Choosing the right social networks can make or break the success of your social media marketing. Too often, businesses choose the wrong network(s) or are constantly chasing the hot new network. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, your business may only need to be on one social network. How do you choose which network(s) to use? When working with businesses I use a four-step process to determine which networks are going to give them the biggest return.
1. Know Your Limitations
Time for a reality check. Sure it would be great to be active and killing it on the top 10 social networks, but how realistic is that? For most businesses the person handling social media is also handling a myriad of other tasks from PR to traditional marketing. It’s just one more duty on their already full plate. How much time can you realistically spend each day/per week on social media?
What’s your social media budget? Sure it’s free to create profiles for your business and share updates, but there are costs to consider. Software for promotions, scheduling posts and analytics can be a lifesaver and something to consider in your budget.
Just like with search, you’re going to get the best ROI when you use a combination of organic and paid. Many social networks now make use of algorithms to determine what content users see in their feeds. Going it alone without the assistance of paid promotion doesn’t always cut it anymore. How much money can you budget for software and paid social promotions?
Knowing your limitations and being realistic about them will help you determine how many social networks your business can reasonably take on. It may only be one.
2. Know Your Audience
Who are your ideal customers? If you’ve never taken the time to create buyer personas for your ideal customers, now is the time. Not only will it help guide your social media marketing, but all other areas of your marketing as well. Download our Buyer Persona Worksheet to assist you with the process.
Chances are you have more than one ideal customer. Create a buyer persona for each. You’ll outline their demographics, goals and challenges related to your product or service, interests and hobbies, buying influencers, content preferences and words or phrases they use to talk about your product or service. It should also include a section on which social networks they actively use. Determining that is the next step in our process.
3. Know Where Your Audience Hangs Out
All of the data you’ve gathered about your ideal customers in their buyer personas is going to help you find them on social media. Some businesses instinctively know where their ideal customers are hanging out on social media. However, I’ve also dealt with a business that insisted their customers were on Twitter, and it took thousands of dollars in wasted marketing money and hard evidence to convince them otherwise. Let’s take a look at the major networks and how to determine if your ideal customers are using them.
Facebook is the largest and most popular social network. It’s the Google of social media. It’s primarily B2C, but B2B is finding it increasingly more useful. Sixty-five plus is the fastest growing age group on Facebook. Eighteen to 29-year-olds have profiles, but they may not be as active. They’re spread across more networks than older generations. Because of its size and high adoption rate, it’s the first network we want to check for ideal customers.
Facebook is one of the quickest and easiest networks to find your customers. Facebook Ads Manager has a nifty feature for advertisers called custom audiences, but you don’t have to actually start advertising or spend any money to use it as a tool to check your audience. One type of custom audience is the Website Custom Audience. When you create a Website Custom Audience, Facebook will provide you with a tracking pixel to be installed on your website. This pixel will then track all visitors to your website, and match them to their Facebook user account.
The pixel begins tracking as soon as it is installed on your site, but it can’t track retroactively, so you’ll want to wait a week or two after installing to check the number of matches. Take the number of matches that Facebook has found and compare to the number of unique users who have visited your website during the same time period. Some users aren’t able to be tracked, so don’t expect a 100% match rate. You’re going to want a match rate of at least 15-20% to consider using Facebook.
Another type of custom audience that can be useful is the Customer List Custom Audience. This is created by uploading your customer email list. Again, don’t expect a 100% match rate. If you’re B2B chances are your email match rate will be under 5% because people sign up for Facebook with their personal email address, but you have their business address. It is a better indicator for B2C companies.
In addition to using these two types of custom audiences, it’s a good idea to look at your competitors and magazines or blogs related to your product or service. Are people engaging with the content they’re sharing? For example, let’s say you’re a women’s ski apparel business and you look at your competitors but their fans aren’t engaging with their content. Then you look at a the page of a women’s ski blogger and she is getting a ton of engagement from her fans. This is a good indication that your audience is active on Facebook.
If you’re B2C, chances are your audience is on Facebook. If you’re B2B, they may be there and you have to remember that they’re on Facebook for leisure, not for work.
LinkedIn is the largest and most popular B2B social network. Users tend to be college graduates and have a higher household income than other social networks. It is the only network more popular with college grads than 18 to 29-year-olds. You’re not going to be able to match your website visitors or upload an email list, but there are still ways to determine if your customers are on LinkedIn.
