social media icons for article right social media platform - Allen Stafford
Audio Version — 8:19

The Rise of Social Media Platforms

social media hand sketch illustrationDigital technology, devices, the surging popularity of the internet, and the human need to stay connected have given rise to many social media sites and other virtual communities over the past 20-years. Social media’s popularity continues to accelerate with no sign of slowing soon, allowing marketing professionals to connect their brands with customers.

Ninety-two percent of marketers in companies with more than 100 employees plan to use social media for marketing activities in the coming years, according to stistica.com. The current data shows that more than 91% of marketers use social media platforms to connect with customers. With so many different social media sites, the question remains, should you be on every platform, and how do you select the right social media platforms for your business?

In this article, I guide you through choosing the right social media platform for your brand and answer the age-old question of should you be on every platform, specifically, the popular ones.

When Your CEO Tells You the Company Needs to be on All Social Media Platforms

It’s a story that transcends social media itself — or it feels that way at least; your CEO walks into the marketing office and cluelessly suggests that the company should have a Twitter presence. You look perplexed, thinking to yourself that your high-target value does not congregate on the social media platform. You quizzically ask, “Why?” He responds, “Because XYZ company is on Twitter, and I think we should be too.” 

The CEO exits your office, leaving you confused and bewildered. You ponder the idea of whether you should add the platform to your marketing communication mix or how you’ll inform him that you should not waste marketing resources to explore that platform.

If this scenario sounds remotely familiar, you’re not alone. I cannot tell you how many CEOs I worked with that suggested which social media platform I should direct the company to because their wife, kids, or friends suggested the social site. CEOs — or anyone for that matter — armed with just a little knowledge of social media can be and are dangerous enough to derail your marketing strategy — or stall your plans temporarily

I am going to arm you with information for choosing the right social media platform for your company. Then you will have the necessary information to help persuade your boss why you should or should not participate in specific social media platforms, perhaps saving valuable marketing resources.

Why Marketers Use Social Media: Advantages and Challenges

Social media has proven to have advantages and challenges for marketers. Advantages include:

  • Social media offers a targeted and personal approach to consumers, allowing marketers to create and share tailored content with specific target audiences and communities.
  • It provides a channel for dialogue (complaints, compliments, and needs) between customers and the brand.
  • It’s immediate and timely. Marketers can reach customers anywhere and at any time, making social media indeed a global communication channel.
  • Social media is cost-effective compared to print or television. Small businesses can embark on a social media campaign for almost zero marketing costs.
  • Social media platforms are best for encouraging customer engagement and sharing, allowing marketers to expand their brand message and content through a word-of-mouth strategy.

Conversely, social media presents a few challenges for marketers. The biggest challenge is walking a fine line between promoting the brand and engaging customers with relevant content. Because consumers drive social media through their positive and negative interactions, brands need to earn the right to be on any specific platform. Marketers that jump right into social media promoting products are often met with resistance by consumers. To gain acceptance and trust amongst consumers, making them a part of the brand conversation, marketers need to produce targeted, valuable content for consumers to digest.

Before you can create valuable content, you need to know where your customers congregate online and what they value. Thus, the question remains, what are the right social media platforms for your business?

Finding the Right Social Media Platforms

targeting social media illustrationIdentify your key customers

Determining the right social media platform requires that you understand your audience. You need to know their likes, dislikes, needs, and where they “live” online; what social media sites they frequent. In other words, you need to identify your ideal buyers, also referred to as buyer personas

Research the Channels Audience

If you are new to marketing or have not yet identified who your ideal customer is and where they may spend their time online, you will want to research each channel you plan on engaging. Researching each social media channel may be daunting, considering thousands of social sites exist, ranging from the mainstream ones like Facebook and LinkedIn to niché social media sites like Reddit and smaller, specialized online communities.

High-quality third-party online sources are also suitable for researching social media statistics and the types of consumers that utilize the platforms. The following are a few research websites for learning more about social media platform audiences and trends:

  1. eMarketer. Part of Business Insider Intelligence is a research firm targeting decision-makers such as CMO’s a comprehensive source of information on operating in a digital world, offering transparently sourced and vetted data from thousands of sources. 
  2. Pew Research Center. Pew Research is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world. 
  3. Social Media Examiner. The information on this website helps businesses discover how to use social media to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate awareness, and increase sales.

Top Social Media Platforms Demographic Overview

The chart below offers a glimpse into some demographic data about the listed social media platforms. It’s an excellent place to begin your research in your potential audience demographics. However, keep in mind that to improve the success of generating a following on the social media platform, you will need to develop a few profiles of the ideal buyer (personas) to develop better content that engages your audience.

I have included several mainstream social media sites along with a few niché platforms. As a general rule, if you are unaware of what platform to start with, it’s good to craft your messages on the most popular social sites. For example, Facebook and YouTube are the most prominent social media platforms, with 81% of users stating they have used Facebook and 69% reporting using YouTube at some point, according to the Pew Research Center.

However, the top two most active social media platforms marketers use to connect and promote their businesses or products are Facebook and Instagram. Below is a list of leading social media platforms ranked according to popularity for marketers, based on the Social Media Examiner’s 2021 Industry Report. The demographic data comes from the Pew Research Center.

Social Media Demographics and Stats Chart

 FacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitterSnapchatYouTubePinterestNextdoor
Users2.7B854.5M740M187M265M2.1B459M27M
Adult Men61%36%31%25%22%82%16%10%
Adult Women77%44%26%22%28%80%26%16%
White67%35%29%22%23%79%34%15%
Black74%49%27%29%26%84%35%10%
Hispanic72%52%19%23%31%85%18%8%
<$30K70%35%12%12%25%75%21%6%
$30K-$49,99976%45%21%29%27%83%33%11%
$50K-$74,99961%39%21%22%29%79%29%12%
$75K+70%47%50%34%28%90%40%20%
High School or less64%30%10%14%21%70%22%4%
Some College71%44%28%26%32%86%36%12%
College +73%49%51%33%23%89%37%24%
Urban70%45%30%27%28%84%30%17%
Suburban70%41%33%23%25%81%32%14%
Rural67%25%15%18%18%74%34%2%

Data Source: Pew Research Center 4/2021

Summary

Since the explosion of the internet and digital technology, social media has gained and continues to gain popularity. The question marketers have is, should they be on all social media platforms or narrow their choices down to a few high-target value sites? Suppose your company has the resources to deploy content to all of the significant and niché social media sites. In that case, the answer is, yes, participate in all of the social platforms. However, the reality is that most firms do not have the resources and must narrow their selection down to the right social media platforms for their business and products.

Understanding who your customers are by developing two to five buyer personas can help you narrow which platform is right for your message. Targeting the different social media platforms requires research and sometimes trial and error in crafting the right message for the right audience.

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