Pick the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business
At this point, it's fair to say that most business marketers understand that social networking is more than just a passing fad. But which is the best social media platform to communicate with your customers? The answer varies according to your objectives, style, and business sector, so we've created this quick guide and visual to help determine which social network is right for your company.
What's the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business?
Here's how the main social media platforms shake out in terms of strengths and weaknesses for business marketing.
- Mixed media, so images and video content play nicely alongside links and plain text.
- Diverse advertising options to present your business in your preferred format and advanced targeting to reach your ideal buyer.
- Weaknesses:Extremely cluttered and constantly changing. As with Google search, an algorithm shift could quickly bury your business content at the whim of Facebook developers.
- Increasingly pay-to-play, with only the content types that Facebook currently deems important typically achieving reliable organic reach.
- Potentially diminishing popularity with younger generations, especially compared to emerging social competitors.
- The self-described "largest professional network" in the world hits the nail on the head when it comes to zeroing in on its value. Now fifteen years old and owned by Microsoft, Linkedin is very much the elder statesman of social networking and has evolved into much more than a place to share your resume. Nonetheless, it does have its limitations for marketers. Strengths:By far the most promising place for pure B2B connections and professional communications. What it lacks in reach, Linkedin more than makes up for in buying power and qualified prospects.
- Targeting by business sector, job title, and other professional criteria that may not be so readily available on other platforms.
- Sharing more technical, industry-insider content and introducing qualified B2B prospects to your product.
- Weaknesses:Reputation for being unexciting, which doesn't lend itself to edgy brands or certain consumer retail segments.
- Limited user base. Despite its age and prominence, Linkedin has been overtaken by more recent social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
- Fewer advertising formats and targeting options than some competitors. Although its features are expanding, regular Facebook advertisers may find the limitations frustrating.
- The staying power of Twitter is nothing short of astonishing. Despite failing to develop a compelling advertising solution and falling a long way behind its more popular competitors, Twitter is still beloved by early adopters and newcomers alike. Perhaps it's the public nature of the platform that leads to open debate. Or maybe it's just the many celebrities who embrace that direct connection with followers. Either way, there are a lot of engaged users in certain demographic groups and some businesses will still find the channel a valuable way to connect with them. Strengths:Open conversation and few barriers to communication with those users who remain active.
- A vibrant place to exchange views, gauge consumer sentiment, and hear customer feedback.
- Easy to get started and make immediate, tangible connections to customers. Read our Tips to Do More with Twitter to get the ball rolling.
- Weaknesses:Even with the passion of its fans and celebrity appeal, Twitter's user count pales in comparison to the likes of Facebook and Instagram. It is currently ranked behind all of the other major social networks here in terms of U.S. users and the numbers have been flat for some time.
- The platform experiences a great deal of noise from spammers and bot accounts. The open nature of communication makes it easy for controversy to break out or conversations to get sidetracked.
- For a marketing channel that has been around for more than a decade, Twitter still hasn't worked out how to put together a compelling advertising solution. Though some businesses confirm positive results, the targeting and conversion options remain some distance behind Facebook and Linkedin.
- The photo platform so popular that Facebook snapped it right up...although Snapchat turned them down, of course! Instagram has kept a good deal of its original flavor, eschewing clickable links or multimedia content to focus on great photos. If you have a strong visual identity or you're able to creatively communicate your brand with images, this is a great place to build a following. Strengths:Simple format and a highly engaged user base. If you have an eye for a good photo and can connect it to your brand, you're good to go.
- A great place to engage influencers to expand reach and amplification. Look no further than Instagram marketing in the cosmetics sector for proof of this.
- An ever-expanding and appealing set of advertising options, which are increasingly woven into the Facebook ecosystem. If you use both platforms - and who doesn't use Facebook by now? - the combined momentum could make for a compelling ad platform in the years to come.
- Weaknesses:Heavily skewed towards mobile app use. Although this is slowly changing with desktop integration and switching between accounts, the best content typically comes when you're on the move with a smartphone.
