One of the most common questions I get asked by clients, friends and even strangers is, “Should my business be on X social media site?” where X is usually the hottest or newest social media platform at the time.
Can I be honest with you guys?
I hate this question!
This question does not have a simple yes or no answer. I always have to give them a “but.”
“Yes, but only if it makes sense for your brand and even then, only if you can afford to do it right.”
How annoying right? I’m sure everyone who asks me that totally thinks I’m a snob after for giving them what seems like an obvious answer.
OK but what do I mean by “Only if it makes sense for your brand?” Well, think about it. If you are a company selling baby shampoo, would you advertise on MTV? Probably not, because you know your primary demographic is moms, and MTV’s is teens and young adults.
Now that doesn’t mean that the baby shampoo company can’t advertise on MTV, but they should only spend their ad budget there if they have enough left over from placing ads on more relevant networks.
Well, news flash people! (Wow, so 90s.) Social media is no different.
If you are a B2B company that sells electric equipment to chemical companies, do you have any business being on Snapchat? No. And if you are a fashion blogger, is creating a lot of content for LinkedIn a good use of your time? Probably not.
So what exactly are the audience breakdowns for some of the most popular platforms? And how do you figure out just where to spend your time and money?
You first need to figure out who your own audience is. Knowing your audience demographic is a huge step in the right direction for almost anything you do in business. So I want you to take a break from this post and go find out exactly who that is – even if you think you know, because here’s the thing: audiences can change.
I have a perfect example of that. In college, my best friend and I started a satirical Twitter account called VodkaVendettas. (It’s now defunct, so don’t go looking it up.) We grew it to more than a six-figure following completely organically, and that’s actually how I realized I really had a talent for this whole social media thing. After college we became busy and didn’t update our Twitter account and blog as much as we should. Our audience peaked and stopped growing because we didn’t put nearly as much effort into it. When we decided to regroup and rebrand VodkaVendettas to The Privvy in June 2016, we realized one major change in our audience – just like us, they weren’t in college anymore.
We realized that the majority of our fans had been our fans since we were in college, meaning they grew up with us. This completely changed our strategy. So my point is, know your audience and stay aware of any changes in your audience. Then pick your social media platforms based on where you’ll find them.
In the rest of this post, I go over the audience breakdowns of popular social media platforms. But first, why don’t you try out this quiz to see which one is the best for your brand? (You can take and complete the quiz all within this blog post – it will not redirect to a new page.)
Let’s go over some of the most popular platforms and their audiences’ breakdown.
Here’s a crazy stat: 82% of 18-29 year-olds who use the Internet are on Facebook. 66% of adult Internet males and 77% of adult Internet females are on Facebook, which basically means whether you’re targeting males or females, Facebook is important to your brand.
To be honest, Facebook is kind of an anomaly. I mean, it has 1.71 billion users for crying out loud!
Even though it’s become recently frustrating because of how hard it is to reach your audience without paying for ads, Facebook is practically a given for most companies because of how common it is among Internet adults. Even if you don’t see your audience as being super Facebook-friendly, it will pay to have a semi-active page because it is likely that eventually someone will search for you there.
Not surprisingly, more Internet women than men use Instagram. Still, it’s becoming increasingly gender-neutral and a great place for your brand if you are able to produce engaging images.
Like the majority of social networks, the largest active age group is 18-29, but that definitely doesn’t mean you won’t find other generations on Instagram. And since 59% of Instagram users use the app every single day, you’ll be able to build some solid brand affinity with a consistent posting strategy.
Twitter, which is still holding the title for my favorite platform, is slightly more popular with men. (Probably because they’re big fans of only communication in 140 characters or less, but that is not a technical observation, so don’t quote me.)
There is only a small drop between the 18-29 and 30-49 age groups, so if your target is older millennials or Gen Xers, you’ll probably find a good amount of engagement with them on Twitter. Plus 77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand when their tweet has been replied to, so it’s a great place for keeping up with what your audience is saying about you and keeping them happy.
I don’t think it’s any secret that Snapchat is more popular with the younger age groups. It took awhile for it to get over the stigma of being a teen sexting app, but as proven by its $20 billion valuation, it’s much more than that. 60% of U.S. smartphone users between 13 and 34 are on Snapchat, and most of Snapchat users are between 18 to 24, not exactly teenagers like everyone once thought.)
