Our use of social media as a communications tool is now well established, with benefits ranging from the speed with which we can share information, to a surprisingly effective way to deliver customer service.
In 2015 we have more social tools available to us than ever before and it can be difficult to decide which is best for your audience. Many of the newer social networks are not established long enough for us to see how they will work for us in marketing, so we’re breaking new ground when we try them.
This guide (although it’s not exhaustive) might help as seeing them all in one place is interesting and the right ones may just jump out.
Before we begin, there is a process that is worth following:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is your objective?
- Do you have the resource and time in-house to manage social media?
Once you have the answers to these it’s easier to choose which and how many of these you can realistically maximise. Here we go:
Established in 2004 it’s nearly the oldest of the current popular social networks. Its attraction is that it’s mainstream, everyone including next-door’s cat has a profile and we’re more comfortable because we think we know it. It now has 1.4 billion monthly active users worldwide.
It’s best for reaching the 25+ audiences, not the teen demographic that may have once been the case. In fact there is evidence that younger Facebookers have been voting with their feet over the past 18 months.
Facebook advertising is effective as it so highly targeted and possibly becoming essential if you want to achieve reach as its algorithm now makes it harder to engage organically.
Almost as old as Facebook, Twitter launched in 2006 as a micro-blogging service allowing tweets no longer than 140 characters to be posted. Engagement occurs with sharing content but also starting conversations with interesting people. It’s good for connecting with journalists for example and wider business networks than just your local ones.
In the UK it remains popular and in particular amongst 18-44 year old users, but it does have a good spread of users across all age groups.
It’s a heavily used medium by consumers, many expecting instant customer service via Twitter, but it’s extremely effective for businesses too.
Twitter now offers advertising options although it still comes in expensive compared to other networks, the service being heavily aimed at big brands. Its advertising targeting options are improving though, so one to watch.
The oldest one in this bunch! LinkedIn was established in 2003, that’s 13 years ago and it now has 84 million users in Europe alone. Used properly it’s a great network for developing contacts and good for recruitment.
It’s not so relevant to segment this by age demographic as if you’re a professional businessperson it’s by far the best social network to join and most of us have.
Its advertising platform is highly targeted and for B2B is worth a look both for recruitment and promoting B2B products and services. EConsultancy shares some really useful tips for this.
Simple but really effective for any consumer business (B2C) as it’s all about images. Because this is highly visual it is tempting to think it can’t work for B2B but it does – you just have to think laterally about the sort of imagery that works for your business. It’s perfect for retail. In 2014 it had 70 million registered users worldwide.
The demographic was thought to be mainly female but men are its fastest growing demographic and the stats seem to say that it’s most popular with 25-34 and then 35-44 age bracket.
It launched its advertising model in 2014, which has been criticised for being quite basic, but this shows signs of improving in 2015.
Snapchat launched in 2011 based on the concept of photo and video messaging by sending images to a controlled number of recipients. The pictures are known as “snaps” and have a time limit before they disappear (between 1 – 10 seconds for a picture and 24 hours for a story). In 2014 this network was estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users.
According to Business Insider Snapchat is the youngest social network of all with more than six out of ten users in the 18-24 age group.
As a business you really need to be targeting that teen demographic to get any value from this network.
It has now introduced an advertising model but this is currently reported as being too expensive for all those except the big brands.
Another micro-blogging platform Tumblr was launched in 2007, allowing users to post multimedia and other content, which forms short blogs. Users can then follow other blogs and gain followers to their blog. It has more than 420 million at the last count in 2014 and is now owned by Yahoo.
It’s still popular with the 16-24 year old age group and if your content hits the mark with this demographic it’s worth setting up an account.
Since it introduced advertising businesses have had some success with targeted messages, with the right approach.
Launched in 2010, Instagram now has more than 300 million monthly active users. It’s driven by images and now videos – pictures that you take, then edit and share across social media and is now owned by Facebook (as of 2012).
It’s demographic is younger people, 41% of users in the 16-24 age bracket and 35% 24-35s and there’s a roughly equal split between male and female.
Instagram introduced its advertising model in 2014 in the UK, where businesses can sponsor posts. Initially adopted again by big brands it is now more mainstream and has just rolled out a new advertising format. This allows advertisers to add links on their posts, back to their website.
Previously sponsored posts have just been showcase images with no option to follow a link. Instagram has its own blog specifically to help businesses.
Finally, a word about Google+
We’ve left this last as we’ve found it one of the least “social” of the social networks for business. That said, it is essential for SEO and there are some businesses that find it useful as a network as the hangouts feature is good.
Laura’s blog on local SEO examines this network in more depth and how we find it to be most useful. That’s just my view of course!