Picking your best social media channels

social media explained

An oldie but goody that pegs the social media languages pretty darned well

When we discover social media as a legitimate outlet for marketing and community relations, it’s hard to not want to get our fingers in all the pies.  After all, we’ve been taught to believe that more is better, and more social media has to be better, right?  The more channels we’re on, the more people will see us, the more connections we make…

Nope, sorry.  There’s far more to the decision than just “blanket the earth with your pithy conversation”.

Where is your audience?

The first thing to think about is where your target audience actually is.  If you have a retail shop, for instance, that specializes in a lot of unique and unusual items, you’re probably going to want to have some presence on Pinterest and probably also Instagram.  On the other hand, if you are more service-oriented, you’ll want to focus more on Facebook and Twitter.

What’s really the difference, though?  We’re mainly looking at two factors:  the types of content being shared on these platforms, and the types of engagement you’ll receive from each of them.  Not all social media channels are created equal – and it’s good thing, too, because otherwise there’d be no point to having more than one, and then everyone would be bored and sad and social media marketing wouldn’t work.

What kind of product or service are you providing?  When you go out on the internet to look at your competitors or vendors, what kinds of pages are coming up?  Any good artist is going to be on Instagram, nearly everyone has a page on Facebook, but who are you trying to reach if you’re putting your content mostly on YouTube?  How many people are really going to look at your Google+ page?  If you’re trying to get into business-to-business types of markets, or you need to establish your credentials professionally, you can’t forget LinkedIn.

Especially when you’re first starting to put your social media strategy together, pick three good channels and focus on them for at least three months (if not six) to see how they respond.  If you already have all the channels and you feel overwhelmed, pare you favorites down to three and only repost specific content to the rest.  Measure, test, repeat.

How is your audience reacting on those channels?

Facebook, of course, has the biggest global audience, but the rate of engagement is a little low compared to, say, Twitter.  Part of this is that, as a business, your content does not get preferential treatment on your audience’s feeds unless you pay to boost your posts.  (Hey, they have to make money somehow, right?)  The only way around this is really to make your content so compelling that your audience organically shares it.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m actually an advocate of paid social advertising, both in boosting posts and paying directly for advertising – but especially when you’re starting out, you’ll need to lean heavily on your personal network to really get the word out.  What’s the return?  We’ll get into that a little later, but the bottom line here is that keeping track of your engagement metrics is going to be key to determining your ROI.

Twitter people are much more likely to react in a material way to communications via that channel, including being more likely to act on a recommendation, sign a petition, and take part in an “outernet” experience.  That’s the good news.  The not-so-good news is that the average lifespan of a tweet is only about eight hours, so if you wrote the tweet to end of tweets in all of its glory, the internet will only remember for a short time.  Even truly epic tweets will generally only last a couple of days.  It takes a lot of effort to feed this beast, but, if you have the right call to action, you can get good traction from it.  Twitter also has paid social advertising, though, and that’s yet another way to drive traffic, so keep that in mind when you’re setting out your budget.

Pinterest hasn’t been around quite as long as I’d like to be able to truly determine it’s full ROI, but I know there are lots of companies that have been doing very well.  There are people who would refute this statement, but in my experience, it’s not quite as prime time as some of the older sites.  That has everything to do with the motivation of the people using that channel.  Shopping?  Sure!  Services? Eh…. maybe, but it’s a stretch.  Likewise, Instagram has only a narrow range of call-to-action options, so while it’s a great idea for artists and restaurants, it should only be considered a support channel.  Your calls-to-action will generally happen elsewhere.

What to do with your favorite social media sites

The reason you want to pare down your choices is that businesses rely most on creating content rather than re-sharing.  (Re-sharing is important, but we’ll get into that in a different article.)  That means that you have to take time to convert your message into graphics and copy that translate well into the channels that you’ve chosen.  And it’s not like it’s a one-off thing:  you have to create a lot of content.

Depending on the cadence of your business (do you need to sell several things a day like in a retail shop, or do you only need to sell a few houses per month), you might need to post and re-post anywhere from a few times a week to several times per day.  Twitter feeds can tolerate five to ten posts per day in most cases, as long as you’re not getting to “sale-sy”.  Facebook is good for sometimes only once per day, maybe twice, as long as some of your posts are boosted.  Pinterest tolerates a good volume of posts, though their engagement rates are highly volatile depending on the quality of your pin.  Instagram runs at the speed of your camera, but boring or repetitive content will lose you followers.

Here, the most important thing is to remember that content is always king.  Valuable advice, compelling imagery, and clear calls-to-action have to be the norm – and that kind of pressure can be exhausting if you’re trying to provide content to sixteen different social media channels.  Create a solid calendar of when you think you should post things to which channels, and then map your content according to that.  Keep an eye on the popular calendar so that you know to make special posts for holidays, special birthdays, etc., and remember to tailor your business according to that as well.

You definitely want to add your blog to that calendar as well, especially since that’s a major source of content for your social media channels, but we’ll talk more about blogs in a separate post.

Need some help putting together your calendar?  Tell me all about it.

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