Another platform whose demographics don’t surprise anybody is Pinterest, where 44% of Internet users are women compared to only 16% of men. There’s practically an even split between the 18-29 and 30-49 age group, which is great if your target includes moms or Gen X women. That being said, Pinterest’s male audience grew by 41% and their average time on the site tripled in 2014, so men may not be quite as anti-Pinterest as you think.
A quarter of online grads use LinkedIn. It’s especially popular among working-age adults as well as college graduates and those with relatively high household incomes. LinkedIn is the only major social media platform for which usage rates are higher among 30- to 49-year-olds than among 18- to 29-year-olds.
Fully 46% of online adults who have graduated from college are LinkedIn users, compared with just 9% of online adults with a high school diploma or less. It’s no secret that for B2B connections, LinkedIn is a great place to go.
If you’re looking for an app that’s popular with men, Periscope might be a good option for you. 65% of its users are male and 3 in 4 Periscope users are 16-34. In March of 2016 there had been 200 million Periscope broadcasts to date, so people are definitely digging the live streaming thing – especially with the edition of Facebook Live.
YouTube attracts an even split of women and men, but is still fairly male dominated as men spend 44 percent more time on the site per month.
Some of the category breakdowns are fairly easy to guess – women watch more makeup and skin care videos, while men are more into sports and gaming. So what brings them both together? Pop music and dogs.
Here’s a crazy number: 98.3 percent of U.S. Internet users aged 18 to 24 use YouTube. However, that’s probably because it’s the most common place to host videos shared across multiple platforms, so I wouldn’t go throwing everything out the door and only use YouTube from now on.
So now that you’ve figured out what platforms your audience is on, it’s time to figure out exactly what you have time for.
If you’re spreading yourself too thin and trying to be on every platform out there, it’s going to show to your audience. You won’t post consistently, or you’ll be using the exact same message and images on every single site, and you’ll probably get really worn out.
The key to this is recognizing that it’s OK to not be everywhere. In fact, I’d rather you not have a social media presence at all than have a bad one.
I, a social media marketer, am telling you if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.
If you haven’t already, take this quiz, then read about the pros and cons of each social network. (You can take and complete the quiz all within this blog post – it will not redirect to a new page.)
And this includes only picking the platforms that you have time to post 3 to 5 times per week on, respond and engage with your community on and be the best your brand can be.
Now if you’re having a hard time deciding between platforms that cater to your audience, I’ve got some pros and cons of every site I mentioned earlier that may help your decision.
Obviously, as I mentioned before, Facebook is the most popular social network available. Everyone and their mother and grandmother are on it. That means putting your message in a space that’s available to the majority of your audience. Facebook also has great ad targeting and costs. I mean, the ad targeting is really crazy good.
Plus, many customer service interactions happen on Facebook, so if you’re on the site, you’ll definitely be in a place where your customers can easily find you to ask a question or get their problem solved. But as I think we all know, Facebook has become increasingly frustrating for businesses. In 2013 Facebook basically cut off most of Facebook Pages’ organic reach.
If you’re not sure what organic reach is or what that means, it basically means that when you create a post, only a small percentage of your Likes or fans will see it, compared to a few years ago when you’d reach more than half. Facebook claims that this is because their users’ news feeds were getting clogged with branded messaging, which is probably true, but it’s also because Facebook wants to make money by getting you to buy ads to reach your audience.
That being said, I suggest that most of my clients at least maintain a Facebook Page in case customers look them up there. If you have a brick and mortar business this is especially important, because if someone “checks in” to your store but you don’t have a Facebook Page, Facebook will create one for you until you claim it.
People who stumble upon this in the future may not be familiar with Facebook-created Pages for check-in purposes and just think you have neglected yours. Not cool.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, so many of the same pros and cons will apply because Facebook is starting to run Instagram by the same rules. Instagram now uses an algorithmic feed, which means some of your followers may never see a lot of your posts in their News Feed.
But Instagram has a bigger conversational culture than Facebook, so you’ll see friends tagging friends in your posts that they think are funny, relevant or interesting. You can also utilize the conversational nature of Instagram by searching for photos with hashtags that are related to your brand and leaving a comment for your customer. That’s a benefit Facebook doesn’t have.
