Around 1.7 billion people globally have active social media accounts, which is over 60 percent of the global population with access to the Internet. (While the global population is around 8 billion, less than half that has consistent Internet access.) Social media user growth has been scaling rapidly for over a decade.
This all probably puts your business in one of two buckets:
- You have social media, but aren’t seeing returns/don’t use it a lot: This is common for many organizations, especially some B2B ones who haven’t figured out how to optimize it yet.
- You don’t have social media: To not have social media at all is less common, but you still see it sometimes.
In either bucket — trying to get more from social or starting out entirely — you need to choose platforms wisely. If you’re on the wrong platforms relative to your business, you won’t see returns. If you’re not even on social, you want to enter on the right platforms to maximize potential business returns from using social.
A quick rundown of the major platforms
There are dozens, with new ones invented seemingly every day — and some group messaging apps (i.e. WeChat, WhatsApp) into social media too. Here we’re going to concentrate on the big fish:
Twitter: Real-time social network that has spurred along major world events such as Arab Spring and the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Typically good for brands because it can be an effective customer service channel and it’s easy to organize conversations around hashtags (#).
Instagram: Visual, mobile-first network. User base grows seemingly every minute. It is owned by Facebook, but doesn’t necessarily feel that way.
Snapchat: Has evolved in recent months/years, although potentially best known as “the social network where the messages disappear.” Now they’re doing more with augmented reality, which is technology you may remember from Pokemon Go.
LinkedIn: Considered the “professional social network,” this is less about personal updates and more about professional ones. Organizations can have pages, yes.
Google+: This never got off the ground as a place of high engagement or a rival to Facebook, but it’s still relatively important for SEO, or search engine optimization (how quickly you come up in Google rankings).
Pinterest: Predominantly visual brand favored by DIY entrepreneurs, crafting enthusiasts, etc. Small businesses have seen some benefit here, especially brands around jewelry, clothing, and the like.
How to select platforms
The Baseline: Know your audience and your ideal customer. Everything will flow from there.
If You Know That: Start with the “must-have” networks. This can vary by business model, but … in general, organizations should consider being on:
- Facebook (huge reach, and access to real profiles/targeting)
- Twitter (helps vet your company and good for customer service/conversations)
- LinkedIn (professionally vetting)
- Google+ (can help with SEO and local searches)
When should you add Instagram? If you’re a predominantly visual brand, and/or can tell stories in quick videos. An example might be … a bracelet maker, florist, etc.
What about Snapchat? Consumer goods, especially food companies, are doing big things with Snapchat. Consider this: Taco Bell created a “filter” (basically an overlay on people’s faces) for Cinco de Mayo last year, and it was viewed 224 million times. If you think your product lends itself to that type of quick, organic connection — or a dog face — consider joining Snapchat.
What about Pinterest? Best for beauty/DIY brands, but can work for others. If you sell B2B industrial farming equipment, this is probably not the place for you.
What criteria did you use to start your social media strategy? Share in the comments below. Questions for us? Please feel free to ask! We would love to help.
Ted Bauer is a freelance writer, editor, and marketer based in Fort Worth, Texas. He’s originally from New York City but has lived in many different U.S. cities. He’s worked for companies as diverse as ESPN, PBS, the Houston Independent School District, and McKesson. He blogs daily at
The Context of Things.