Which social media platform should I use for my business?
Updated: Jan 27
A small business quick reference guide to using social media
Did you know that nearly three quarters of the UK population are actively using social media and 45% globally? Each of us spends an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes on social platforms each day. And the pandemic has had a big impact on our usage. If you look at the latest Sprout Social research, it shows usage has increased by a whopping 61%.
But which platforms should you use and how should they be used to help your business? Here are some of the basics you need to know.
Facebook remains the biggest social network with 2.7 billion active users, and nearly 45 million users in the UK. Facebook is ideal for connecting people with your business.
The largest age group on Facebook are 25 to 34-year-olds. It has nearly a 50/50 split of female to male ratio. People spend 38 minutes a day on the platform so it can be big business for businesses if you get the formula right.
The influx of recent baby boomers on Facebook highlights why it’s such a prime place to run ads, particularly among older demographics who have more money to spend.
You can use Facebook to share photos, videos and company updates. From a business perspective, the site can be more low-maintenance than other social networks. But the average life span of a post is 6 hours so ensure you fully leverage every post.
Because of its mass reach, many businesses historically found Facebook useful to connect with customers. However, this is no longer as straight forward. Facebook's rules and algorithms make it hard to ensure your followers see what you post via organic reach. In fact, only 10% of your total page likes see your posts. Not very many eh!
To succeed as a business on Facebook, you need to pay to play through paid campaigns which can be expensive. On the plus side, Facebook knows a lot about its users, and it uses this information to your advantage when you purchase ads. Find out more about implementing Facebook campaigns.
Facebook’s most recent move is to make the platform more transparent to users and give more control to them as to what they do and don’t see. Emphasis is now placed on making content as relevant and engaging as possible using video and Facebook Live.
Facebook Messenger can be another highly rewarding platform. It allows you to send direct messages to your audience at no cost.
And many businesses have set up specialist groups as a way to engage with their audience so think if this may be relevant to your business.
Nina Mace Founder of Nina Mace Photography is a huge advocate of how Facebook can add tremendous value to your business. She confirms in the early days, it was used to drive local awareness by showcasing work and allowing clients to share with their friends and family members. However, in recent years it has evolved into a community platform allowing greater engagement with her audience. She adds "My group has allowed me to create real relationships with my clients and in turn, I've a better understanding of their wants and needs. This informs all of my marketing and gives focus to what I'm communicating. In response to the COVID pandemic, I launched a series of live sessions where I spoke to hundreds of my group members at once. Running Facebook live sessions allows me to share useful content but also means those watching can respond to the conversation in real-time."
Instagram is a visual social media platform based on photo and video posts. The Facebook-owned network has over 1 billion active users. This platform is almost entirely mobile and has a strong female audience. 71% of its users are under 35, so it does tend to have a younger demographic compared with Facebook so it is important to consider your audience fit.
More artistic niches tend to excel on Instagram and it's important that the person running your account has good photographic skills. You can also use free photo libraries to find high quality imagery. If you can find the right hashtags and post intriguing photos, you can make this platform work for your business.
Instagram stories launched in 2016 as their own version of Snapchat's 24-hour stories. It has been highly successful and offers a creative and dynamic way for businesses to engage. In fact, one out of the three most viewed stories are published by businesses. Find out more on how to use Instagram stories. The introduction of Reels highlights Instagram’s intention to continue competition with TikTok attracting a younger audience. Research shows the tremendous value of influencers on Instagram ideal for motivating shopping.
Rachel Burns, Editor of Rooomy Magazine, says Instagram is all about community. As a business owner it is an ideal place for her to meet contributors to her magazine and inspire her followers. She says "Remember social media is like the CV of your work, it isn’t the work itself. Make yourself known, be useful and don’t talk about your business too much. Use all the different elements it offers from the grid, stories and IGTV, even using the different types of stories will help. Remember hashtags are searchable so don’t waste your time with #only7daystillaunch - no one searches for that! Final tip, set a timer when you use it and use it with intention or you’ll waste precious time going down rabbit holes!"
And don't forget about using Instagram TV. Instagram TV is a standalone app that allows you to upload longer videos and create your own channel. Great for showing your creative process, demo-ing your product or building a following of your own videos about whatever helps sell your business. Pair with apps such as SpeedPro to show longer videos either sped up or slowed down. This is an exciting new way to be able to show a lot of content in a short period of time.
Ranking third in the list for most popular social network in the UK, with Twitter, you can share short text updates (of 140 characters), along with videos, images, links and polls. You can interact with other users by mentioning their usernames in your posts, so Twitter is ideal for quickly connecting with people.
There is some talk of Twitter losing its popularity, however, the stats disagree. Twitter averages 336 million monthly active users worldwide. Due to its wide reach, this platform is not only ideal for marketing your business, but also effective for handling customer service. The latest research shows a slight skew of male users accounting for 68% of all users and it has a slightly older base with nearly half 30 – 49 years.
