Which Social Media Platform Should My Small Business Use?

Even if you already have some social media accounts, it's best to understand the differences and advantages of each platform, so that you can decide where to focus your attention.  We don't suggest letting any existing accounts go completely idle, but if one social media platform isn't really reaching the audience you hope to reach, it's fine to simply schedule occasional posts to keep it active. 

The Stats, The Reality & Our Advice

With a massive reach and a broad demographic, Facebook is a platform that most businesses should have some kind of presence on.  The user interface is different for businesses, and contains a lot of robust marketing tools that most of the other platforms lack, including access to post scheduling tools which make it fairly easy to maintain some activity level on your Facebook page.  The biggest complaint?  Many businesses feel that the algorithm is making it more and more difficult for their posts to be seen without paid ads... but even with that, the potential for reach is too large to be ignored. 

The Stats: 

  •  68% of adults are on Facebook, with over 2.27 Billion active users
  • Reaches every adult demographic, even retirees
  • By Age: 18-24 (81%), 25-49 (78%), 50-64 (75%), 65+ (41%)
  • Teens don't like it as much - according to a teen-focused study, Facebook use among those ages 13-17 is around 51%, lower than other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. 
  • With the exception of YouTube, no other platform comes close to Facebook's level of usage. 
  • Adoption by gender is fairly even, and Facebook is one of the only platforms used widely by men. 

      Love graphs and charts?  The Pew Research Center has a great set of fact sheets.

      The Reality
      While the large user base is great for paid advertising, giving businesses endless options for specific targeting and cost-effective ads, getting your business noticed among all that noise can be a challenge for those unable to pay. 

      Our Advice
      We almost always recommend that businesses have some presence on Facebook.  Although it accepts all types of content, posts with some visual element perform far better than text-only posts.  Head to our Growing Your Following on Facebook blog for more details on how to get started with growth. 

       

      Known for it's popularity with Millenials, consistent growth, and ability to react to competition, Instagram is the third most popular social platform according to the Pew Research Center (behind Facebook and YouTube).  With the right strategy, we find Instagram content to oftentimes have a higher interaction rate and be more discoverable than Facebook or other platforms, making it great for brands who have content suited to the highly visual platform, but there are some downsides as well.  

      The Stats, according to the Pew Research Center

      • 35% of adults use it, adding up to over 800 Million monthly active users. 
      • Most popular with Women - 39% of women use the platform versus only 30% of men.
      • Very popular with a younger audience than Facebook.  Use is very low above age 50. 
        • 72% of teens report using the platform
        • 64% of adults ages 18-29
        • 40% of adults ages 30-49

      The Reality
      Instagram is owned by Facebook, and uses a similar feed algorithm to sort posts and show users only certain business posts.  However, with the popularity of the Instagram Story, and the broad use of hashtags, you may find it easier to reach your audience without a big advertising spend on this platform.  Additionally, Instagram still allows businesses to interact with individual users, so long as those users have public accounts - creating an opportunity for growth that does not exist on Facebook.  One downside to Instagram is that it lacks other platforms ability to share links, although there are some work-arounds for this. 

      Our Advice
      We recommend Instagram for any business with a visual element to the content they create, and especially to businesses that fall into popular posting categories on the platform, including fitness, travel, outdoor adventure, food, design and beauty.  

      Pinterest, an online bulletin board of sorts is currently the fourth most popular platform with adults, but doesn't have a strong following among the teen crowd.  Although those who don't use Pinterest have some difficulty understanding what exactly the purpose of the platform is, it remains a strong contender in the realm of Social Media Marketing, especially if your brand and content fall within it's well-defined popular categories, and if your brand targets women, who use the platform far more than men do. 

      The Stats, according to the Pew Research Center

      • 29% of adults use it, adding up to over 250 Million monthly active users. 
      • Highly favored by women, with over 40% of adult women onboard as compared to only 16% of men.
      • Age demographic skews towards Millenials and Gen Xers.

      The Reality
      One interesting aspect of Pinterest is the longevity of posts.  With continued activity on your account, views on posts actually increase over time from the initial post, and can continue to drive traffic and interactions for months or even years.   So while you may not see incredible results from your initial start on Pinterest, a few minutes a day on the platform can drive traffic in a consistent way. 

      Our Advice
      The most popular topics on Pinterest are Home Décor/Design, Women's Fashion, Quotes/Inspiration, Health & Fitness, Humor, Travel, Technology, Crafts, and Hair & Beauty, and these are the topics you'll really see most while perusing the platform.  If your brand falls way outside of these platforms, we don't see much reason for you to pursue Pinterest as part of your strategy.  If you have good visual content that relates to these topics, and especially if you maintain a blog, we think Pinterest is worth considering, if you have the time. 

      Even if you choose not to use Pinterest as a business, we do recommend having a "pin this" button on image-heavy portions of your website, which will allow users to save things they like from your brand, regardless of your presence. 

