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Social media 101: Which platforms you should be using, how and when
The world of social media is ever-changing, with new apps and platforms being regularly released. With such a broad market of social media channels out there, you need to identify the best platforms for your business to be seen.
It may be tempting to take a blanket approach across multiple channels to boost your coverage. However, by doing so, you could end up wasting valuable time on platforms that aren’t appropriate for your products or creating content that isn’t fit for purpose on those channels.
An effective social media strategy should focus solely on the channels that your customers are using. Once you have selected the channels to use, you need to create the right content for those platforms to engage your customers in the best way.
Determining the platforms your business should be on and what you should be posting there means understanding the unique characteristics of each. In this guide, we explain how to find the ideal platforms for your business and adapt your content accordingly.
How to decide which social media platforms to use
In a successful social media strategy, you should focus your attention on a few select platforms to allow you to devote the appropriate time in the right places and maximise your results. The first step to finding these platforms is identifying where your customers are.
Use your buyer personas and any other insight you may have to uncover which social media channels your customer base is regularly using. These may vary dependent on key demographics such as their age, careers, lifestyle and other interests. Primarily, you should aim to be present on the same channels your customers are visiting.
Another deciding factor will be your business type and the products/services it offers. Different platforms have specific characteristics – as we will cover in more detail later – which makes certain ones more relevant to certain types of businesses. For example:
- LinkedIn is a social network focused on professionals – so is beneficial to businesses offering B2B services or who wish to build their corporate reputation. It can also support recruitment.
- Instagram and Pinterest both focus on visual content, so are ideal for brands who can provide aspirational imagery around their products and services.
- Facebook has a strong emphasis on local communities, so is relevant for any companies that operate locally and wish to build their presence in specific towns/cities.
- Twitter is famous for its trending topics and live-tweeting – ideal for businesses wanting to promote their thought leadership and expertise by commenting on news stories and other topical matters. Great for getting involved with real-time conversations and being reactive with your social media marketing.
Spend time researching how the different platforms work and consider how they align with your business. Another way of approaching this is to take stock of which platforms your competitors are using and how. If your competitors aren’t using specific channels, it may be a sign that your business type isn’t suited to those channels – or that your competitors are yet to find a way to use them effectively.
Tailor your content to your chosen platforms
Once you have selected the social media platforms you will use for your business, it is essential to make sure you are creating content that is suited to those platforms. Doing so will enable you to stand out from the noise, get the brand visibility you need, engage your customers and get the best results from each post.
Below, we have listed the main social media platforms and the features of each that will shape your content.
Facebook is the largest social media platform, but has suffered reputational damage in recent years following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and rise of ‘fake news’. That being said, there are many features that businesses can benefit from by using the platform.
Facebook is particularly known for its advertising capabilities, meaning that if you are utilising paid social, you can reach vast and targeted audiences with easy-to-create ads. In this sense, it is the most effective network for paid social activity and giving your content an extra boost can help with conversion and visibility for your brand. Facebook owns Instagram, so you can advertise centrally across the both of them if you have accounts for each.
Facebook also allows for community groups, either open or closed, where people can discuss shared interests. Your business can utilise these by finding niches relevant to your operations, such as your location, products or industry, and either setting up your own groups or posting in relevant existing groups.
In more recent years, Facebook has brought in features like live-streaming and stories. This aligns the channel more with the visual focus seen on the likes of Instagram and YouTube, highlighting that this content is being increasingly favoured across social media. Indeed 72% of consumers say they would rather learn about a product or service via video. If your social media strategy includes Facebook, you should consider carefully how you can incorporate the likes of video and live streaming.
Instagram and Pinterest
Instagram is famous for its emphasis on the visual. This means that any content you create should utilise captivating and inspirational imagery.
Other features of Instagram include IGTV (which hosts videos up to 15-minutes long) and stories (which provide real-time ‘mini’ posts, such as behind the scenes clips of your operations, that disappear after 24 hours).
Content that tends to perform well on Instagram are posts including high-quality photography, attractive graphics and engaging videos, so aim to use these to highlight your brand. Influencer content also works well on Instagram, which demonstrates relevant public figures using your products – though do bear in mind there are strict guidelines for this.
Pinterest is similar to Instagram in its focus on visual content – however, on Pinterest, you create ‘boards’ of images around specific themes. For example, you may create a board containing imagery of one of your product ranges. Users can then ‘pin’ your imagery to save for later, so make sure that it provides value or a sense of aspiration for them. Common examples of Pinterest boards are those associated with DIY, crafts, recipes, fashion and home décor; so consider how your content can fit into similar themes.
Twitter offers a network where people can share their thoughts and opinions in real-time, respond to trending topics and use hashtags to collate discussions into one place. The content that performs best on this channel is that which can add a valuable contribution to these topics or utilise newsjacking.
Due to the characteristics of Twitter, it serves brands who can offer an expert voice on topics (for example, opinion on some industry news) to put them at the forefront of the conversation and enhance brand authority. This could include live-tweeting relevant events to bring your brand into the commentary.
Contrastingly, brands can disrupt the conversation and find ingenious ways to put their products/services at the heart of topics. An example of this is from KitKat in response to the 2014 trending story about iPhone 6’s bending in structure.
In this sense, your Twitter content can be either authoritative or creative, depending on what suits your brand. The key is finding a way to add value to the topic – whether that be via humour or information. It is also essential to use the right hashtags to make sure you appear around the topics you want to be associated with.
