Social Media: How to know what’s right for you

Social media is a gift for businesses, letting them converse directly with their customers without relying on an intermediary to convey their messages. So it’s no surprise that many businesses – regardless of their size – have embraced social, with accounts on everything from Facebook to Flickr.

However, while social media provides business with ample opportunity, it’s also extremely time-consuming and, if poorly managed, could have an adverse effect on the company’s reputation. Doing social well can be a full-time job so it’s important that businesses properly consider where they want to focus their time.

Understanding your audience is absolutely vital – for example, if you’re targeting mums on a budget you’ll be using very different messages and platforms to companies trying to reach school leavers. The same goes for B2B communication: you need to adapt your messages and your methods depending on who you’re trying to reach.

Once you have your audience nailed, you need to consider your platform. Knowing which is right for you is sometimes easier said than done, but the key thing to remember at all times is the customer. Many businesses have fallen into the trap of trying the next big thing without considering whether it will actually work for them. Trying to reach facilities managers via Facebook or Instagram isn’t the most effective use of your time – and is unlikely to yield any results.

Facebook is by far the most commonly used social networking site. A recent study by the Pew Research Centre put 67 per cent of Americans on Facebook. By comparison, 16 per cent were on Twitter – the second largest platform. Facebook is best used as a B2C platform when trying to reach slightly older (aged 30 and above) audiences. It would be well worth your while investing in targeted Facebook advertising to boost the number of likes to a company profile page. Facebook also delivers relatively in-depth analytics which will help you understand who’s seeing your posts.

There are over 12 million active Twitter users in the UK, accounting for 18.8 per cent of the population. Users tend to be younger and evenly split between men and women and it works well for both B2B and B2C messaging. Brands that do Twitter well get involved in the conversation – arguably Twitter’s most important function is to allow you direct access to what everyone else is saying. It’s no longer enough to push tweets out and wait for the engagement to happen; you need to be following hashtags, engaging with other users and tweeting about trending topics to reap the rewards of Twitter.

LinkedIn is unchallenged as the most effective B2B platform. It passed the 15 million UK members mark earlier this year and currently has over two million groups across various industries. It’s here that companies can make their mark – join relevant industry groups with active discussion panels and get involved. Make sure your own company page is regularly updated and that your staff have full personal profiles. Encourage them to be ambassadors for the business by engaging with other users and involving themselves in group conversations. The business leads should follow as a result, usually with a bonus side-effect of attracting new talent to your company.

Instagram is fast becoming a major social networking site. Over 90 per cent of the 150 million people using Instagram worldwide are aged under 35. Most of them are urban dwellers and young at heart, with significantly more women than men. With the recent launch of Instagram video and Instagram advertising, the platform is becoming increasingly appealing for brands. It’s ideal for businesses with a visual story to tell, those that want to create a ‘brand feeling’ and companies with a young audience following – it’s very much a B2C playground. One drawback is the inability to hyperlink, but you can measure success in other ways, such as numbers of followers, likes and comments. Instagram is more about boosting brand loyalty than a pure numbers game.

Like Instagram, Pinterest is visual-led and tends to attract a younger audience. The key difference in terms of users is their background: Pinterest users are more likely to be university educated and work in ABC1 roles than their Instagram counterparts. Brands that use Pinterest well focus on beautiful images to show off their products and boost engagement with customers. Again, this is very firmly a B2C platform – don’t waste your efforts on B2B communications here.

Finally, it wouldn’t be right to discuss social media platforms without mentioning Google+. The site has yet to make the impact it’s predicted to; however, given Google’s power in the online world, it won’t be long before it creeps to the fore. As an example, company blog pages using Google+ authorships already perform better in search results than those that don’t. Setting up profiles for key staff members and linking them to your website makes sense.

If you’re embarking on a social media drive or looking to streamline your activity, you won’t go far wrong if you investigate your audience and your platform properly. From then on, it’s a matter of putting out the right content –but that’s a lesson for another day!

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