How to choose the right social channel for your business

 
Social media channels to choose from
 

Social media is becoming a core part of making sure your business is found by your potential clients or customers. Trying to work out which social media is best for your business can be overwhelming.

So how do you know which social channel - Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Gplus, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn (and the list goes on) - is best for your business?

To identify the best fit channels for your business, it's a process of understanding which social media your target audience use and how people use each social media.

Tools to research your audience on social media

The first step to working out the best social media channel for your business is to start with some desktop research. 

I break this down into two categories. The first is understanding how well what you are currently doing is working and the second is looking at what your competitors are doing. 

Let's look at the specific research activities you need to do. 

  1. Reviewing your own social media statistics. The questions you want to answer are which social media channel drives the most traffic to your website and which channel delivers the best qualified leads and which channel is best at ongoing engagement with your existing or potential customers. The only way to truly understand these questions is to dig down into your website analytics. For example, by looking at the traffic referral reports in Google Analytics and the goals that have been triggered as a result of each of these channels you can quickly get an idea of the answers to these questions. 

    If you're  up for a little more analytics then you can also start using UTM tracking within Google Analytics. UTM is simply a way to tag all the links going into your website from each of your social media posts so that you can track how each individual post performs in relation to traffic, leads and sales as they come through to your website. Pretty cool huh? 

    Then there's the question of how engaging your actual content is. As a function of achieving the above, looking at how each of your posts performs from a like, share or comment will show you which if any content is actually resonating with your target audience. Accessing these types of statistics can be done with a tool such as Hootsuite or Sproutsocial. But these are paid services, so if you want to do it without the cost of these types of services, you can be old-school and actually review a good sized sampling of your posts by simply drawing up a table or spreadsheet with columns that are tallying up the comments, likes, shares etc over a period of time as well as categorising the type of content to get a feel for what works well or not. 

    If you interested in knowing a little more about Google Analytics - cause web analytics are terrific fun once you know all the insightful questions you can answer with them - and how to get the most of out of it you might be interested in top four tips to getting the most of our Google analytics

  2. Most people start on Facebook. So if this is you, there are some simple research techniques to uncover a world of information on your target audience. In the search bar within Facebook, all you need to do is search ‘pages liked by fans of [your FB page or a competitors] and look at the type of content that is being posted and what gets the most engagement. Understanding their interests and pages that they like will also help you to better target your audience. 

  3. Buzzsumo.com is a great tool to help with competitor research and understanding which social media channel your audience engages the most on. Using a keyword that best fits your topic or area of specialty, you get a heap of results that identify which social channel content for your keyword/s get the most shares. It will point to the most popular social media channel for your target audience.  

  4. Like Buzzsumo, Tagboard.com is great to discover popular content and channels but instead of using keywords, it identifies the hashtags that are being used and how popular they are with your target audience, as well as new hashtags to target.

  5. Now that you've identified a popular social media channel, spend time on the channel investigating the type of content being published and how much engagement there is. It could be that there is a large audience on the channel but very little interaction. This is sometimes the case with Facebook, where there are indications of an audience, but not much engagement. Some social media specific tools to understand how well your competitors are using specific social media channels are http://iconosquare.com/ for Instagram, http://www.twitonomy.com/ for Twitter, http://www.fanpagekarma.com/

    But truly, the best form of research you can do is get online and examine competitors in each of the social media platforms and you'll be amazed at how much you learn. Just answering questions such as how many followers they have, and how many people they follow, how they talk about their product or service, what kind of content they are posting and how many people engage with it, whether they only use their own content or if they curating content from others will give you no end of ideas on how to choose and use the best social media channel for your business.

Social media profiles 

Now that you've identified the most likely platform, you can use the following to refine and zero in on the best channel for your business. The following is a breakdown of each of the most popular social media channels with the demographics, type of audience and usage for each. 