- If your brand struggles to create visual content, you're going to struggle on Instagram. With no direct links and little focus on text, it's the images that have to do the heavy lifting here. (A memorable number would help, however!)
- The 800lb gorilla in the room is, of course, Facebook. If Zuckerberg's team gets too heavy-handed with the changes or "feature creep," Instagram could quickly fall out of favor.
- The other side of the photo app coin, Snapchat could be described as Instagram's edgier sibling. Popular with millennials and something of an enigma to the generations that came before them, it's pretty clear that if your target market is on the younger side, you'll need to embrace Snapchat. It has had a rough ride in recent months but only a fool (or perhaps a data hacker) would bet against the man who turned down Mark Zuckerberg. Strengths:If your business needs to reach 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States, Snapchat is where it's at. Instagram is also an important place to be for this demographic, but you'll need strong and vibrant visuals on both to make an impact.
- Brand enhancement via consistent, snackable content and celebrity/influencer collaborations.
- Considerable growth potential if/when it expands to other generations -- or at least pole position for the post-millennial generation if it continues its youthful appeal.
- Weaknesses:Extremely limited presence with users over 30 years of age, at least for the moment. Not a place you're going to connect with everyone.
- Lacking the refined targeting and broad advertising potential of more established social networks.
- Heavily reliant on visual content to gain a following. If you can't add striking visuals or engaging live streams, this isn't the platform for your business.
- Last but not least, Pinterest is an intriguing addition to the social media shuffle. Focused on images but lacking the vibrant tone of Instagram or Snapchat... using content feeds but missing the broad appeal of Facebook or the professional allure of Linkedin, Pinterest is very much its own kind of community, with an emphasis of creativity and generating ideas. If your brand has an independent flavor or can communicate its value in guides, collections, and infographics, there's probably a place for you on Pinterest. Strengths:Highly engaged users who are likely to click through to your site if your product or advice interests them. Visuals and videos are easy to share and can be linked directly back to the source image, which should of course be on your site whenever possible!
- Although the user base is evening out, Pinterest has always been skewed towards female users. While you can easily use gender to target ads on other social networks, this is still the platform to use if you want to reliably reach women organically and have a product or service that interests them.
- Pinterest is, first and foremost, a lifestyle site for creative types. If that audience resonates with your target buyer persona, you're going to have a good time here!
- Weaknesses:Brands that aren't artsy, crafty, or lack some degree of DIY may struggle on Pinterest. It's not a requirement, but creative, helpful, and visually stimulating content is typically what fares best here.
- Quite a lot of activity is required to get your business noticed on Pinterest, which can mean spending more time than you'd invest in other social networks. That might be worth it if you have a creative brand and find an engaged audience here, but it's going to be a big time suck if that isn't the case.
- After an initial surge in interest several years ago, Pinterest's user growth has leveled out in recent years. Although it remains on a par with the likes of Linkedin and Snapchat in terms of active users, the potential for rapid expansion seems less than its competitors.
Best of the Rest
While the social media ecosystem has stabilized since the early days of several hot new platforms every year, there are inevitably social startups attempting to become the next Facebook. Assuming they aren't bought out by the existing players, it's possible that a newcomer like Vero or Hype could make a dent in the digital landscape. If your brand is an early adopter, you could have a significant headstart on the competition. Imagine if you'd already built a sizeable following organically on Facebook before it became far more pay-to-play, for example. The downside of experimenting with new social networks is that most of them won't pan out. The time you invest in a failed network could be far better spent on one of the established players we've covered above. It can also pay to expand your perspective on what constitutes a social network. The most effective social media platform for your business might not be a Facebook or Instagram-style channel. The likes of YouTube and Vimeo provide excellent opportunities to engage viewers in conversation via the video comments, while traditional forum sites like Reddit and question/answer sites like Quora often stoke vibrant exchanges. Even your own blog can shift towards social media if you install a comment system like Livefyre or Disqus and engage directly with your readers. Take some time to consider what you want from social marketing and weigh up the best social media platform for your business. In most cases, you'll want more than one, but don't try to be everything to everyone. Pick your platforms and share the best content you can for that audience.
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