If you have interesting content, Twitter is great for quickly spreading the word. Retweeting and sharing other users content is easy to do. Hashtags help boost posts, and if a user with a large following retweets you, your content could go viral.
Twitter is great for PR and following the media. It is also an ideal way to find curated content. Follow journo request hashtags too as a means to try and secure free press coverage.
On the downside, Twitter can be perceived as a high maintenance platform. The average shelf life of a Tweet is just 18 minutes meaning you need to post several times a day for your posts to be seen, so you need to be highly committed to it for it to work for your business.
Linked In has 738 million monthly active users, 40% of which use it daily so if you are in business to business, it is essential you are on this platform. The largest demographic is 46 to 55 years.
Linked In creates many opportunities for businesses to engage over and above blog posts, through advertising, specialist groups, Linked In Messenger and Linked In Publisher - a dedicated blogging platform. Long-form content gets the most shares on LinkedIn. OkDork.com found that articles around 1900 words were the perfect length for engagement. Also articles with titles between 40-49 characters perform the best on LinkedIn.
Video is huge on Linked In and receives higher engagement, so it is worth considering how you can create your own video content.
At this moment on Linked In you can get huge organic reach over other social media platforms. Joe Bennett from Clockwork Moggy advises "Seeing as it's the main business-to-business platform it would be silly to not jump on board while this is still the case. More people are building a personal brand solely from their Linked In following such as Mark Gaisford, with some of his videos reaching over one million views without paying a penny. If I were to give any business owner some advice I would say to get posting on Linked In right away and start building your personal brand."
The good news is that the shelf life of a Linked In post is 24 hours, so longer than other platforms.
Snapchat is another mobile-only visual platform. The 229 million users can send videos and photos, available for up to 10 seconds at a time, to one another, or post content to their public stories, which disappear after 24 hours. Over five years, the app has expanded to include chat, messaging, image storage, events and media content.
Like Instagram Stories, because posts are so temporary, there is less pressure to create super-polished content. You can also see which specific users viewed your story.
YouTube is a video-sharing platform with over two billion users, where people can view,
upload and share content. 79% of internet users have a YouTube account and with GoGlobe reporting that 8 out of 10 marketers consider it to be the most effective platform for video marketing, you really should think about making use of it. Furthermore, the typical shelf life of a video is over 20 days so it can be a worthwhile investment.
Now owned by Google, the site is a huge hub for news and entertainment. Many businesses on YouTube have a creative, visual or educational component. There's a subculture of vloggers called YouTubers who publish frequent videos and often maintain large audiences.
You can use You Tube to deliver against different marketing objectives. For example to achieve brand awareness brand story videos work well, whilst to generate interest and intent to purchase, product videos and customer testimonials are successful.
TikTok has over 100 million active users spending an average of 45 minutes a day on it. It allows you to share a 15-second video. Brands are using it to target Generation Z (those born in the mid to late 1990s), particularly through influencers. A younger user-base presents challenges in terms of ad-targeting, although that perhaps explains the boom of influencer marketing.
Highly ranked at fifth on the list for user penetration , this visually oriented platform allows users to save and display content by "pinning" digital bulletin boards, which can be organised by category. The platform also has a series of Rich Pins, which brands can use to add imagery or videos to.
However, keeping your boards organised can be time-consuming. It's also more of a niche network with 71% of its users being female. Popular categories on the site are DIY, fashion, exercise, beauty, photography and food so it can be highly effective with targeting.
The audio-chat app is often described as the world’s most exclusive social media platform due to its celebrity users and invitation-only model.
Launched in March 2020, the app has started to expand more rapidly this year, powering past 13 million downloads on Apple’s App Store
The app allows you to jump in and out of peoples conversations and described as cross between podcasts and video conferences. Participants speak on the app via their phones.
For those who have access, the Clubhouse app offers a list of themes divided into conversation topics covering everything from sports to tech. You can follow topics and also people and clubs who share your interests.
Part of Clubhouse’s appeal has been its celebrity membership. The app was adopted early among CEOs from Silicon Valley and venture capital firms. It’s since been taken up in the entertainment sector. But Clubhouse really broke into the mainstream earlier this year. It is still early days though so watch this space to see how it evolves over the next year.
Start off little and often
With so many platforms, it is important to choose the right one for your business and critically use which ones your audience are using. It is far better to select one or two platforms and do them well, then spread yourself too thinly. Social media is extremely time-consuming and requires attention every week. Aside from planning content, there is also the scheduling and posting, interacting and analysing your posts. You can easily spend a few days a week just on social media alone, let alone running the rest of your business. Many business owners outsource to a specialist social media manager who will be able to dedicate quality time to your social media and ensure it delivers against your business objectives.
Social media trends are changing all the time, especially in the last year since the pandemic. The platforms are continually bringing out new functionality so you do need to keep up. Embrace it.
For more tips on marketing your business have a look at my blogs how to develop a marketing strategy and small business planning. Or if you would like a chat on how to integrate social media into your business, then please don't hesitate to get in touch.