If you use Gmail, Rapportive is a great tool for matching email addresses to LinkedIn user accounts. It can be a time-consuming process, however, so it’s best to take a random sample of contacts from your database, copy their email addresses, and place them in a new email in Gmail. Hover over the email addresses with your mouse, and in the right sidebar a profile will pop up showing a link to their LinkedIn profile and Twitter account if the service can match them.
You can also search LinkedIn by job title, company and location. Look for LinkedIn industry groups that your target customers may belong to, and see how many members and how active the group is. For example, associations, industry publications, and other local organizations like Chambers of Commerce, or local societies of PRSA and other associations are a great place to start.
If you’re B2B, chances are your audience is on LinkedIn. If you’re B2C, it’s important to remember that people come to LinkedIn for professional networking, not to find out about sales happening at their local boutique.
Twitter is useful for both B2C and B2B. It’s great for online PR and for building relationships with industry influencers and bloggers. It’s also a great customer service platform. It is most popular with the 18 to 29 age range. As mentioned with LinkedIn, you can use Rapportive in Gmail to see if your customers have Twitter accounts. You can also search keywords, hashtags and locations to find your customers.
Much like Facebook, in Twitter Ads you can create an email audience by uploading your customer list. It will match the email addresses to Twitter user accounts. This can be an especially effective way to see if your customers are on Twitter. You can also create a tracking pixel to install on your website to match visitors to Twitter users. Most likely match rates will be lower on Twitter than Facebook, but if it’s less than 5%, it’s time to move on.
As I mentioned earlier, I worked with a business that was convinced their audience was active on Twitter. They were trying to connect with their field reps across the country. I took a sampling of 100 of the reps and looked them up by hand. I found 3 out of 100. However, I was able to find over 50% of them on LinkedIn and Facebook. This was the evidence the executive team needed to see to finally decide Twitter was not a good use of their resources.
Pinterest is primarily a B2C network and female-dominated. It continues to increase in popularity with all age groups. Pinterest users tend to be more educated and have a higher income than the typical social media user. It is more difficult to research your customers on Pinterest than other networks. You can take a slice of your customers and spot check names, but that can be time-consuming. Look at your competitors’ followers, or find bloggers in your industry that are active on Pinterest and see if their followers are your ideal customers. Above all, if possible, ask your customers if they use Pinterest.
Instagram is also heavily B2C with slightly more female users. It’s extremely popular with younger users, but the 30 to 49 age group is steadily increasing. Instagram is somewhat like Pinterest in that it’s a little tougher to find your audience through spot checking names, so you’ll want to look at competitors’ and bloggers’ followers, and ask your customers.
What Instagram has that Pinterest doesn’t is a healthy use of hashtags. Hashtags are heavily used on Instagram posts and can be easily searched through Iconosquare.com. Search your brand name, product name and keywords people use to describe your products and services. Iconosquare will give you the volume of posts tagged with those keywords, which is a good indication if your product and service is being talked about and shared on Instagram.
If you’re an industrial manufacturer targeting male engineers 45+, Instagram is probably not where you want to be. But if you’re a fashion boutique targeting young hipsters, you’re probably going to want to be here.
Other Social Networks
Pew Internet Research is a great resource for social network usage and demographic data though they tend to focus on the big five. New networks are popping up all the time, and you may wonder if Snapchat, the latest social darling, is right for your business. The best advice I can give is to do some Googling. Just search “[insert social network name] demographics” and you’ll find plenty of information to help you decided if it’s even a network to consider.
If the demographics fit, take a look at the network, and like the other networks mentioned in this post, see if you can find your customers, industry bloggers or competitors.
4. Choose Wisely
Now that we’ve determined which networks our ideal customers use, it’s time to decide which networks our business will use. If your customers are active on five networks, it doesn’t mean your business needs to be active on five networks. Your different ideal customers may not be using the same networks, but look for overlaps. Maybe all of them are using Facebook, but a few are using Instagram. Start with Facebook. Build your presence and engagement with your audience and then consider adding a second network once you have the first one mastered.
It’s important to note that wise network choice alone will not ensure social media success. Don’t forget to take into account how people are using a particular network. Can you provide the experience they expect on that network? If your audience is active on Instagram, can you provide them with unique and interesting images to keep them engaged? If the content you’re sharing is not engaging, it doesn’t matter if your audience is there or not.
So take a deep breath. I’m letting you off the hook. The next time all of the headlines read that your business needs to be active XYZ network, don’t feel pressured. Take a step back, look at who is active on the network and if it’s a good fit for your brand. If it is and you have the time and money needed, go for it! If not, move on with your life.