Social media marketing might be the most exciting way to reach customers, but it’s not always as easy as it looks. What seems like effortless engagement by savvy businesses is actually the end product of extensive research, scheduling and testing. The absence of those factors can transform social media marketing from a lucrative tool to a waste of time that actively turns away customers.
Why have some companies succeeded while others have failed? It’s because those who excel at social media listen to their audience and constantly tweak their strategy to respond to customer expectations. They also focus only on the platforms that work for their followers. Why waste time reaching out to a non-existent audience?
Figuring out where your customer base resides on social media is the first part of becoming a social media master. With that in mind, let’s look at each major social media platform and figure out which one is best for your business.
Social Media Platform #1 – Facebook
The Good: Despite rampant competition and changing consumer tastes, Facebook remains the largest social media platform. On Facebook, you can post any type of medium you want – text, pictures, audio or video. You can also include a caption with no character limits, and you can also include a link back to your website. The best part about Facebook, though, is that anyone who views your content can share that content with all of their followers with a simple click of a button. This can exponentially increase your audience size – if you post content that’s interesting enough for people to share.
Every business should have a Facebook account for one simple reason, and that’s for the search engines. When people Google your company, you want them to be able to find you. Having a Facebook page is a great way to create a static document of your basic facts, including your contact information. Even if you don’t use Facebook regularly, having this information posted and available to potential consumers can be highly beneficial.
The Bad: In addition to the seemingly never-ending privacy issues associated with Facebook, the platform also has demographics that may be undesirable. These days, Facebook is more synonymous with your annoying uncle’s political posts than young people looking to share their exciting lives with the world.
There’s also the issue of Facebook ads and algorithms. Because Facebook sorts its posts based on metrics regarding what each individual user is most likely to want to see, there’s no guarantee that your posts will be seen by anybody. Unless you want to pay for Facebook advertising, of course. But that’s not an issue that’s unique to Facebook, unfortunately.
The Bottom Line: Despite its flaws, and despite the fact that it’s not the cutting-edge new medium it once was, Facebook remains an essential tool for most businesses. Setting up a Facebook page is necessary for SEO purposes, and regular use should result in positive customer flow in most cases.
Social Media Platform #2 – Instagram
The Good: Instagram has become the “it” platform among Millennials and Generation Z, even though its user base is gradually getting older. Because of its varied user base, Instagram is a great way for businesses to display their products and services to the most engaged audience in all of social media. Hashtags make it easy to find other people who might be interested in a product or service you provide. And if you hate filling out long profiles and lengthy set-up processes, Instagram is the site for you; all you need is a profile image and a brief bio and you’re ready to post.
The real value in Instagram, though, is in its ability to change how people perceive your brand. As much as Instagram is derided for its emphasis on looking and being perfect, the reality is that Instagram gives both regular users and brands the opportunity to emphasize how they want to be seen by others. You can use Instagram to give people a behind-the-scenes look into your company, whether that be through showing how products are created or spotlighting individual employees. You can also create some breathtaking images by placing your products in unique and eye-catching situations. Instagram gives you plenty of ways to do this; video and Snapchat-style “stories” help businesses to show off what makes them unique.
The Bad: The reality is that not every business lends itself to the visual. If you’re an auto mechanic, for example, there’s only so much you can do through images and 60-second video clips. While there’s always a way to use Instagram to promote your business, some industries are simply better fits than others. Additionally, for all the talk about engagement on Instagram, a fair amount of that engagement comes from spam accounts, and even follower totals can be inflated via buying followers.
Perhaps the worst part about Instagram is that there’s no way to link directly to your website from a given post. As wonderful as social media marketing is, the real key to marketing is driving traffic to your website. Instagram, which doesn’t allow links in post and only allows marketers one link in their profile, doesn’t exactly make this easy. And sometimes that’s the reason why interested followers never end up making a purchase.
The Bottom Line: Instagram is a definite must for any business that cares about marketing to people below 40. Its ability to help businesses stand out is unmatched on any other social media platform. However, the fact that you can’t include links in your posts significantly inhibits your ability to promote flash sales or individual products. For that reason, relying solely on Instagram for social media marketing isn’t recommended.
Social Media Platform #3 – Twitter
The Good: Like Instagram, Twitter is extremely easy to use. You could set up a profile and start tweeting in less than five minutes, and individual posts are usually short but sweet bursts of marketing goodness. Twitter’s main strength from an advertising standpoint comes in the form of video content and paid advertising. And yes – you can have an autoplay video as an advertisement. Furthermore, Twitter’s importance in spreading the word about breaking news is second to none, so the potential to share viral content is definitely present.
