5 questions to determine your social media platform choices.

There are new social media platforms emerging all the time, sitting alongside the established spaces such as Facebook and Twitter. So how can a small business choose where to focus their limited resources? These questions should help you determine where to post and why, maximising the ROI for your time and energy.

1: who is your ideal client?

Determining your target audience is standard best practice for marketing, so don’t omit it from your social media planning. Determine age, possibly gender, socio-economic stats and interests. All this data will allow you to choose the sites best suited to your potential community.

2: where do they hang out?

There is a variety of demographical data available about which people use which platform but here are some key stats taken from the PEW Social Media Update 2013:

Facebook is used by 71% of all adults who use the internet. So whoever your ideal client, if you are not on Facebook you are missing your demographic and you can bet your competitors are there already.

19% of all adult internet users have a twitter account, but the figure rises to 31% among 18-29 year olds. If your product or service wants to attract a younger audience, then a twitter presence will reach them

33% of all female adults who are online have a Pinterest account, which means women are four times as likely as men to use Pinterest. Pinterest also boasts 27% of all internet users with an annual income above $75k. If your enterprise is aimed at the aspirational, stylish and design focused woman, then this is the place to be.

17% of all internet users have an Instagram account but they are more likely to be women (20% compared to 15% males) and younger (the 18-29 year old age group rises to 37% of all internet users). Products and brands aimed at a young and fun consumer will find their communities here.

LinkedIn has a different profile with a slight skew towards males and, significantly, a 24% share of all internet users aged 50-64. With 38% of all college educated internet users having a LinkedIn profile, the demographics are reflective of the platform’s professional networking angle. Use this if your enterprise has a B2B angle.

3: what are you selling?

The nature of your product, brand or service will also determine which of the social platforms will best suit your purpose.

Facebook supports images, videos and text, making it an ideal one-stop-shop for any type of business. having a Facebook page is much like having a website, but one where conversations are two way and the content is easily up-dateable and pushed to your followers. while Facebook continuously find new ways to monetise this experience, engagement has not yet seen the drops predicted by commentators and continues to be the premier place to engage with your customer base.
Twitter also supports multimedia posting, but mainly through third party apps and link hosting. The ability to signpost customers to your website or other social media presences, as well as to interact with your community in real time, is invaluable.However its real strength is its public visibility. Hashtag searches allow you to find relevant conversations and piggy back onto them, spreading your message beyond your existing follower base. Think about Twitter less as a social media platform, and more of a digital bridge between you and your customers, both existing and future.

If your product or service is physical, then image based platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr allow you to post multiple photographs and tag them with hashtags so they are easily discoverable and shareable. Checking back to questions 1 and 2 will allow you to choose the correct platform for your brand. You won’t build lasting relationships on these platforms, but if quick turnaround/low investment items are your game, then this is your ballpark.

If you need to build more lasting relationships, perhaps between businesses or fellow professionals, then LinkedIn and Google+ are the places to be. Spend time cultivating relationships, just as you would in a traditional, person to person networking event. Join communities and groups and become an active member. Activity will be much more focused on your personal brand than a product or service, so choose these platforms if that is your agenda.

So to YouTube. Leveraging the power of videos is an tactic almost any brand can use. Being seen as a trusted advisor within your industry will lead to sales and great brand awareness for B2B or service sectors. Products can be showcased in video clips, behind the scenes films of your office can create engaging brand stories, the possibilities are endless.

Choose the platforms that match he logistics of your product or brand, and it’s marketability, to leverage the different strengths of each social community.

4: what are your resources?

Social media works best when regularly updated and an account that is allowed to stagnate will rapidly become a negative advertisement for your enterprise. With this in mind, you need to ensure your social media investment is scaled to your resources. There is no point creating a YouTube channel if you do not have the resources to create high-quality videos regularly. Likewise, amateur photographers should stick to Twitter rather than Pinterest, at least until their skills develop or they have the resources to hire in creatives to fill the gaps.

Also take into account the time you will need to be able to invest in social media. 40% of Facebook and Instagram users check in at least daily, with this number rapidly rising as mobile internet becomes the norm. Choosing one or two platforms and doing them really well, with regular updates great content showcasing your brand to it’s maximum will have a more impact than doing twelve platforms poorly. As your company scales up scale up your social. Expand into new platforms and keep track by investing in a social media management tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite. These will also give you valuable analytical tools to help you hone your strategy and measure your impact.

5: do you need help?

When you opened your shop, did you do the wiring yourself? When your office boiler broke down, did you fix it yourself? Unless you are incredibly resourceful (or an electrician/plumber) the chances are you hired a professional. Because we almost all ‘do’ social media to some extent on a personal level, we believe that we should be able to use it as a marketing tool automatically. This is not going to be true in all situations. While there are plenty of how to guides out there, for both social media and plumbing, if the job becomes to big or complicated – call in the professionals.

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