Facebook

This is the largest of the social platforms and it’s a pretty good bet that at least some of your audience will be on Facebook. It’s becoming a very crowded platform and more difficult to engage with your target audience from a business perspective. Facebook apply an algorithm that dictates which and how many of your posts are shown to your Facebook following. It takes a lot of creativity and consistency to do well on Facebook and providing content that engages your audience is essential. You must also be prepared to put in the time to interact with your audience. There is also the benefit of advertising with some great features around lookalike audiences and user determined demographics and interests for profiling and targeting opportunities.

With a smart content strategy you can use the platform to engage on both a business to consumer and business to business basis although B2B is less common.

Another caution that comes with Facebook is the short impression lifespan of your post. It’s calculated to be about 2.5 hours. This means no one is pretty much seeing it past this point, although engagement is a little longer at 5 hours.

Think about what your audience is using the platform for and align with that. For example, a recent study indicated that mothers use it to discover new and relevant things such as food ideas and recipes, restaurants, cafes, tv shows causes or issues that they should be aware of. Men however are more likely to look for entertainment.

Contrary to reports that youth have left the platform in droves, the statistics indicate that this is not the case. It’s just that they have refined what they are using the platform for. The same study indicated that they rely on it for their news and keeping up to date. Infact it’s reported that 83% of people under 24 access the platform on a daily basis. What the younger users are not doing is interacting with each other and sharing the daily going ons. For this they have migrated to other platforms such as Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr.

Read more at http://www.adnews.com.au/news/not-old-news-83-of-young-people-still-use-facebook-daily-it-says#Ef8BrYC1dOChoz1A.99

Consider the following age of users on Facebook:

87% 18–29
73% 30–49
63% 50–64
56% 65+

Gender Wise, there’s a slight slant to female users with 77% female versus 66% are male.

You can post text, images and video. Video has become more popular in the last 6 months with a much higher engagement rate than other types of posts. Images now seeming to get a lower engagement level. It’s also important to note that Facebook does not enjoy the higher engagement rates of some of the other platforms like Instagram, but I’ve not seen any analysis on this and suggest that this may just be a number hidden in the huge volumes of posts on Facebook and/or a result of people generally not thinking content that is designed to drive engagement.  

In terms of geography, the US is the dominant set of users but in Australia there are 13.8 million users which is a good portion of the total Australian population.

In terms of income, statistics indicate (based on US users).

77% of adults who make less than $30,000 use Facebook.
74% of adults who make between $50,000-$74,999 use Facebook.
72% of adults who make over $75,000 use Facebook.
69% of adults who make between $30,000–$49,000 use Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter is for short, rapid and timely exchanges. While it’s dominated by the 140 character text, recently images and video have entered the fray and are getting a lot of cut through with followers. Twitter is a fast moving platform and posts have an even shorter life span than Facebook with posts likely to have passed from a users stream wtihin 18 minutes.

New developments that you should be aware of are the release of Blab and Periscope which are integrated with Twitter to enable live streaming of video. While it’s early days for these new tools, with the help of Twitter to spread these new ‘live’ interactions, they will likely gain traction in the coming 6 - 12 months. Afterall, they do have over 316 million active users per month.

The volume and constant turnover of new tweets means that any post is buried very quickly. This means you need to be very strategic about what, when and how frequently you are posting to Twitter in order to get any notice or interplay with your audience.

The experts also say that it’s a channel for keeping abreast of the news and latest happenings, well suited to an organisation that has a lot going on. But other companies have found great success using the channel for servicing particularly when there are issues at hand. A good example is an airline in the US that regularly monitors and responds to issues with check-in or flight departures to keep customers happy. If you have a product or service that has an element of after service care or customer interaction, then think about how you can use Twitter to put your best servicing foot forward.

The demographics for Twitter are:

37% 18–29
25% 30–49
12% 50–64
10% 65+

In terms of gender, about 24% of online users who use Twitter are men versus 21% of women.