But where Twitter really shines is in its ability to quickly connect companies with consumers. You always see angry travelers tweet at airlines, and you may wonder if it actually works. Well, it does work, because most businesses make it a priority to respond to customers who tweet their complaints and concerns. No company wants to look like it ignores its customers, and that’s definitely an impression you don’t want to make. That’s why it’s so important to not only have a Twitter account, but to use it frequently to respond to consumer feedback.
The Bad: In the same way that Facebook and Instagram don’t always play well together, Twitter is another social media platform with its unique set of rules. Text posts have to be 280 characters or less, which means you usually can’t copy and paste your Facebook posts onto Twitter. And while you can use hashtags in the way that Instagram users do, it comes across as tacky and desperate on Twitter. In the end, the truth is that Twitter is kind of a clunky platform for conventional social media marketing. Posts come too frequently to get any sort of assurance that your audience will see your content, and nothing on Twitter is even remotely evergreen.
The Bottom Line: Like Instagram, Twitter isn’t recommended as a standalone social media platform. But it does give marketers the opportunity to take a less-is-more approach to their marketing, and the ability to connect with customers one-on-one gives Twitter a major boost.
Social Media Platform #4 – LinkedIn
The Good: Unlike the other social media platforms we’ve discussed, LinkedIn deals primarily with B2B marketing. Also, unlike the other social media sites, members have a vested interest in using their real names and images. The connections that can be derived from LinkedIn help people each day to find new jobs, discover development opportunities and craft business partnerships. LinkedIn also has a news feed that’s usually full of educational and inspirational posts, helping people to learn something new even when they’re not actively seeking new knowledge.
For businesses, though, LinkedIn is the best way to develop contacts with outside organizations. You’ll be able to clearly see who you’re dealing with, where their strengths lie and how they can benefit your business, and the reverse is true as well. This open sharing of expertise and insights helps to break the ice between strangers with a common goal – to help their customers and grow their businesses.
The Bad: LinkedIn doesn’t possess the engaged user base of Facebook or Instagram. In fact, many people only think about LinkedIn when they’re looking for a new job. The focus on career moves is a sore point for another reason – the constant stream of recruiters who will attempt to pitch you on career opportunities you might not want. Additionally, LinkedIn is relatively useless as a B2C marketing tool.
The Bottom Line: If you can live with its limitations, LinkedIn is a valuable part of any B2B marketing campaign. Sharing content can help to cement you as a thought leader within your industry, and it’s easy to make connections and cultivate relationships. Because of the lack of daily engagement on LinkedIn, it’s easy to maintain a strong presence without spending your entire day on the platform. It’s a true win for the serious B2B marketer.
Social media is a constantly changing medium, and the features that exist on each platform today may find themselves obsolete tomorrow. You don’t have to be on every platform, but it’s a good idea to keep tabs on each one and make sure you’re not missing out on anything. Again, your ultimate goal is to be where your audience is – and that may necessitate you prioritizing certain platforms over others from time to time. Maintain a continuous effort to maximizing your social media presence and you’re bound to get a nice return on your social media investment.
Nicole Hudson is an engaging thought leader in marketing strategy development, branding, demand generation, content marketing, SEO, social media, storytelling, social selling, marketing technology and lead generation. Her firm, Inbound Lead Solutions, focuses on sales, communications and marketing alignment with B2B companies, franchising, professional services, keynote speakers, authors, and consultants. Hudson’s marketing strategies have been recognized by Franchise Media Group in two consecutive years with Star Awards for social media lead generation, and by a Dbusiness Magazine award in 2016 for Marketing Consulting. Her work has been featured in multiple LinkedIn case studies on SEO, content marketing and lead generation. She published a book collaboration with Bulldog Reporter (Infocom), The Advanced LinkedIn PR Handbook. Hudson has developed social media strategies for three national television appearances: Be the Boss, Shark Tank and Undercover Boss. Nicole is a member of the International Franchise Association, Detroit Women in Digital, and AMA Detroit. She is a board advisor for Mother Honestly, a collective of women CEOs, executives, investors and career professionals; and a board member and marketing chair for Community Home Supports, a Detroit non-profit. Hudson is a recurring columnist in Career Mastered Magazine and a regular keynote speaker, content contributor, and trainer on sales, marketing, and communication topics.