. Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, buyer segments will emerge which will aid your selection of a social channel, enable you to produce content tailored to your audience’s interests and nurture them to eventually become paying customers.
How much time can you invest in social media activities?
Keeping customers entertained and in conversation takes time, as it does in face-to-face engagements. You have to make sure that you have resources available to be pro-active and responsive, and some of the social channels will require more frequent input than others. There are many resources available on the internet detailing how frequent you should post on each social network, and although these are mere guidelines, statistics based on social experiments and studies are certainly implying optimal marketing success based on certain frequencies:
What are you selling?
Some products and services have more traction on some channels than others. A good example comes from the recruitment sector. All recruiters should be on LinkedIn where they have access to a large pool of professionals who might be keeping an eye on career opportunities. In fact, anyone in the B2B model should consider LinkedIn as a must, purely because it puts you in front of the business owners who you might be trying to engage or build a relationship with.
Any business owners in the food, fashion, luxury, or lifestyle industries will find a good audience in Instagram, while Foursquare is another favourite amongst bar and cafe owners where the audience might be seeking dining opportunities based on location.
Pinterest should be considered if you are in the travel, design or home decorating business while YouTube could work very well in the education sector or if you’re offering advice or sharing your expertise by means of training videos or demos.
Your advertising budget
This is probably only a consideration for those who want to attract an audience which fall within their target market but are not yet connected to. When this is one of your goals the best way to do it is by paying for the connection, done through LinkedIn Ads on LinkedIn, Twitter Ads on Twitter, Facebook Ads on Facebook, and so on. Have a look at this 2014 article of Chris Garrett from KND which demonstrated what $500 on the main social networks will get you, compared to $500 in traditional advertising, entry-level SEO or Google Adwords. There are slight variations in cost depending on the channel you use, so this should be something you consider depending on the length of your campaign and your target audience density on each network.
Of course there are other factors to consider, but the ones discussed here should start painting a picture when you are starting out or expanding your small business. Identify your ideal customer(s) and based on your resources and budget, only concentrate marketing efforts on a select few social channels where you brand promise and message are likely to fall on receptive ears.
- Social Media Today. 2013. The 80/20 Rule: Why Just 20% of Your Social Media Content Should be About Your Brand. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/8020-rule-why-just-20-your-social-media-content-should-be-about-your-brand. [Accessed 20 May 15]
- Search Engine Journal. 2014. SMM 101: Which Social Media Platform Should I Use?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-media-platform-use/108057/. [Accessed 20 May 15].
- Buffer Social. 2015. Infographic: How Ofthen Should You POst on Social Media? See the Most Popular Research and Tips. [ONLINE] Available at: https://blog.bufferapp.com/how-often-post-social-media. [Accessed 20 May 15].
- BRW. 2014. What $500 will buy you in social media advertising. [ONLINE] Available at:http://bit.ly/1c8Tjmt. [Accessed 20 May 15].