Vinay’s note – Social media has grown into an incredible opportunity for business owners, but it has also grown more complicated. There are now more options than ever, so how do you know where to direct your time and resources for optimum ROI? Anna Wickham cuts through the BS with this guide to choosing the right social media channel, no matter what kind of brand or business you lead.
Social media has changed dramatically since its inception. What started as a way for individuals to connect and communicate is now a powerful tool that every business should be taking advantage of to cultivate their audience, engage their users and increase revenue.
While social media has grown into an incredible opportunity for business owners, it has also grown more complicated. There are now more options than ever. Do you need an Instagram profile? Should you get in on Snapchat and Periscope before they get too big? Should you have Facebook and Twitter, or just choose one? How do you know where to direct your time and resources for optimum ROI?
We’ve cut through the BS to create the ultimate modern guide to choosing the right social media channel, no matter what kind of brand or business you lead.
Why do I have to choose just one?
“I actually think the time for ‘pick 1 channel where your customer is’ has passed. As consumers, many of us use different channels for different purposes.
“I use Facebook for keeping up with my friends and engaging with business groups. I use LinkedIn for professional networking, connecting with journalists and inviting people to my business events.
“… A multi-channel digital strategy ensures that you reach your clients on the various channels that they engage in.”
If you have the resources and manpower to kill it on several social media channels, feel free. But if you’re just getting started, it’s possible you are underestimating the time commitment it takes to be successful on just 1 social media channel.
Here’s the important part: whichever social media channels you choose to participate in, you must be active, engaged and consistently put out quality content. Without giving it your best, you won’t succeed, regardless of how well the channel meets the criteria below.
Additionally, each social media network is different and requires different content, different kinds of engagement, and different activity altogether.
Chansamooth adds, “You want to customize your content so that it feels native to the platform that you’re serving it up on. So that means you can’t take one image formatted for Facebook, and then auto-post to Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, as that’s an immediate fail.”
We recommend starting out with just 1 social media channel, based on the criteria below. Once you start to gain momentum, use that channel to learn more about the content your audience loves, then begin to systematize and/or delegate that channel, and start to add on others.
Shouldn’t we all just be on Facebook?
You might be reading this and thinking, “Why is this even a question? We should all just be on Facebook because it has the most people. Done and done.”
You wouldn’t be wrong; Facebook has more active users than any other social media network by a landslide.
Image via Kissmetrics
In addition, Facebook has richer data on its users than any other social media network, making it easier to gain insights about your audience (their age, their location, their interests and much, much more), as well as use those insights to reach users with highly targeted ads.
But despite these advantages, Facebook comes with lots of disadvantages as well. As the pioneer of social media “pay to play,” Facebook organic reach has been declining for years. Most business pages can expect less than 10% reach organically without coughing up advertising dollars.
Additionally, visibility is more and more of a challenge due to the quality of competition. Because everyone is on Facebook, you are competing with brands who have much more to spend to not only gain attention through expensive advertising campaigns, but also to gain attention organically. You’re competing against the biggest brands in the world, all of whom have thousands and thousands of dollars to create the most compelling content out there.
Instead of fighting it out with the best of them for attention on Facebook, use our advice below to get more attention from those who matter most, all while spending less time and money.
How to choose your social media platform
Go where your target audience hangs out
You don’t need to be where the whole world hangs out. You only need to be where your target audience hangs out. It’s possible you can reach your target audience more easily with other relatively smaller platforms that are more concentrated with your target audience – and do so with less time investment and less money.
In order to do this, you must first know exactly who your target audience is and what they care about. If you’re not sure, create a competitor/peer report. Look at your top competitors or even non-competitors who share the same target audience as you. Then look at where they invest their resources online. What social channels are they on? If they are active on multiple social media channels, where are they getting the most engagement?
Another way to find out where your target audience will be most receptive online is to… wait for it…. ask them! Email your customers and ask them:
- Where do you spend the most time when you’re on social media?
- What’s your favorite platform and why?
- Where would you prefer to engage with our brand?
These tips will help you find a great place to start. From there, use the 7-Day Startup philosophy: get going, and determine – based on your results – where to pivot if you need to or where to invest more in what’s working.
Ask yourself, “What is my real goal?”
One other thing you need to consider before choosing your social media network is your ultimate objective. Of course, the immediate goal is engagement and channel profile growth. But to what end?
