The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Business of Social Media: Creating Clients & Customers, Not just Likes and Followers.
This chapter was based on a question that I am asked all the time – what platforms should I be on and what are the differences? Below are the answers. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions on what platforms are best for you and your business. Comment away!
The Focus Platforms – No, You Don’t Have to be on Them All
“Being everywhere means being nowhere.” – Michel de Montaigne
The biggest decision when starting a digital strategy is to determine where you should be. What is the difference between each platform and how will they help to represent your brand?
Knowing each platforms’ differences, matched with your Power of 5 strategy will help you to determine exactly where you should be online. Do you need to be on every platform? My answer is no. You need to be where your target demographic is.
I know that there are social media experts and agencies that will tell you that you need to be on every platform to reach everyone on the planet. Yet, if you are pitching to your niche, like you should be, then that is not only unnecessary, it is unrealistic for almost every small business and entrepreneur I know. If your plan is to one day have a full time marketing department, then by all means, be present on every platform. Until then, pitch to your nitch and stay where your target demographic is.
There are really four main platforms that you should choose from when you start your social media presence. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. They have been around the longest and currently, have the largest amount of worldwide users.
Some folks aren’t big fans of Facebook. My answer to that is that you haven’t seen the power of their targeted ads if that is how you feel about it. For a small business marketer this platform is the stuff of dreams.
Is it perfect? No. But no other social media platform has convinced its users to share more information organically that can be used for extremely targeted ad campaigns.
Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users as of the time of this writing. This is the largest amount of users on any social media platform and it only continues to grow year over year.
Out of those 2 billion monthly active users, there are 1.23 billion mobile daily active users. Do you need any other information to convince you that everything you do needs to be mobile friendly?
Another stat for you – Facebook has over 1.23 billion DAILY active users.
Why is this an important stat? Because it shows that not only does Facebook have a ton of people who use its platform, but that they use it daily and consistently. This loyalty from a fan base is exactly what you want when you are deciding where to market your product or business. But also remember, because they are consistent in their efforts, they expect the same from the pages they follow.
Facebook is a game of posting consistently. When an audience is on a platform daily, they expect the same from their fan pages. If you post once a week, maybe less, than you will not only lose the faith of your fans, but your reach will plummet.
Facebook rewards those that post often and pay to play. The algorithms can be beat but you need to understand how they work before you can manipulate the rules. It is one of my favorite sayings – know the rules, so that you know how to break them. I’m not sure who actually said that, but I was always the girl that wanted to constantly hit the red button, you know, the one that everyone constantly tells you not to push.
(Facebook stats from Facebook 2/1/17)
Testing and measuring, playing with the limits and fighting to work outside the norm is what social media is all about. The rules of traditional marketing have been turned on their head. What worked yesterday is now obsolete. Try a new method and strategy – push your limits to break through.
Social media is all about finding new buttons to push on every platform. What works today may not work tomorrow. It is a game of constant refining and re-focus, which is often why my customers will come to me. Keeping up with your own industry is hard enough, trying to keep track of the daily changes on social media? Clearly it is a career all in itself.
Instagram is Facebook’s little brother. Literally – Facebook bought Instagram a few years back and have consistently worked to create algorithms and challenge the new platforms on the block like Snapchat. Instagram is the platform for your company if you present your products or services best through images. It can be a bit tricky to post since you can’t schedule it to go automatically, but let’s look at the stats.
There are 600 million monthly users and 400 million active daily users. 80% of these users are from outside the US, with 20% being approximately 78 million people. So while it doesn’t necessarily stack up to the behemoth that Facebook is, it is growing and it is also powered by Facebook and their ads manager.
The ability to set up an ad campaign in Facebook and have it run on both platforms for one price is invaluable for a small business on both platforms. The statistics you can glean let you know where you should be focusing your efforts and how to tweak your efforts on each platform.
There are two things that I wish were different about Instagram. It is not a click through site – meaning that you cannot link your posts to any website. You can put the URL in the comments or description, but those seeing the posts need to copy and paste it in their browser instead of a direct link. The only place to have a live link is on your profile summary. Therefore if you have a blog you need to change that url often. It isn’t a deal breaker for most companies, but it does present a challenge that Pinterest does not have.
The other aspect of Instagram that makes marketing on the platform a bit trickier is the inability to schedule a post for later publishing. Instagram only allows you to post from your phone. While you may be able to see the posts on your desktop, you have to have your phone in order to post the image.
Twitter is a different beast from Facebook and Instagram. Every day it is a toss-up as to whether it will continue to fight and actually make a profit. As of this writing it is still struggling but everyone is paying attention to it. The current US President uses it so much that you would think he has saved it, but alas, that is not really the situation. I would argue that more people are paying attention to it because of President Trump, but the number of users has not drastically increased, nor has the profit for the company. Yet time will tell if this continues to be true.
