From Facebook to Snapchat, social media is a global phenomenon. Everyone who is anyone is signed up, connected and actively engaged in some form or another and, because they are, it has become one of the most popular marketing tools of the digital age.
Not only do the well-known platforms boast a ready-made audience of millions (or billions), they are also free-to-use and offer a range of paid advertising options. Used effectively they can boost engagement, build brands, generate leads and help foster strong customer relationships – they can even improve your website search engine ranking.
But with so many social media sites to choose from, which ones should you be focusing your efforts on? Here’s a run-down of the favourites to help you decide which might work best for your business.
Audience size: 1.79 billion monthly active users
Age: 18-44 widespread use, 55-65+ highest percentage of users for any social network site
Gender: Equal women/men
Suitability: As the biggest and most mainstream social network, having a Facebook Page is a great starter platform and must-have for any business. Because it’s extremely versatile – you can upload text updates, images, videos etc. – it can work for any industry and marketer skill-set. Arguably it lends itself better to B2C as users tend to engage with it for friends, family and leisure rather than business, however B2Bs shouldn’t be without a presence.
Best for: Building brand awareness, reaching broad audiences, growing your network, two-way conversations
Audience size: 313 million monthly active users
Age: 18-34 – highest percentage of users, dropping steadily as age goes up but still has users 65+
Gender: Equal men/women
Suitability: Like Facebook, Twitter is one of the most mainstream social media sites and is a must for all businesses – from start-ups to large corporations. It can work equally well for both B2C and B2B. Because it revolves around short timely, news based updates of up to 140 characters, it can be especially effective for businesses with young, on-the-pulse customers – male or female. It is a good platform for curating and sharing content.
Best for: Building brand awareness, timely customer service, spreading the word, finding out what’s happening in your industry
Audience size: 100 million+ monthly active users
Age: 25-44 – widespread use, closely followed by 45-55 and 18-24, has users 65+
Gender: Equal men/women
Suitability: As a business and employment orientated social networking site, LinkedIn is the most widely used and effective social media platform for B2Bs. Users are predominantly in work mode when they are on it. In addition, the audience typically has a higher income level so is credible in terms of lead viability. Communications can be tightly targeted by industry and role. Students and graduates are its fastest growing demographic.
Best for: Peer networking, keeping up-to-date with industry specific news and trends, asking questions, generating leads
See related post – 10 tips for successfully working your LinkedIn Company Page
Audience size: 500 million+ monthly active users
Age: 18-34 – highest percentage of users
Gender: More women than men
Suitability: Instagram is designed for photo and video sharing so lends itself best to B2C businesses with a strong visual angle e.g. lifestyle, food, fashion, luxury goods. However, it can be used effectively for any type of business as there is always something you can visualise e.g. a product, your office, an inspirational quote etc. To make it work you need to ensure whoever is in charge of your account has an eye for great composition.
Best for: Engaging audiences, brand building, visual storytelling
See related post: Is Instagram relevant for my business? (And how to get started)
Audience size: 150 million monthly active users – 50% increase from last year
Age: 25-44 – highest percentage of users
Gender: More women than men
Suitability: Another visual social media platform, Pinterest works best for image-focused B2C industries e.g. food, fashion, fitness, beauty and home. It can also work well for tech and entertainment companies. B2Bs can use it but it takes some creative thinking in terms of what images/videos you can post e.g. employee shots; blog visuals; infographics. If your business caters to millennial mums you should definitely have a presence on it.
Best for: Audience engagement, relationship building, discovering audience interests and trends
Audience size: 300 million monthly active users
Age: 15-34 – highest percentage of users
Gender: Significantly more men than women
Suitability: Although it has been described as a social media ‘ghost town’, Google+ can be an effective marketing platform. Just like Facebook and Twitter, it offers post flexibility – text, images, videos and links. The platform’s audience is predominantly male and is popular with early adopters and tech lovers. B2Cs can use it for announcements, special offers and discounts. B2Bs can connect with other companies and hold conference calls via Google Hangouts.
Best for: Communicating with thought leaders, growing social proof, local marketing (Google My Business feature), discovering industry trends
Audience size: 1 billion+ monthly active users
Age: 25-44 – highest percentage of users, followed by 45-54 then 18-24, few 65+ users
Gender: Equal men/women – but men spend longer watching
Suitability: As a video-sharing social media site, YouTube works best for businesses which lend themselves to video content. It’s a good option for B2Bs because it provides an engaging way to connect and is a good medium for explaining more complicated products or abstract services. In terms of views, beauty is the most popular topic for women; sports and gaming for men – so if your B2C business relates to either of these you should have an active channel.
Best for: Building brand awareness, increasing engagement, sharing expertise, establishing trust
Audience size: 150 million daily active users
Age: 18-24 – highest percentage of users, closely followed by 25-34
Gender: Significantly more women than men
Suitability: Snapchat is a visual social media channel most popular with the younger generation. Because of its unique, quirky nature – content only lasts for 24 hours and comes with a range of filter, geofilter, text, emoji and music options – it is a good option for trendy, fun B2C businesses. In addition, it’s great if you want to stand out as it offers a raw, authentic quality compared to more polished platforms like Instagram.
Best for: Building brand awareness, promoting brand personality, creating a community, visual storytelling
These are just some of the big social networking sites you can take advantage of. Others include Reddit, Tumblr, WhatsApp and Vine. As a business you might also consider more niche social network sites which can be extremely effective as they facilitate tight targeting.
Ideally, you should be present on multiple social media sites, but aim to focus your efforts on the ones that best match your business and target audience. As with anything in marketing, testing is key – be sure you’re constantly monitoring your performance and tweaking activity accordingly.