While this indicates a younger audience, I think it’s important to look closely at your industry and what is likely to be the best fit. Consider some of the twitter tracking and management tools out there to look at the profiles of posts related to your business and get a feel for the types of content and users that are engaging. This is going to give you a better indication for your unique business.

In terms of income:

27% of adults who make over $75,000
27% of adults who make $50,000–$74,999
21% of adults who make $30,000–$49,999
20% of adults who make less than $30,000.

Instagram

Instagram seems to be the new darling of the social platforms experiencing huge growth in the last 12 months. It’s been purchased by Facebook who have now introduced advertising. It’s a visual scrapbooking app allowing photographs and short videos to be posted, users to follow each other and like, share and comment on the posts. You can also direct message people from within the app. There are limited links out of Instagram, with only the bio containing an external link.

Hashtags are where it’s at for the power user of Instagram and you need to master the use of these in order to make any headway on the platform.

Engaging with an audience on Instagram needs a very strong visual story with great images. Overly promotional images tend to get very little attention, but businesses that are creative and showcase their products or services with great imagery do very well. This is not a platform to just stick up a few pics of your product sitting on the shelves. Thought and care will need to be applied. They also filter the feed similarly to Facebook. This means that there is no guarantee that your posts will show to those that follow you, so attention to the quality of your posts is absolutely fundamental to success on Instagram now.  

A lot of businesses are finding a lot of success on this platform to bring their products and services to the attention of new audience, primarily through the use of hashtags. Other effective strategies include tagging people and hooking up with other accounts that have a big following of your target audience. 

You can also advertise on Instagram, and as it’s owned by Facebook, you get to use the same demographic and interest profiling data that Facebook provide.

In terms of age, the following are the percentage of online people that use Instagram

53% are 18–29
25% 30–49 year
11% of 50–64 year.
6% of people 65+

From a gender perspective, again, looking at the percentage of online users, 29% of users are female versus 22% male. Most users are outside of the US.

Income statistics for Instagram users are:

28% of adults making less than $30,000
26% of adults making over $75,000
26% of adults making $50,000–$74,999
23% of adults making $30,000–$49,999

Linkedin

This is the platform for business to business, but depending on your product or service, it can also be leveraged for business to consumer. It is all about the professional and there are few white collar workers that are not aware of the need to have their profile up to date on the platform if they are in the job market.

There are now in excess of 347 million members in over 200 countries - 8 million in Australia. The use of this platform is varied and requires a different strategy to the other social platforms.

It can used as a basic CRM tool to keep notes and keep in touch with your professional network, working the top of mind angle. It’s a tool that’s used a lot by sales teams for this very reason.

The other angle is publishing your content or curating useful articles to those in your network. Advertising on the platform is also gaining traction. Content needs to be on topic and relevant to your network. In addition, Linkedin uses an algorithm to compile it’s Daily Pulse, which is a curated list of articles based on the user's industry, interests etc and presented via email updates and the dashboard.

These are all very handy tools to be leveraged by a business if this is where your target audience is at.

Based on online users who use LinkedIn:

31% of adults 30–49
30% of adults 50–64
23% of adults 18–29
21% of adults over 65.

Gender Wise, it’s a pretty even split with 28% of online men versus 27% women using LinkedIn.

The platform tends to have a higher level of education with 50% being college graduates. This is reflected in higher income levels.

44% of adults making over $75,000 use LinkedIn
31% of adults making $50,000–$74,999 use LinkedIn
21% of adults making $30,000–$49,999 use LinkedIn
15% of adults making less than $30,000 use LinkedIn

Pinterest

Pinterest is another visual social platform that allows users to create pin ‘boards’ of images, picture and infographics. People use it to collect visuals around particular topics, they follow each other to see and explore the ‘pins’ they have collected. It’s become a big favourite for shoppers, with good click through rates. You can think of Pinterest as the digital version of browsing the magazine rank in the newsagency - but from the comfort of your own home.

