Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and about a hundred more social networking sites... The choice is overwhelming and expanding by the day. Smart marketers and communications professionals know that establishing a social presence on the right platforms is crucial to successful social media that adds real value for business. But how do you make that choice? How do you determine the right social networks for your business or client?
The first step towards deciding which network to be active on is defining your target group – that's Marketing 101. So, who is it that buys from you? Who is it that are you doing business with?
Once you've defined your audience, you need to get to know it – what is it that your customers like, do, talk about, where do they congregate online, how often, for what purposes? How do they make purchase decisions? To what extent are those decisions influenced by what people are saying, liking, sharing on social networks and on which platform exactly?
People maintain social profiles for different reasons. For example, I use Faceebok to stay connected with my family and friends around the world; Twitter is for me purely professional, i.e. I only tweet and search for PR, social media and sustainability related stuff; on Tumblr I only post and follow fitness and healthy nutrition infos and visuals. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
I might be active pretty much everywhere (it's part of my job), but that doesn't mean you have to be everywhere. Frankly, it's close to impossible and it's bad business.
Don't forget that social media requires a long-term view and that managing it well is extremely time consuming. It's better to allocate resources to just one or a few networks and do it right. So don't waste your money on the wrong platforms.
Analysing consumer behaviour and psychographics can help you find the perfect social place or places for your brand. It's called informed decision making and by that clever decision making.
Basically, the social networks are built around communities, often very niche communities. These communities are brought together by a common interest. This way we can think of each social channel as an interest-based network that allows people to build a community around one specific passion, activity or necessity.
That, in turn, makes your life much easier. Based on the industry you're doing business in you can pick a network (or more) fairly straightforward. If you run a restaurant, then Facebook and Pinterest make perfect sense – offer recipes, photos of the amazing dishes you serve or healthy nutrition tips. If you work for a bank, well that's a little more challenging, but you might want to stick to the 'professional' channels, namely LinkedIn.
What this all means is that the choice which social network to activate has to be closely aligned with your business objectives and value proposition. You need to know exactly what you want to achieve with your social media presence and activity.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your business is just that - yours. And it's unique. Your customers are unique. Your social media communications strategy has to be unique too.
To help you find what works best for you, here's some good insight from 140 Proof & IPG:
- People use multiple platforms based on specific needs and purposes.
- Multi-platform users see networks differently – each one is suited to specific topic areas.
- People convey different interests on different platforms.
- More than half are active on four or more networks, making a single-network focus insufficient for brands.
- People weigh in different factors to choose the appropriate network on which to connect and build relationships with others.
It's clear that people connect and engage on various platforms for different reasons and based on individual interests. Gathering and making correct use of that big social data is your first step to a successful social media presence as it allows you to develop a clear picture of people's social identities, histories and interests.
Always keep one thing in mind though: on social media it's about them, not you.
Your entire strategy should be built around adding value to your audience. That value will then get back to you.
Reciprocity – that's the great thing about social media.