Twitter* currently has 313 million monthly users with 79% of them being outside of the US. This is only slightly behind Instagram, yet this platform has a completely different demographic. Its 140 character posting limit creates unique challenges and opportunities for companies when working to build relationships. It is a fast moving platform where you need to focus on the trending tweet of the day and get in on the conversations.
(*Twitter stats from Twitter.com)
So what type of company is Twitter best suited for? Personal coaches, entrepreneurs, small businesses, B2C focused companies and those that are focused on the daily news. Twitter literally has the pulse of what is trending in the world.
Each day when you bring it up there are a list of 5 to 10 trending topics. Add a hashtag to your post and get in on a conversation. Those that reach out will tell you that they can get a solid funnel of clients from Twitter.
This is an excellent sister platform for Facebook. You can send people to your Facebook account in a post or a DM. It is one of the few platforms where people are genuinely trying to connect with strangers. You don’t see a lot of kids and puppy posts. This is somewhere where people go to share information and to attain it quickly. They will search for advice and help, while connecting with others who share the same interests.
The platform for business is LinkedIn. That being said, I don’t love the LinkedIn business pages. I think that they are a total waste of time for many reasons, but the main reason is because LinkedIn is built on the idea of individuals connecting. It was designed as an online business networking and recruiting tool where individuals could go for new opportunities or to share their own openings. As an individual profile though, LinkedIn can be invaluable.
The goal on LinkedIn is to be active and present. The best times to post are in the morning, and usually in the middle of the week. The second best times are around the lunch hour and about an hour before the end of the day. You want to post valuable content that your colleagues will want to read. Whether it is sharing a post from another site or writing one yourself on their publishing platform, the key is to make it relevant and useful.
LinkedIn can definitely be a place for inspirational images and the sharing of what is happening in the office, but remember it is more of a place to connect with other professionals. Always think of LinkedIn as a networking group. You want to know more about others than talk about you – so make sure you share insights of your industry and not just your business all the time. No one likes a constant braggart.
The last of the major platforms is YouTube.
This is where if you have information to share in video form – do it here.
Side Note – I am going to contradict myself here a bit. If you are on Facebook, do what you can to keep your video native to Facebook. Post other content, longer content on YouTube. On pretty much any other platform a link to YouTube works just fine. But Facebook doesn’t like you to play outside of its platform so it will automatically boost a native video and let a YouTube one die. Not fair, I know, but true in many cases. Not all, but many.
YouTube has over a billion users. So out of all the platforms it is the only one rivaling Facebook in users. Every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube.
Let that sink in – hundreds of millions.
This clearly generates billions of views. Its main demographic are those from 18 – 49 and more than half of the people watch videos on their mobile.
(Stats from YouTube.com)
If you provide solid content then people will watch for hours. However, you need to catch someone within the first minute to hook them. I won’t watch a video much longer than 10 minutes, but my husband will be on there for hours for a video that catches his interest. This leads squarely back to who is your target demographic.
This platform also lets you monetize your videos. This is excellent if you are creating consistent, valuable content. This is not a quick income generator. It can take some time, yet again, if you are consistent and build a strong following, it can be a fantastic revenue stream.
The runner-up platforms are Pinterest, Snapchat and Houzz.
Pinterest is a platform based on images. Therefore if your company is on Instagram, then once you have nailed it there, you should expand to Pinterest. There are 150 million active users on Pinterest with 60% female and 40% male. One surprising fact is that Millennials now make up 67% of users and for many online shoppers (55%) Pinterest is their favorite social media platform.
(Facts from expandedramblings.com and Pinterst.com 2/2017)
There are a lot of bonuses to being on Pinterest. One of them being that Pinterest is a click through site.
You can make every pin forward to a website once someone clicks it. So if it is not pointing straight back to your website then you can make that happen. Obviously you wouldn’t change an article destination, or mess with a link of some content that you did not create. The ability to change the source URL or destination website after you click it can blur the lines of ethics for some.
Pinterest also doesn’t require much interaction but it does require pinning. You need to be consistent with pinning daily. This is where one of those pinning programs that will seek pins for you based on your boards and interests can be helpful if you aren’t pinning your own content daily, or don’t have enough of it to pin.
What is enough? Ten to twenty pins a day will keep your account active, but with Pinterest, more is better. It allows you to reach your demographic and stay top of mind with your followers by having Pinterest suggest your new pins when someone opens up their feed. And don’t worry about having every pin relate to your exact subject. Some of the best Pinterest boards for companies are simple, like the color of their brand. Love hot pink? Make it a board. Redoing your kitchen? Make it a board. People flock to those with like interests. It is the PERSON behind the pinning that people are following. That is actually true for any platform, but that’s another chapter.
Snapchat is a newer platform where up until now it may not make sense for a business to jump on the bandwagon. They have 158 million daily users and 301 million active monthly users. There are 2.5 billion snaps sent per day. Yes, billion with a B.
(Facts from expandedramblings.com)
They have recently introduced a search function which allows people to find trending topics and other hot stories, where that was not an option previously. If you didn’t know a persons name on Snapchat, then you couldn’t find them. It looks like they are working to refine their features because Facebook is gunning for them.
