Interested in launching a social media channel for your business? Here’s how to make the right choice.
Go to your website. Do you have social media icons listed anywhere on your home page? If so, how many? Do you have accounts on those platforms? Have you posted anything lately?
If you built your website off a purchased template, it’s likely that template came with a number of social media icons built in to the site design. The creators of the template expect website owners to link the social media accounts themselves and remove any icons that aren’t necessary. Unfortunately, many business owners overlook this aspect of their website, and it is all too easy for them to leave behind apparent links to social media accounts that don’t work, because they’ve never existed.
As you plan your social media strategy, your first step should be to eliminate from your website any of the channels you don’t plan to use. This will avoid confusion for anyone who tries to click on those links, and will help you focus your attention where it really matters. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to decide where to focus your efforts. Here’s how to start.
Look to your personas.
All good marketing begins with an analysis of user persona. A persona is a stand-in for your ideal customer. They’re a combination of demographic data and market research.
For instance, you may run a software business that targets librarians. You know that your target clients tend to fall into a few set categories: front-desk librarians, library directors, and IT personnel who manage library computer systems. From these categories, you would build three personas that identified the top pain points of each fictional client, and then you’d build your social media messaging around which of those personas you intend to reach.
Meanwhile, the demographic information you gather about these personas will help you decide what social media platforms to target. For instance, based on Pew’s 2016 survey on social media usage, we know that Pinterest skews heavily toward female audiences, while LinkedIn is the only social platform to have slightly more male users than female. We also know that users on LinkedIn are slightly older, on average, than users on Instagram. On the other hand, Facebook has a huge market penetration, meaning we could reach almost all demographics from that platform. That might sound like good news, but it has some downsides which we’ll get to in a moment.
What does your business do?
Once you understand your target persona, it’s time to look at your business. The most important question is this: Are you B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer)? Some social platforms are more business-friendly than others—particularly LinkedIn, although Twitter is the networking tool of choice for some industries. On the other hand, other platforms—Pinterest and Snapchat spring to mind—would be very difficult for a B2B company to crack, even though they offer excellent opportunities for B2C businesses.
Another important factor: Is your business visual, information-based, or both?
Most retail or food-based industries are visual. If you have a nice product—a bookstore, a nice restaurant, a flower shop—you have a near-bottomless source of content for any visual platform, such as Pinterest or Instagram. As long as you can take beautiful pictures of your products, you should have no problem maintaining social media channels on these platforms.
However, information-based businesses will rely more on text-based platforms, such as LinkedIn or Facebook. On these channels, you should rely on a more text and video-based content strategy. For instance, you might have created a habit tracking app. Content for this product can focus on tips for building good habits, or strategies to avoid procrastination.
Of course, some organizations fall into both categories. If you run a non-profit, you will probably be able to share plenty of photos from public events alongside written content that shares information about the work you do.
What about finding your niche?
The above recommendations are the safe and obvious choices. However, there are circumstances in which stepping beyond the obvious choices might pay off.
We mentioned Facebook’s huge market penetration earlier. As we said, social media on Facebook has the potential to reach huge audiences. However, Facebook is also busy. With so many users—and so many advertisers—it can be difficult to gain traction with your posting.
On the other hand, Instagram, with its younger, smaller, image-oriented market, was relatively underused by marketers for a long time. This allowed a few brands to take advantage of the low competition to cultivate a niche following.
Does this mean you should try this strategy for yourself? It’s hard to say. In my opinion, you can’t work outside every demographic and expect it to take off. Instagram is still a young, image-friendly, B2C platform that skews female. If you have a B2B consulting company where your main persona is older and male, you’re going to struggle to see returns on that investment. It doesn’t mean you should never explore that channel; it should simply be a lower priority.
On the other hand, what if you’re launching a new line of custom woodworking tools? You may expect your main marketing persona to skew male, but you also know that Pinterest is a haven for DIY crafters. You could double-down on a male-oriented social media campaign and hope to gain traction among the small community of male Pinterest users, or you could craft a more gender-neutral brand image on Pinterest to appeal to a broader market on that platform. The point is, even if your persona doesn’t perfectly align with a platform, it could still be a promising opportunity for your business.
No, you don’t need to be on every social media platform.
As you begin your social media strategy, start by putting your energy—and your budget—where it will do the most good. Once you’ve grown accustomed to those platforms, then you can consider broadening your focus to other sites. It may be that your consulting company finds an unexpected following on Instagram, or your woodworking company picks up a following on Pinterest. The important thing is that, wherever you choose to maintain a presence, you keep your channel active with valuable, user-oriented content. If the channel doesn’t work out for you, it’s OK to close it down and remove it from your website.