How many social media channels are there in the world today?
Probably hundreds of them.
Wikipedia currently lists 209 channels (with a disclaimer, “This list is not exhaustive, and is limited to notable, well-known sites”). And there are new ones springing up all over the globe, encouraged by the phenomenal success of Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat and Instagram.
With so many options, how do you choose the right social media for your business?
Here is a list of 5 questions to ask yourself before selecting the right channels. As a startup or a small business you have limited resources and time, so it is important that you invest in the right channels that will give you maximum ROI and help you achieve your business goal.
5 Questions to help you choose The Right Social Media Channels for your Business
Question 1 on Trend: What are the current trends in Social Media Marketing? What are the Top Social Media Channels right now?
Knowing the latest market trends, changes in consumer behaviour and list of new developments will help you select the right social media channels. For example: Instagram recently announced that it crossed 400 million monthly active users, overtaking Twitter, which has 316 million monthly active users. This news will help you decide whether Instagram should be on your radar, when you are trying to choose the social media channels that you are going to invest your time and effort in.
Action Point: Keep track of social media industry news, current trends and developments.
Read our blog on Top 10 Latest Social Media Trends to know more about which social media channels you should focus on. And here is the list of top social media channels as of August 2015. As you can see, Facebook is the leader (in case you are wondering what QQ is, it is one of the oldest social networks in China, born in the 90s). You can see some popular ones like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn in this list, but note the arrival of some interesting new entrants like Snapchat and Whatsapp. They could be an option for you to consider, if they fit well into your overall media strategy.
Question 2 on Audience: Who are your Target Audience and which network do they spend their time on?
“Fish where the fish are” is an old, but relevant saying that is applicable to social media. Know where your target audience are and how they spend their time online. Then plan to focus your efforts there. Sometimes you will be surprised that the popular channels may not be the ones where your target audience are. For example: If you are a brand that targets millennials and have an engaging visual story that could connect well with your audience, you may find that Snapchat works better for you than Facebook, even though Facebook is the biggest social network in the world.
Action Point: Do an online survey or market research to find out the list of your customers’ favorite social media channels.
B2B and B2C Social Media Usage Trends: Here is another example of how social media channel usage varies based on the type of business and the type of consumers that the business serves. The image below is taken from 2015 Social Media Industry Report by Social Media Examiner, showing us how B2B and B2C businesses use various social media channels.
You will find that Facebook dominates B2C (which is not surprising) but LinkedIn seems to be the preferred channel for B2B businesses, along with Twitter. This shows how audience presence varies based on the nature and type of business that you are in. Also note how ‘Forums’ and ‘Social Review Sites’ are part of this list in both cases. They seem small, occupying just 1% of the pie, but with millions of users that 1% could be a significant number. And more importantly, forums and social review sites have much higher rate of engagement with comments, discussions and questions than most social media channels. So, if your target audience spend time reading reviews and interacting on forums, then that is where you need to spend your time and resource on.
Question 3 on Content: What type of Content are you planning to produce? What type of content does your audience like?
Select your social media channel based on the type of content that your audience likes and the type of content that you are willing to or capable of producing. Each social media channel has a unique character that defines the type of content that works well on it. If you are a business that is comfortable and capable of producing more videos concentrate on YouTube, and use other channels to promote your YouTube content. Jayson DeMers at Search Engine Land came up with the below grouping of social media channels based on the type of content. Apart from the 3 big players – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we see that most channels are very specific to their respective content type:
- Image based channels – Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram
- Video based channels – YouTube and Vimeo
- Location based channel – Foursquare
- Reddit and Quora are listed as niche social media channels, designed and working very well for a specific type of audience.
Basic Content Audit: I strongly suggest that you do an internal content audit before choosing a social media channel based on content-type. Content audit is taking stock of the current content and planning on how to use it or reuse it in future. It can be done in 3 simple steps:
- Take stock of the current content that is available with you
- Do an analysis of what type of content your audience expect you to have
- Plan how you will repurpose this current content to match your audience expectation
Case Study: We work with a client who has 1000s of videos in their collection. They are an educational institution and they have accumulated these videos over the years. Even though they have a strong presence in YouTube, with more than a million page views, when we did our content audit we realised that written content is also very popular and consumed a lot by their audience. So we started converting the video teaching material into written content and started posting them on the blog. And we promoted the blog content on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter. This helped them increase their website traffic.
