How to choose the right social media channel for your business

At this point, every business knows that being on social media is a virtual necessity. Posting to social media can enhance your brand, spread word of mouth, build relationships and pull in audience traffic and purchases.

But building a social strategy isn’t easy when there are, at last count, dozens upon dozens of different social networks, all for different purposes and all with different strengths and weaknesses.

>See also: 5 ways businesses can embrace social media to boost revenue and productivity

Most businesses are already familiar with Twitter, Facebook and their brethren.

And now, many are tipping apps like Peach and Yik Yak to be the next must-use channel. But do they really need to be everything – and, if not, how do they choose the best platform for their objectives?

1. Don’t get carried away

The social network cycle is a never-ending tale of empires rising and falling. Remember Friends Reunited, or Bebo?

Although it may seem like the current continuum, in which Facebook and Twitter are super-dominant, is fixed, a procession of new networks continues trying.

To safeguard against network erosion and to maintain as strong a position as possible, it may be tempting to commit to updating every network imaginable.

But the existence of a platform doesn’t necessarily merit your business’s presence on it. Just because Peach is making waves in Wired doesn’t mean it is yet a profitable place for your brand to be.

Just look at the example of Pinterest. Many large companies – from fashion to retail – are now using the social pinning tool to display their products.

But the value to smaller businesses is far less clear-cut, and it is likely several B2B enterprises that are more drastically out of place on Pinterest have wasted time and money curating boards for a platform which, at 100 million monthly active users, is still one of the web’s smallest – and only caters to a specific audience.

2. Support the mothership

The popularity of social media, and the extent to which consumers spend time there, might make one wonder if business activities shouldn’t focus on social channels above all else.

Indeed, new UK newspaper The New Day recently launched without a website, instead choosing Twitter and Facebook to accompany its print run.

With the major social networks continually adding new features like e-commerce, analytics and pages, it can be tempting to think about prioritising social above your own website.

But that would be a mistake. Your website is still your home base – your mothership. You should not be outsourcing all your publishing and retail opportunities to third-party networks that are subject to unforeseen policy or algorithm changes.

Your own website is the ‘ground zero’ where you get to control what you say, what you sell and how. Social media are the places for conversations that drive traffic there.

So pick your platforms based on their ability to move audiences to your site, as though you were bringing people back to your house party to play them your own record collection.

3. Align your platform with your industry

You wouldn’t sail the Atlantic in a rowing boat. It’s important to pick the right tool for the job.

Likewise, you need to pick the right social platform to reach the right audience. That means ensuring you choose a distribution strategy that meets your aims.

Is your business in wholesaling to other companies? Then maybe Snapchat is not where you should be spending your time.

Are you a suburban patisserie bringing coffee and cake to your neighbours? Then you don’t need to be spending time reaching LinkedIn’s B2B crowd.

Instead, create that #cupcake hashtag and use Instagram’s photo filters to give your baking a professional online finish.

Many businesses waste time by embracing platforms used by people who are never going to be customers. You must match your social channel strategy to the nature of your business and the people you need to reach.

4. Safety in numbers

Your social media investment return is a product of the follower impact yielded by the content you post. A new network with few users is unlikely to yield much return.

That’s why you should pick social channels with sufficient mass of people likely to be reached by your updates. This will differ for every company and by every network – for example, Twitter and Facebook may count thousands of users interested to see photos of your restaurant’s latest food, while Xing will boast far fewer.

>See also: The three essential strands of a social media strategy that drives sales 

What is important is that you get the best bang for the bucks you spend crafting and managing social updates, by picking the network with the greatest audience.

5. Respond to results

At the end of the day, you should acknowledge that, despite reading all the best practice, your approach may need to be changed.

Only by monitoring your social networks’ in-built analytics tools – and checking for the desired effect in your business – can you understand the real impact of any given channel.

Learn about the user base of a new network to see if it’s relevant for your business in the first place. If your experience is positive, dip your toe in the water by claiming your brand name and replicating content from your existing channels, so as to not waste effort. However, if results are strong from your existing social channels, why abandon ship?

Sourced from Marc Munhlenbach, CMO, Flapit

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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