Social media is not optional. Neglecting social media nearly killed our startup. Successful social media presence is not something that happens with the wave of a magic wand, and being successful on social channels requires deliberate strategy and difficult choices.
If you are a company just beginning to develop your social media strategy, choosing your social media channels can be a bit intimidating. There are a lot of channels to choose from—just look at some of the major networks:
- Facebook –57 billion active users
- Instagram –500 million active users
- Twitter –317 million active users
- Snapchat – 200 million active users
- LinkedIn –106 million active users
- Pinterest –100 million active users
This doesn’t include smaller networks like WeChat, message boards, various video networks, or the new up and coming networks that we haven’t heard of yet (the cutting edge is always a moving target).
It might be tempting to just pick the social networks with the largest user-base, but that would be a mistake. A large potential audience doesn’t do any good if none of your target clients are there.
Instead of wasting your time trying to be everywhere at once, here are a few tips to make your choices easier.
Find where your customers already are
There is a saying that floats around in marketing circles:
Fish where the fish are
It might sound overly simplistic, but it is a powerful statement about targeting your marketing. Before you pick a social network, search the network to find out how many people are already talking about you, your company and your products on that platform. If your clients are already using a particular social channel, the potential for leads is increased and your job just got easier.
But what if you are only starting to get your name out there? If you are working to build recognition amongst your target audience, people might not be talking about your company by name (yet). If that is the case, you need to start investigating topics associated with your company on potential social channels. Try researching things like:
- Pain points your product or service can address.
- Are people discussing your industry?
- Are your target client personas present?
- Do the demographics fit your target market? (i.e. Reddit’s audience is more likely to be male, while Pinterest is biased towards female users)
- Do your competitors have an active voice on those channels?
- Is your industry represented on certain channels more than others?
Building a presence on a social channel without evidence that your target audience is there is a real waste of your time. If you fish where there are no fish, don’t be surprised if you come up empty handed.
The real challenge though is that you might find multiple networks that have the conversations you are looking for. The average person has over five social media accounts, but they only actively use between two and three of them. Your audience might be found in multiple locations, and you need to decide how many social media accounts to create to join them.
Analyze your existing assets
If the average person has five social media accounts, it is quite likely that you already have some existing social media assets—your staff. These people can make a big difference in supporting your corporate social media strategy.
Once you have established what channels your customers are already using, check which channels your staff are using. Some examples of the assets you might find are:
- “Rockstar” CEO or executives:if they have active social media profiles and are involved in the industry, you have a wonderful asset. They can be a face for your company on social media.
- Staff with personal brands:people often choose to work in fields that interest them, and in a social age they incorporate their work as part of their personal brand. This makes them great people to help spread and support your message on social channels.
- Employees already talking about you:a surprisingly large number of your employees are already talking about your company on social media. Their work is part of who they are. If you can get those people to amplify the messages of your official social channel, you have the start of a wonderful employee advocacy program that can boost your position and message on social channels.
Remember, a large audience does not necessarily mean a useful one. Staff with a large following on topics completely unrelated to your business are not as helpful as people with smaller followings focused on your specific topic area.
If you analyze the existing social media assets that you have in your company, you will often be surprised by what you already have. The availability of those assets can help you decide on which social media channels to adopt, because they give you an existing position on which you can expand. We chose LinkedIn as one of our channels based on the strength of our founder’s profile there, and his followers.
Be honest about your resource commitment
With six major social media channels and a whole host of minor ones, social media can quite literally absorb all the effort that you devote to it. Unless you have an infinite budget, you need to be brutally honest about the efforts you can devote to social media.
For example, while you might be able to develop a strong Instagram presence, look at your capabilities. If you don’t currently have the capacity to take photos, and you are not generating any photos from other sources (such as customer generated content or marketing), then you should rethink your goal. The effort required to generate an Instagram presence will be higher than with alternative channels. It is likely more effective to focus on the social media networks with a lower barrier to entry.
Every channel benefits from its own unique content. Twitter involves short concise messages, but is growing with images and videos. Facebook is making a strong shift towards video and visual content as it competes with Snapchat and integrates with Instagram. Pinterest and LinkedIn have their own best practices for message content and tone – LinkedIn is very professional, while Pinterest uses a highly visual form of storytelling.
Being everywhere takes a lot of effort, so start small. Pick five or six social media channels you want to be on, and then put back four of them. One or two well-maintained social media profiles are worth far more than six or seven poorly maintained ones. You can think long-term and secure your company names on different channels, but you should not try to conquer everything at once.
Each social media channel requires a different approach, and has a different set of best practices. Take the time to develop a check list for each channel based on your own testing. Once you have established content guidelines, posting times and frequency, you can look to adopting other channels.
By locating your customer base, analyzing your existing assets, and being honest about your resource commitment, you will be well prepared to pick a social media channel that gives you fertile ground and room to grow. As we have mentioned, a lack of social media presence is no longer an option…pick your platform, build your audience and start spreading your message right away.