Facebook offered to buy Snap a few years ago and after they refused their offer they have been intent on copying every successful feature of Snapchat. But who is Snapchat for? I’m glad you asked.
Snapchat is a platform designed for younger audiences – teenagers and early twenties are the dominating force. Yes, there are some older demographics, but the number of younger users far outweighs the number of older ones.
Is that your target demographic? The other question when determining if Snapchat is ideal for your business is how often can you create organic, in the moment stories? Do you love video? Then it may be the perfect platform for you. This is not ideally a platform you have hired out by some other company to do. You need to be present and active on this platform, with your company’s spokesperson as the shining star.
We also have Houzz. If you have never heard of Houzz then you haven’t had to do a home remodel or build in the past few years. This platform was created by a couple who wanted gorgeous images to browse through when they were redoing their home from multiple contractors, designers, builders, etc. There are 40 million active users on the platform with 25 million unique visitors every month. There are over 4 million photos and over 3 million products for sale on Houzz as well.
(Facts from expandedramblings.com)
If you are in the business of dealing with home restoration, renovation or remodel then you should have a profile on Houzz. This is where you highlight your best projects but interaction is key to really gaining clients on Houzz. They have an entire section for prospective clients to ask design dilemma problems and every time you post an image, anyone can ask you for the color of the paint to the type of flooring you used. You need to be prompt in replying and answer with the idea that even if this person may not be your ideal customer, your reply to their comment could be seen by your ideal demographic and how you respond could be what makes them pick up the phone.
Houzz does have what they call the Pro plan. Every client that I have worked with has not found value in this plan. It costs a lot of money for very little return. You can get just as much exposure on the site by uploading images to your Ideabooks weekly and answering questions for users on a bi-weekly basis. I am sure that there are some businesses that have benefitted greatly from the plan, but I haven’t found any of them.
One client recently shared with me that they don’t work regularly on Houzz anymore because Houzz has decided to sell their own products online, basically cutting out the designer who may have that item in their warehouse. This is in direct competition to many businesses and they have felt betrayed. For the consumer it is a win, yet something to think about when you begin your Houzz profile. Do you sell products? I would highlight your expertise instead. People buy from people – if they like you and your business because you have been helpful and informative, they will buy from you and not Houzz.
While I was writing this book a brand new platform popped up which could be a game changer for many businesses who sell products on Amazon. It is called Amazon Spark. Amazon Spark is currently only available for Prime members and you need to spend a minimum amount on Amazon to qualify. Lucky for you, I do and so I was able to get a sneak peek on this brand new platform.
It is a merging of what many love about Instagram and Pinterest. It allows you to post images of what you are doing or loving at the moment with the added bonus of being able to buy what you see in the picture – right then and there with the click of a button. This is an online shopper’s paradise.
When you open your account, you choose from multiple different interests (women’s fashions, toys and games, books, etc) and are shown a feed from others who are posting about these interests. These interests are directly related to the sales categories on Amazon. I was trying to search for a broad Kids interest and it wasn’t there, but babies or toys and games was ready for me to choose.
This platform was built with two things in mind – the Influencers of the digital world and people who love instant gratification. I’m not lying, I wanted to purchase an adorable Coach purse last night after only being on the app for less than ten minutes. This could be excellent for those selling products on Amazon, possibly bad for my pocketbook. Yet this is exactly what we want from a social media platform, something set up with a specific purpose – you know Amazon is trying to sell you something so you expect it – and delivers actual clients and customers.
There are paid posts denoted by the #sponsor note that tells you when someone is advertising yet it is just another picture – there are no words on the images as of now and you barely know it’s a sponsored post. All of the posts, whether sponsored or not, if they have an item or one similar that they sell on Amazon are highlighted by a small shopping bag and dots on the picture that pop up once you click on it.
This has the capacity to be HUGE but it could also die quickly like a number of other platforms come and gone. But since Amazon powers this one, I’m going to bet on a successful run and large growth potential.
Are there additional platforms out there? Of course. There is Tumbler and Medium for bloggers, Google Plus, and multiple other small ones that are working to be the next Facebook.
Medium is excellent for additional exposure for your blog, but it’s not necessarily as well known so it makes a great extra avenue for those playing in the blogosphere or testing out new content. Tumbler has been around since 2007 and has a massive blog – over 280 million to be exact. So if you are blogging – this is another space to play in.
Google Plus is like the red headed stepchild of the social media world. You have some people that swear by the platform and absolutely love it and then you have the other side of the spectrum where it is useless and only one more way for Google to gain information about you for search results. I tend to lean on the latter end of the spectrum.
The only reason I recommend to my clients that they have a Google plus page is so that Google will help them to be found quicker. Google scans Google sites, so ensuring your business is seen and has a space here is important for search rankings. But don’t worry about posting, unless you love it, then by all means, go for it.