Like Instagram you need to have very strong visuals to post. The engagement opportunities are terrific with users able to comment, like, pin to their own board or visit the website to see more. What’s not to like if you’ve got products that have a great imagery to accompany them.

There’s a strong keyword search facility within the app as well, so again some thought to commentary and descriptions will go a long way if you’re using the same language as your audience. Fashion, design, travel, food, gardening all do very well on Pinterest. The platform is dominated by women (84% are women) and if you’ve got ‘pins’ that users love, then the long tail of Pinterest goes on and on. This is quite different to all the other platforms where there is a limited post life span. Pinterest engagement with a good post has the likelihood to actually increase over time.

There are over 100 million users of Pinterest and is dominated by women with at least 60% of users under 40 years. Its most popular in the US.

34% of adults 18–29 years old use Pinterest.
28% of adults 30–49 years old use Pinterest.
27% of adults 50–64 years old use Pinterest.
17% of adults 65 and over use Pinterest .

Pinterest users tend to have more disposable income.

34% of adults making over $75,000 use Pinterest.
30% of adults making $50,000–$74,999 use Pinterest.
28% of adults making $30,000–$49,999 use Pinterest.
22% of adults making less than $30,000 use Pinterest.

Google plus

Google + users are a pretty narrow bunch. They’re mostly male, and most users are in the US, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Brazil. Typical users are in IT and engineering. It’s not a platform that is getting a lot of airplay in terms of great social platforms to help with small business. However I wanted to include it in this list for one key reason.

Having content on Google plus that links back to your website helps with your SEO rankings on Google. If you need to be ranked as part of your ‘discovery’ strategy, then make sure you put some content up now and then on a Google business page.

If you’re a business with a local presence, I would suggest that you make sure you have a Google plus account with content and a business page claiming your business. Slightly off topic - but important.  

Snapchat

Snapchat is an interesting social app mainly used by the under 24’s. It’s usually a video or image that will appear on your storyline for 24 hours or you can send to a friend and it will stay there until it is viewed. Once it’s viewed, it will ‘disappear’ within 10 seconds….

So yes, it's a challenge for businesses to work out how to engage on the platform, but as it’s one of the dominant tools for the millennials, and if they are your target audience, then Snapchat is worth investigating and getting into the ‘mood’. This is a light hearted and fun platform and if you are going to create content for the platform to engage with other users then you need to make sure you’re in step.

Total active users is now at 100 million per day and 65% of users contribute content daily. But it’s not all millennials, 45% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 18-24.

There are currently no detailed statistics on income or gender except a figure from 2013 that indicates that 70% of users are female.

Youtube

Youtube is all about video. It’s the next biggest search engine after Google. You can subscribe, share, comment and like/dislike. Over 1 billion people use Youtube.

Youtube is great for just about anything - businesses use it successfully for how to’s, information about their products, expert commentary or even recorded interactions with customers/members from Google hangouts or similar - the list goes on. Depending on the strategy you want to take you don’t need to have high production values.

The most viewed industry is electronics, but don’t let this put you off. There is likely no area not covered by someone on Youtube.

The benefit of Youtube is very much about discoverability. People search Youtube for information and entertainment, they actively share. More than this, having a presence on Youtube with links back to your website, just like Google plus will help with your search engine rankings.

In terms of who uses Youtube, the question is more like who doesn’t. While many may not go to the site itself, the videos are embedded in other social sites, websites etc

Percentage of US people who use Youtube breakdown:

72% are millenials
58% are Gen X
43% are Baby boomers

To recap …

Each of the social channels have their own particular needs and audience. You should make sure that you’re spending time on the right platform. By matching the right platform to your business based on your target audience, with the right kind of content that is relevant and useful, you will have the best possible chance of successful engagement with your potential audiences.

If you’re interested in learning more about a step by step process to analyse and identify the best approach for your business the “Increase online sales" program is all about how to find the right digital mix of social media, search, content and other tactics to increase your online sales or leads. 

 

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