When it comes to social media, the array of options is dizzying. Facebook is the biggest, of course, with 1.2 billion users. Twitter comes next, but then comes a glut of others, including — but certainly not limited to — Google+, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, and so on. Then there are a boatload of other services that may have another primary purpose but still contain a social aspect to it, like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Flickr. There are other players who are huge in their own industries but are trying to bust into the social sphere, like Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube. There are also an increasing number of hardware manufacturers like Samsung or Sony that are integrating their own “apps” into hardware devices like Blu-ray players to try to play in this space. As if the waters weren’t muddy enough, there is an increasing number of so-called “curators” like Pulse, Zite, or Flipboard, who simply gather content generated by other outlets and arrange them in simple and intuitive interfaces, integrating social media-like functionality as a secondary feature. So what should you use to promote your business?
The answer to that perplexing quandary is, without question…it depends.
It’s simply not realistic to avoid social media altogether, at least not if you’re intending to grow through the 21st century. You could take the opposite approach and try to hit them all, but that would take a small herd of twenty-somethings, each armed with more smartphones than hands. There has to be a middle ground somewhere.
The key is targeting. Before you devise your social media strategy, you have to answer a few questions. Who are you trying to reach? Seventy percent of Pinterest users are women. LinkedIn is known for its prowess in job searching and career-related content. Google+ is where you need to be if you’re looking for or addressing a technically savvy crowd. If you’re trying to reach mobile users in particular, social media consumes a whopping 30% of mobile users’ time all by itself, and 63% of year-on-year social media growth is via mobile apps and website usage, so social media is the way to get to your audience. If you’re focusing on your business’ brand, Instagram is the place to be. If you’re looking to find a niche and let the market itself grow the size of that niche, then Facebook and Twitter are out since they’re sitting at something like 0-4% adoption rate; on the other hand, Pinterest and Instagram are growing by leaps and bounds at a clip of about 25-35% per quarter. Of course, for sheer magnitude of reach, you simply cannot beat Facebook or Twitter, each of which have more users than most of the other services combined.
Another key question is: how and what are you trying to communicate? If you’re looking to send out a major chunk of text, don’t bother with Instagram or Pinterest – blogs are the ideal forum for you, with Facebook or Google+ a close second. For high-quality still photos, though, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr are perfect. YouTube is the undisputed champion of video, but Vine has picked up a huge following for quickie videos that are easy to share, too. Neither of those are any good at text, though. Twitter is terrific for witty banter or frequent updates on events or fast-moving real world developments, but long conversations simply aren’t possible. Customer service functions are rapidly moving into Twitter because it is the only genuinely real-time communication in social media. I have personally contacted companies via Twitter for fast help at least half a dozen times and gotten good response almost every time.
The bottom line is that you first need to understand your own business, and how you want to portray yourself to the rest of the world. It’s better to cherry pick two or three social media services that are a good fit for what you’re trying to do than to cram a round peg into a square hole simply for the sake of “getting out there.” The Internet is clogged with enough useless digital vomit already, so don’t contribute even more! Keep it focused, keep it relevant, and keep it coming regularly. The key result you’re looking for is to get engagement from your followers and/or customers. Getting likes or comments or shares is how you know you’ve found both a receptive audience and a good vehicle for reaching that audience. And don’t think for a moment that no one will care about your business, no matter what it is. Velveeta has over 7,000 followers on Twitter and over 150,000 likes on Facebook. If processed cheese food can get that kind of a following, so can you. You just need to know who you are, who you’re trying to reach, and what you’re trying to accomplish.