While the end goal of every business is to generate revenue, different brands have different goals for their social media strategy. For example, your goal may be strictly conversion-based. Karl Kangur, partner at MonetizePros.com, explained his goal this way:
“The one and only thing we focus on when choosing a social media platform that deserves our attention is analytics and goals. If a channel is converting and getting us sales or leads, that’s the focus. Traffic for traffic’s sake is pointless.”
On the other hand, you may have a different objective. Chris Marr, founder of Content Marketing Academy, thinks about it this way:
“Business has never been just about ‘leads and sales’. That’s an outcome from other activities. It’s about reputation, credibility and trust – that’s why people will buy from you or even spend time with your content on a platform.
“A social media platform that allows me to connect with people that I want to get to know better (and vice versa) and get in front of, will get my attention.
“So, for me, social media platforms are network growth and relationship building tools, and a platform that facilitates strong connections well is where I will spend most of my time.”
There is no wrong answer, but you have to do some soul-searching and determine why you’re interested in playing the social media game in the first place. Determining your purpose will help you choose the channel that works best for you.
Go where you can afford to play
Remember all of that great data you have access to when you engage with your following on Facebook?
That’s not cheap.
More advanced social media platforms like Facebook (and increasingly, Instagram) are better suited to people with budgets that allow them to spend on paid options. If you have no budget, you are probably better off looking at emerging platforms who haven’t yet kicked their monetization fully into gear.
Another way to look at it is like this: you may not have the advantage over massive international brands when it comes to your Facebook advertising budget. But believe it or not, you do have advantages over them. You have agility and probably a personal aspect of your brand that large corporate brands couldn’t match if they tried.
Your best bet is to find a platform that accentuates your strengths – and if a big ad budget isn’t one of those strengths, then work in an arena where you don’t have to pay so much to play. Invest less time in Facebook and more time in newer platforms like Snapchat or Periscope.
Do what you enjoy
It can take time to gain momentum on social media, no matter what network you choose. When you’re choosing a social media platform in which to invest time and resources, you’re looking for something to use for the long haul. That’s why it’s best to pick one that you genuinely enjoy using.
If you don’t enjoy using a social media platform, you probably aren’t going to be very good at it. Additionally, you probably aren’t going to use it enough to be as consistent and engaging as you need to be in order for it to work well for your business.
Carla Papas of The Merrymaker Sisters shared her perspective with us:
“It’s REALLY important to enjoy where you are on social media. Your enjoyment and love for what you do shines through in the content you share. So if everyone is telling you, ‘You gotta be on Instagram,’ but you freaking hate it, then don’t be there.
“Your audience isn’t just on Instagram. Same goes for creating content. If you prefer to make videos than write, then do that! Focus on what you love to do, then it will organically grow because A) you’re spending more time there, and B) people will be attracted to your enthusiasm.”
Do what you’re good at
There’s not much point using YouTube if you suck at videos. No point in using Instagram if you can hardly take (or make) a decent image to save your life. Your social media channel should not only be a good fit for your audience and your industry, but a good fit for you. Choosing a social media channel is like choosing an outfit to wear: yes, it should be appropriate for the occasion. But it also needs to look good on you.
Marie Forleo is a great example. She’s not super active on many other platforms, but she’s heavily into video because she can do it really well. As a result, she has grown her YouTube channel to more than a quarter million followers since she started.
Marie even talked about this decision in one video:
“Rather than trying to do it all, I actually focus on the critical few things that make the biggest impact in my business and my life.”
Do what’s working now
A common gripe I hear from business owners is that reach is being limited on channels such as Facebook. This is true, and it’s frustrating. But instead of continuing to invest time and money in a strategy that isn’t providing ROI, stop using what’s not working and start doing what’s working now. It may not work as well next year. But in the meantime, you’ll be growing your tribe and getting results. If things change down the line, you can adapt then.
Take, for example, The 7-Day Startup Facebook group. Gaining reach organically with a Facebook business page may be futile, but the monetization hasn’t hit Facebook groups hard (yet), and the engagement there is huge.
Another way to capitalize on what’s working now is to get in on the early stages of a new social media channel, as we talked about above. Social media channels just starting up need users and engagement more than they need anything, so they aren’t going to limit your reach. In fact, they’ll do everything they can to help you. There is also less competition on these platforms, so it’s easier to gain a following.
To illustrate this point, consider Chris Ducker and his use of Periscope. Chris has been using Periscope religiously for months and now has more than 14,000 followers. This kind of growth in such a short period of time today on Facebook and even on Twitter would be impossible. Check out Chris’s guide to using Periscope to build your personal brand.
