How to Choose the Best Social Media Platform

29 Sep 2016
Alan Martin

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One of the most common questions I get asked is, “what social networks should I be using to reach my customers?”

The answer to that question is entirely dependant on who your ideal customer is.

Once you have identified your ideal customer you will need to find out what social media platforms they are active on, so that you can establish and maintain a presence there too.

In an Ideal World

In an ideal world, a.k.a. cloud-cookoo-land, where you have unlimited financial resources at your disposal, not to mention staff on hand to handle your every whim, you should be active on all the social media channels. Unfortunately most of us don’t live in that reality; our time is precious and we don’t want to spend it all on social media. There, I said it!! 😉

You need to pick your battles wisely and don’t bite off more than you can chew (and any other cliches you choose). It’s far better to choose two or three platforms where you can maintain an active presence for the long-term.

If you try to do too much you will not be able to keep it up and you risk potentially damaging your reputation if these accounts are left to stagnate. You don’t need to be on everything to be successful.

Choose Your Networks Wisely

So how do you know what networks to focus on?

Simple really, you find out what networks your ideal customers are using and decide which of these you are going to focus the bulk of your efforts on. But how do you know what social networks your customers are using?

Well, here are three ways you can go about finding this out!

Firstly you could just ask them! If you meet your ideal clients face-to-face you can pop this question into your conversations and record the responses you get. If you don’t often have that face-to-face contact with your ideal clients you could phone them up and ask. Alternatively you can survey your clients by email using a tool like SurveyMonkey to create a questionnaire.

Secondly, you can check data about each of the social channels that’s available online and use that to inform your decision. Each social network provides it’s own user stats. Alternatively, there are other data sources out there. Here are two that are worth checking out.

Social Networking Factsheet (source: Pew Research)

Social Media Reports (source: SocialBakers)

And lastly, if all else fails you can do a bit of sleuthing and follow the online activity of a sample of your ideal customers to see where they are hanging out online. As an extension to this, you can also have a look to see what sites your competitors are active on, but don’t stop there!

If you are going to be doing a bit of competitive analysis, make sure you take a temperature-check to see whether or not they are getting much traction. Look for signs that they are getting engagement on these platforms. Use tools such as SimilarWeb to see which network is sending them the majority of their traffic.

Don’t just choose a platform simply because your competitors are using it!

Here are a couple of useful resources that show you how your peers are spending their time on social media:

2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report (Social Media Examiner)

‘How Businesses Use Social Media’ Infographic (Hiscox)

What’s Trending

Another factor you should consider when planning your social media involvement, is what networks are popular right now and in the future. Although Facebook is still by far the dominant social network, in terms of active users, Instagram and SnapChat are the hot-tickets right now.

Instagram is where Facebook was about 5 years ago, where a lot more of your followers will see your posts and engagement levels tend to be high as well.

Other popular movers and shakers to keep your eye on are the live video streaming platforms such as Facebook ‘Live’ and Periscope, but at present they are difficult to monetise and are more about establishing ‘know’, ‘like’ and ‘trust’ rather than making sales.

Establishing an early presence on some of these emerging platforms could pay dividends in the long run as they mature and their audiences grow.

Conclusion

Don’t try to be everywhere because it’s virtually impossible to keep up an active presence on every social network and make a great job of it. You need to be smart about where you are spending your time and potentially your money, and the best way to do that is to figure out where your customers are hanging out online already, and then meeting them there on their own terms.

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