Due to the quick response times of Twitter, it is often also used as an effective customer service channel, so this may be an alternative way you can maximise engagement and offer value as well as build and improve customer relationships.
LinkedIn is the network for professionals, where colleagues and peers can connect in similar industries and sectors. As a platform, LinkedIn isn’t the best place to appeal to customers – unless your customers happen to be other businesses. However, there may be some exceptions to the rule if your product or service can offer individuals assistance in their career.
Example content for LinkedIn could include sharing internal news (such as a new recruit), highlighting projects (such as customer testimonials or imagery of completed work) or sharing an insight into your operations. Like Twitter, LinkedIn is also a great place to show your expertise by commentating on and sharing relevant industry news.
Whatever you post should be professional in tone and focus on placing your business in a positive light. The best content will also aim to relate to fellow companies and seek to build connections between users and your business, as per the ‘networking’ element of LinkedIn.
YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok
YouTube is more than a social network: it’s a search engine for billions of videos, and due to this, it has a broad audience spanning many demographics.
This means any content you upload to YouTube must be video. Examples of video content types include interviews, how-tos, product demos, behind-the-scenes peeks, skits and Q&As. If you already write blog or website content for your brand, this can usually be repurposed into a vlog or other video format. The key is finding which types of video will work for you and how you can create it within your marketing budget.
Snapchat and TikTok, like YouTube, focus on video content. However, the emphasis is on short, snappy videos that can be easily shared between friends. Snapchat is a closed network, meaning you only send content to the contacts you have added on it, whereas TikTok is more open allowing for viral sharing.
Both these channels are associated with younger audiences, with emphasis placed on humour or trends. They aren’t commonly used by businesses, and it can be hard to find a way to create the right content – but brands who can do it will likely be ahead of the curve and benefit from high youth engagement accordingly.
Example case studies
Finding the right platforms for you depends on who you are as a business. We’ve put together example case studies of three different business types, what channels they might use and what they may post there.
Example #1 – Highstreet hairdresser
If you are a local business, such as a hairdresser, one of the most beneficial platforms would be Facebook due to the emphasis on communities. A Facebook page would allow you to easily convey where you are based and your opening hours to users and offer customers a way to contact you through Facebook messenger.
Regular content shared on Facebook could include internal updates, such as promotions, available appointments and other news. Sharing customer testimonials and photos of your work are other worthy ideas for your strategy.
Instagram would be another useful platform. On this platform, a hairdresser would share photos of haircuts they have done, particularly if they are high-quality or could be seen as inspirational for users. Use appropriate hashtags such as #hairinspiration and #hairgoals. A Pinterest board could work in a similar fashion, showcasing your work.
Example #2 – Office supplies
This is a B2B business – as such, it makes sense for it to be present on LinkedIn. Here, you could connect with your regular clients as well as target new ones. Content to post on LinkedIn would include product photos, accompanied by copy that emphasises the value they can bring to customers, testimonials from clients, as well as promotions. You can also share information about the corporate side of your business, such as charity work and insight into your production methods.
Example #2 – Online bakery
This kind of business would benefit from using channels including Facebook and Instagram, where it can create content such as product images, giveaways or even influencer posts (of them eating a product) to obtain engagement.
However, an alternative social media platform to use would be YouTube. Video content that could be created includes tutorials on how to make your products at home; product reveals; or behind the scenes peaks at your creation processes. This video content could also be shared on your website and other social channels to maximise its reach.
Create a posting strategy
Another critical part of good engagement is being able to regularly update your social accounts with new, exciting content at the right times.
Check the best posting times for the different social media platforms – these won’t always be the same. As part of this, consider the general lifespan of content on various platforms. For example, as Twitter and Snapchat focus on real-time posting, the content tends to be short-lived, meaning you will need to update more regularly. Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn are not so time-dependent, so may continue to get engagement days or even weeks after posting. It is always better to publish high-quality content less often than frequently post low-quality content.
Once you have identified the best times for posting, create a schedule to follow in order to achieve consistent coverage on your chosen platforms at the optimal times. These ‘optimal’ times will evolve as you learn when your customers are most active online, so be sure to adapt the schedule accordingly when you have your own insights to apply.
When you first start posting, a lot of trial and error is involved when it comes to finding out what will work best for your brand and your customers. This is further fuelled by the continually changing nature of social media.
Due to this, it is essential to systematically review the performance of content across all your social accounts. Track key metrics like your overall follower count, post likes, comments, clicks, website referrals from social media and any related conversions. If these are increasing over time, it’s a good sign your strategy is working.
You should also keep tabs of what posts are performing best and if there are any recurring themes. If there are, you should adapt your strategy to focus on these kinds of content and look at ways of amending or removing underperforming posts from your schedule, or simply tweaking them to fit in better with your top performing posts.
Targeting customers in the right way, on the right platform
Effective social media marketing means being consistently able to engage customers and potential leads. Achieving this means being present on the platforms where your customers want to engage with you and creating content that stands out against the sea of posts available.
By understanding what works on the different platforms and tailoring your strategy in line with careful analysis, you can ensure every social media post you create is optimised. The result is increased brand awareness, higher conversion from leads and better outcomes across your social media accounts.
If you need help on getting a social media strategy in place or creating content to share, we can help. With expertise across different social media channels, we can craft the perfect posts for your brand.