Do what works for you
It’s easy to get caught up in generic advice you read online that says you “need to be on Facebook” to be a legitimate brand, to compete with your peers in the market, or even for SEO reasons. Instead, do what is working for you, even if it goes against the general advice that’s out there.
For example, WP Curve is a $1 million company with a minuscule social media following on its accounts. You may not be building your empire the same way as everyone else, but doing it your way is the best way to get results in the long run.
The channel which you can consistently create content for in a low-friction way
Once you choose your social media channel, you will be spending A LOT of time creating content for this channel. Therefore, choose one that you’ll be able to do easily, consistently and joyfully. Low-friction is key: if it isn’t easy for you to consistently create the kind of content that the social media network calls for, you’re going to be in trouble.
Let’s look again at Chris Ducker’s brand: it’s easy for him to create live streams every day. For some, it would be their personal hell because it’s not their “thing.” But Chris loves it. As a result, he has made it work, not just with engagement, but with sales. Chris said in a recent podcast that he once sold more than 50 memberships on a single “Duckerscope.”
Which networks are declining and which are emerging
As we already talked about, getting in on the ground floor of a new social media network has multiple advantages. Not only should you prioritize social channels that are on their way up, but you should avoid social channels that appear to be on their way out like the plague.
Gary Vee is the king of social media early adoption. He was on the ground floor when YouTube was just starting up and is now a crusader for Snapchat, another platform that is growing wildly and is fertile ground for reach and engagement, all without having to pay to play (at least for now).
Another example is Frank Body, the coffee bean exfoliant company that incredibly went from 0 to 350,000 Instagram followers in 12 months back in 2013. In today’s Instagram climate, this is essentially impossible to replicate. But what you can do instead is find the Instagram of 2016 and get to hustlin’.
So what is the Instagram of 2016? Some great contenders include Snapchat, other messaging apps like Kik or Whatsapp, and Anchor, a new social network focused on audio content.
On the other hand, which social media networks are a bad idea to get started with in 2016?
Many experts believe that Twitter is not a good investment at this point in time, especially if you’re just choosing to start a social media channel. Google+ and LinkedIn may also be on the way out.
There’s a certain amount of speculation involved in determining what might happen in the future with social media, but combine your instincts with the other criteria in this article and you’re sure to find a good place to get started.
Consider doing what you can delegate and scale
Before you stake your claim in a particular social media strategy, think about the future. Whether you’re a small business, you’re working on your personal brand or you’re developing a new startup, you – the founder – are most likely the one to operate social media. But you have to consider how your process will allow for scale and delegation in the future. You will hopefully not always be the one to single-handedly operate your social media channel, so think about who will take over your work and how they’ll do it.
If a social media channel is not easily scalable, beware. It may put you into a tough position in the future after you have grown a following in a place that doesn’t allow for scale and delegation. In Content Machine, Dan talked about why he stopped doing his podcast and focused on written content shared on Twitter and Facebook. The primary reason was that podcasting isn’t as easily scalable and delegation-friendly.
“Snapchat is for building rapport and deeper relationships, not so much for new customer acquisition. At Foundr, when we were ready to scale, we tested many different social channels and found that Instagram was one of the most effective sources for FREE customer acquisition for a bootstrapped startup. So we focused on that channel and mastered it, so much to the point we’ve generated 100,000-plus leads and counting, and built our following on Instagram from zero to 700,000 in 16 months.”
However, if you have a personal brand, you may find that the benefits of these social channels outweigh the disadvantage of their lack of scalability. For example, Marie Forleo will always be the star of her YouTube channel. She can’t build herself completely out of that process. That’s okay because it’s Marie’s personal brand. People tune in to see her, not someone else.
The same situation applies with Chris Ducker and his live videos. There is no version of his Periscope strategy that doesn’t require him being live each day on Periscope. But that’s okay if the strategy works for you and you take all of this into consideration before getting started, rather than regretting it later once you’ve invested in a strategy you can’t build yourself completely out of. The key is to keep these things in mind from the beginning so there are no surprises later.
There’s a lot to consider when you need to determine where your brand will invest time and energy with social media. With daily changes and updates to each network as well as new networks coming onto the scene all the time, it’s a challenge to stay focused and build something worthwhile that bolsters your brand.
If you start by identifying your goal and making sure you understand your audience, and then consider what fits with your personality and brand strategy using the tips above, you will be on your way to social media success, no matter which network you decide to pursue.