And now, to mix it up, a practical post on social media strategy.
When I begin consulting a new client on social media strategy, I am almost always asked this question (or some version of it):
Which social media platforms should I care about and use for my content?
This is a really good question and one that anyone who is using social media for professional/e-commerce purposes should be asking.
The common temptation, of course, is to create an account on every major social media platform and attempt to create as much content as possible on all of them. This isn’t a good idea. Why? Two reasons: 1) you will burn out and 2) not every social media platform is the same and equally worthy of your attention.
So then, how do we answer the question above? How can we know which social media platforms are worth the investment of our time and even maybe our money? We answer that question with the answers to these three questions, ranked from most to least important:
1) Who is my audience?
This is, without a doubt, the most important question to ask when deciding which social media platform is best for your content. Does your brand want to reach 55-65-year-olds who tend to lean conservative? Stay away from Twitter, invest heavily in Facebook. Is your brand made for 30-40-year-old hip suburban moms? Instagram is your home now, get cozy. Creating a new software tool that can make journalists’ lives easier? Twitter is the best place for you to be, and don’t worry about Pinterest.
More and more, because there are just so many social media platforms out there, different kinds of people have flocked to different platforms. This article from Sprout Social provides some info about the demographics of each major social media platform. But you can really learn a lot by spending time on the platform, too, trying out different content strategies and getting a feel for what does and does not work.
2) What is my goal?
This is an important question to ask as you approach social media strategy generally, even before you approach the “which platform” decision. Too many times I have joined conversations about social media strategy and the focus is entirely on the particulars of the work without any regard for the goals in mind.
I like to play board games and video games, and I like watching sports. When you’re learning how to play a new game or watch a new sport, one of the first questions should be “How do I win?” or “What’s the objective?” Pretend social media strategy is a new board game. You should have an idea of how you win, or what success looks like for you. Then, when you have nailed down what success looks like for you on social media, you can ask the necessary follow up question, “Which social media platform is best for me to achieve my goal?”
A quick sidebar on social media goals. In the traditional understanding of a “marketing funnel” in which the top of the funnel is “awareness and attention for your brand/product” and the bottom of the funnel is “customer purchases your product,” social media is usually best used to accomplish the marketing goals on the top half of the marketing funnel, not the bottom half. This does not mean you cannot sell anything on social media—you can, and lots of people have—but when it comes to answering the question, “What is social media’s best use in marketing?” selling things is not the right answer. Building awareness and building a brand is the right answer.
What kind of goals are best accomplished on each social media platform? Here’s a general overview:
Twitter = best for customer service; terrible for selling things
Instagram = best for awareness depending on demographic; worst for any brand that can’t get aesthetically-pleasing content
Facebook = best for awareness and selling depending on demographic; worst for trolls in comments
LinkedIn = best for awareness depending on demographic; worst for people trying to sell you stuff
As you’re trying to decide which social media platforms are best suited to help you accomplish your goals, make sure you’ve actually set goals for your social media strategy and see if there is a platform that best aligns with them.
3) What content will I create?
This is a third and important question to ask when deciding which social media platform to use for your brand. It is a simple one, and doesn’t require a lot of explanation, but it is an important consideration.
Certain brands lend themselves to certain media. If you consider there are three different kinds of media you can post to social media: text/links, video, and images, you can see how a book publisher might be better at text/links content than video content and how a conference business may be better at video than text/links content.
If you find that your brand has a really hard time creating video content because of its industry or because you simply can’t find good video help, you probably shouldn’t try to make a bunch of videos for Facebook or start a YouTube channel. If you have a brand that doesn’t lend itself to aesthetically-pleasing images or if you simply can’t afford graphic design help, you probably shouldn’t go all-in on Instagram.
Theoretically, any brand could create content in any lane of media, to be sure. But some brands just lend themselves more to one over the other, and it isn’t always a good idea to shoe-horn your content into a type of medium you’re not well-suited to create.
Just Think Before You Post
Probably one of the three most common mistakes I see in regard to social media strategy is a lack of any real strategy at all. So many people just start posting on social media in hopes of accomplishing…something. Goals are often not set. Platform differences are not usually considered. It’s almost as if many people think you post content to social media and it…just works.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy most of the time.
A lot of folks could be more effective on social media and avoid some headaches if more thought was given to goals and strategy before a single piece of content is posted.
If you ever need or want some help in this area, I do a good bit of consulting. You can just reply to this email if you’d like to set up a meeting. I’m happy to help.