Since Twitter is my favorite platform I’ll just try not to be biased here. 🙂
On the pro side, Twitter is not as heavily run by an algorithm as other platforms, so if you’re tweeting at the right time, there is a good chance that your followers will see your tweets. And while 140 characters may seem like it makes crafting messages more difficult, it actually makes it a lot easier once you get the hang of it.
You definitely don’t have a big risk of overdoing it.
Now one of the best benefits of Twitter is how easy it is to monitor your customer’s conversations. Whether they are talking about you, your competitor or just your industry, it’s super easy to find these conversations and join them if you want to. There are, however, a couple of cons. Twitter isn’t growing as fast as many of the other platforms we’ve talked about.
Plus, if someone is complaining about your brand it’s easier for other potential customers to see the complaint than it would be on a social platform that’s more private. You also need to update Twitter more than some algorithmic sites like Facebook or Instagram because your message can get lost in all the commotion.
Snapchat is one platform where the pros and cons are practically equal. On one hand, Snapchat users don’t expect a huge to-do, so if some of your content ends up being pretty lackluster, it probably won’t haunt you as it would on other platforms. It’s easy to engage one-on-one with users because of its direct chat feature.
Currently, if a user follows your business they have just as much opportunity to see your snaps as they do their friends’. And the number of young Snapchat users is huge and growing. But the Snapchat cons are pretty major if you don’t have the extra money or time to spend on the app.
Probably the biggest turn off to Snapchat is that your content is gone within 24 hours. So while, as a brand, you’re still expected to put out super compelling content, you could spend a lot of time on something that quickly disappears.
Snapchat also quite frankly sucks at providing analytics, so proving value is harder than it may be on other sites.
One of the biggest benefits to Pinterest is that it is very easy to drive traffic to your website from the site. After all, Pinterest is basically a tool for discovering content. (It’s where most of my traffic comes from!)
Comments aren’t really the norm for Pinterest either, so you don’t have to worry about negative engagement as much as you do on other platforms. And the half-life for a pin is 3.5 months which is a lot longer than content on other social networking sites.
It may seem obvious, but Pinterest isn’t the best place for some niches, which is both a pro and a con. Honestly, I don’t see many cons to Pinterest if it makes sense for your niche, but if it doesn’t, it’s a pretty worthless space to waste your time on.
LinkedIn is pretty different from the other sites mentioned here. If you’re not a B2B company having a business page on LinkedIn is pretty pointless. But if you’re trying to establish your personal brand within your own industry, I’d suggest having a well set-up LinkedIn profile for anyone who might Google you. The more professional you look online, the more professional your business will seem.
Periscope (and similar live-streaming apps, like Facebook Live) is awesome because it allows you to engage with your audience in real time, which makes your brand seem more genuine and personable. But this also means that you have basically no room to screw up. ZERO. Which can cause a lot of headaches. It could just mean that you embarrass yourself or your business or it could be so bad that it seriously damages your reputation and could even hurt your business legally.
I’m not trying to scare you away from live-streaming apps, but it’s definitely important to make sure you have every single base covered before you’re going live anywhere.
YouTube can be used by brands in two ways. First, you can have a legitimate YouTube strategy and post content that is for that purpose and engage with your audience. Or you can simply use YouTube as a place to host your video content that you post elsewhere.
As most mainstream social media sites now allow native video hosting, the latter is becoming less necessary and for most businesses, I think of YouTube in terms of being a standalone platform.
Video is the most engaging form of media out there right now. If your company has the budget to create quality videos on YouTube, definitely go for it. The problem is that brands are held to a higher standard. While a 12-year-old may go viral with simply their guitar and a laptop camera, that won’t work for a brand. If your videos aren’t high quality, it simply won’t work for you.
Choosing the right platforms to be on is the first big and important step in starting to create your brand’s social media strategy. I can not say this enough: Do not join every site. Unless you truly have the resources to create and implement campaigns across all of them, choose 2-3 platforms that you’re really going to kill it on!
Things get a little hairy for you in this blog post? If you haven’t already, take this quiz I created to find out what the best platform for your brand is.
pssstttt … like this quiz platform? I made it through Interact* – a super simple quiz creator that is awesome for engaging your audience and building your email list. If you sign up with this link you’ll get a free consultation with an Interact professional. (Need to copy and paste the link? Here you go: https://goo.gl/ERulUT)
*I am an Interact affiliate, which means if you sign up with my link I might get some cash monies.