       

      YouTube has an incredible reach, used widely across nearly every demographic, even young children.  Additionally, research shows that video, especially on YouTube has an excellent conversion rate as compared to other types of content.  However, as compared to all over platforms we've mentioned so far, YouTube content is the most expensive and time-consuming to create, leaving it out of the question for many small businesses who are just getting into social media. 

      The Stats, according to the Pew Research Center

      • A whopping 73% of adults use it and 85% of teens, with over 1.9 Billion monthly active users.
      • Reaches a wide range of people across age, gender, and social demographics.

      The Reality
      The biggest reality for small businesses trying to make an impression on YouTube is simply that of time and money.  The effort of creating a video for YouTube far surpasses that of any other platform, and although you may be able to use the video in other places, like Facebook, it can be daunting for a business new to Social Media to dive into YouTube early on in your strategy.  On top of that, the large effort does not always garner much in the way of immediate results, with follower growth being notoriously challenging on this oversaturated platform.  

      Our Advice
      While we don't recommend that businesses stretched for time or money jump right on YouTube, if video is something you can do easily, YouTube can be a great platform for your business. YouTube can also be a great place to host video that you already plan to make - for example, short youtube videos that show off the features of one of your products can be a great driver for conversions, and embedding it from YouTube may enable you to expand the video's reach over hosting the video natively on your website.  Popular topic 

      YouTube is also a great platform to consider when you're ready and able to work with influencers.  If you can find a popular vlogger that covers a topic related to your brand, this can generate an incredible amount of traction, though you'll likely have to pay for this service. 

       

      This microblogging platform has lost a bit of popularity over the years, but remains a viable option for social media marketing, especially in certain topic areas. The biggest advantage to this platform is probably it's "micro" nature - there's no need to make elaborate or time consuming posts, since snarky comments tend to do better anyway. 

      The Stats, according to the Pew Research Center

      • 29% of adults and 32% of teens use Twitter, amounting to a reported 336 million monthly active users.
      • Twitter is most popular with the 18-29 demographic, with 40% on the platform, and is very unpopular with the older generations, who likely just don't "get it." 

      The Reality
      Twitter's conversion rate is pretty dismal, so even if you're able to build a following on the platform, you may not see a great click through or revenue stream coming from the platform.  However certain brands have carved out a strong niche on Twitter, and specific industries should definitely have a presence - especially news media. 

      Our Advice
      Unless you're in the news media, you probably don't need to hop on Twitter immediately.  However, if you enjoy the platform, and have a good sense of humor, you may find it effective for growing your business fan base. 

       

       

       With a large teen and young adult audience, SnapChat is a platform worth considering if your target audience falls into the younger age ranges.  Although it can be difficult to grow your following, and frankly difficult for those of us in the older generations to even understand what it's for, the right content can reach this target audience with amazing effectiveness. 

      The Stats, according to the Pew Research Center

      • 27% of adults and 69% of teens use this platform, amounting to about 180 million active users. 
      • 35% of teens say they use this platform the most. 
      • 68% of adults ages 18-29 report using SnapChat, but the numbers fall of drastically in older demographics. 

      The Reality
      Originally intended for communication between friends and groups of friends, SnapChat's biggest challenge can be discovery - often, businesses need to build their following at first by sharing their SnapChat account across other social media channels, their website, and other platforms.  Beyond that, a few growth options do remain, including paid filters and following and interacting with users.   

      Our Advice
      Because of the struggle with discovery, we typically don't suggest SnapChat as an option for the early stages of business social media development.  The exception to this rule is if you're very familiar with the SnapChat platform, have a personal account with a good following (so you can encourage your followers to follow your business account too), or if you know someone who is a SnapChat influencer and is willing to help you start to build your following. 

      Raise your hand if you have a LinkedIn account that you almost never look at!  Yeah, I thought so.  While a good portion of the adult population occasionally logs into this business-focused social network, only a small subset of businesses will see real value in spending much time or effort building their LinkedIn presence. 

      The Stats, according to the Pew Research Center

      • 260 million monthly active users, about 25% of adults.
      • Reasonably popular across professional age demographics.

      The Reality
      LinkedIn has some very specific uses for business, especially those that do B2B marketing, networking, and recruiting.  Beyond that, it's unlikely that the platform will grow your fan base or increase sales.

      Our Advice
      We would suggest that business owners build a personal account on LinkedIn - you'd be surprised what it comes up with with regards to obscure contacts that you worked with years ago and may now be of value from a networking or B2B standpoint.  On top of this, you should probably set up your business profile on the platform, so that people can list you as an employer and create connections to your business in that way.  However, unless you're trying to use one of the platform's specific tools, such as posting about a job opportunity, we don't feel you need to keep your business profile consistently active. 

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