Question 4 on Goals: What is the End Objective of your Social Media Marketing?
What is the end goal of your social media marketing efforts? Listing down your end objectives will help you get clarity on the type of social media channels that you should be using. Certain type of social media channels have the capacity to deliver certain types of results. For example: LinkedIn can help you network with your professional circle, prospects and partners in a way that Facebook cannot. But Facebook has the potential to help you find your lost family member or a school friend your haven’t seen for the last 15 years! (Have you read this story about how a social media marketer found her father after 46 years using social media?!)
Here is a sample list of business goals and the possible social media channels that could help reach those goals. (This is a sample list, the actual channel list for each business will depend on the type of business and many other factors.)
|Business Goal / Objective||Social Media Channels|
|Networking & Increasing Professional Connections||LinkedIn, Twitter|
|Engagement & Participating in Conversations||Facebook, Forums, Review Sites, Google+|
|Customer Support||Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Review Sites, Forums|
|Sales - Increase sales, conversions, walkins||Pinterest, Facebook Pages, Google My Business, Foursquare, Twitter, Instagram for Brands, Blog|
|Branding, Brand Building, Create Product Awareness||Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter|
|Event Promotion||Facebook Events, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter|
|Community Building||Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, Google Community, Twitter Lists|
|SEO, Increase Traffic, Increase Website Visitors||Google+, Review Sites, Blog, Pinterest|
|Mobile Marketing and Engagement||Whatsapp, Viber, Facebook Messenger|
|Viral Marketing, VIP Endorsements||YouTube, Twitter, Instagram|
Question 5 on Workflow: Does the Social Media Channel’s required workflow fit into your business’ Internal Workflow?
Content marketing works best when you are consistent in your posting and engagement. To be consistent and to sustain certain level of activity in social media channels, workflow-based internal planning is crucial. Every social media channel has its own character and style of functioning. Careful planning is required to fit the specific requirement of the social media channel with your everyday business workflow.
Let me explain.
Example case study: Let us imagine that you a retail business that is image-driven, say a jewellery retail chain. You decide to run a social media campaign where your staff will post pictures of your walk-in customers, when they try on jewellery (of course, with their permission). And you decide to run this campaign from multiple stores in multiple locations in real time. Let us assume that you decide to use Instagram as the main social media channel for this campaign. Instagram is a good choice for an image-driven campaign, because it is one of the fastest growing image-driven social networks and is owned by Facebook, which gives it more muscle when it comes to growth & reach potential. In recent times, Instagram has also been adding useful features like videos, time-lapse and photo-sets (for brands. See official video from Instagram about Photo sets). So, it is a good choice!
Workflow Alignment? – But one of the key factors to consider when selecting Instagram as the main channel is: Your staff need a mobile device to post it. So, you need to decide on a mobile-enabled internal workflow for your staff in multiple locations. Assuming that you arrange for your staff to post images and videos from their mobile devices, you still need to ask some important questions. What about brand consistency in the posts? What about quality of the images and written content in the posts? What about language – tone, grammar-check, spell-check etc? What about using the right hashtags? How will your staff know which set of hashtags to use? How will you ensure that all of this aligns with your current social media policy and branding policy?
I am not saying it is impossible to do this. It is definitely possible and as an Agency, we help our clients do this all the time, but I am giving you this as an example to show you how the selection and usage of even just ONE social media channel requires much careful planning with many issues to be handled . Each social media channel activity depends on your workflow capability and the internal processes of your organization. So, choose your social media channels carefully keeping in mind your internal workflow.
Hope these 5 questions will help you select the right social media channels. All the best for your social media marketing success!
Leave a comment below if you have any further thoughts, questions, suggestions or comments on the subject. Happy to help!
Open Minds Agency is a digital marketing agency with operations in India and Australia. We work with small businesses, startups and non-profits around the world. We are a creative bunch that loves digital marketing and we enjoy seeing the positive impact of our creative campaigns on our clients’ operations. If you think we can work with you and help you grow, influence and reach more people using digital media, shoot us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us by clicking here. Thank you!