In a recent article, I mentioned that it is a bad idea to try to be active in each and every social network especially when you are starting out. Naturally, the question came up, how to determine the best social channels to be active in. To be honest, this question can be a complex one.
And the size of a social network measured in active users is not the most important factor when it comes to the decision, which networks you should use. It depends on much more. To help you to decide which ones to choose, here are some questions you need to ask yourself and answer before you decide on the networks you are going to use for your social media marketing.
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1) Where is your target audience?
This is certainly the most important question to ask. What use can it be if you invest time and money into a social network where your target audience is no active?
This means before you hop on the social media train, you need to thoroughly identify your target group: How old are they? Which gender? What are their interests? And most importantly in which social networks can you find them and how?
User groups of the different networks can largely vary in many aspects.
Image Source Buffer
2) Where are your customers looking for you?
This is a question you can directly ask your existing customers – if you already have some. If they try to connect or look for information about you, where do they look? While it may seem at first that this question is already answered, with the first question it may not be the case. People can well be active in one network but seek information elsewhere.
The answer to this question may be a great indicator for a social network you should consider to include in your social media strategy.
3) Where are your competitors?
If you are new to the social media game, but your competitors are already around, take a look and analyze what they are doing. Which networks do they use? How many followers do they have? How often do they post in the networks? How is the engagement with their updates?
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Do not take for granted that your competitors always know best what to do. But analyzing their activity (and the results) can give you some hints on what you can and should do.
4) Which content type would you use?
The question is two-sided: You need to decide what kind of content could you and would you like to produce: Writing and publishing articles is usually an option for everyone. Producing a video or visual content may require skills and equipment you do not possess.
Before you decide the content type, make sure you also consider if your target group is willing and likely to consume the type of content.
While a couple of free and easy to use tools allow us all to produce video and visual content, it may simply be not the type of content you feel comfortable with. The type of content has a large impact on the networks you can use: Pinterest, Youtube, and Instagram simply will not be your best option if you do not intend to produce a considerable amount of videos or images.
Image Source: Buffer
5) How much content can you produce?
Some networks require an endless stream of new content you can share. While curated content may help you to fill your content need, you will always need some content of your own. If you know that your resources for content production are limited, you should take this into account and consider networks that are not based on an endless stream of new incoming content.
How much time can you spend on your social media activities?
Some networks require a considerable amount of time to build an audience. While there are tools for some networks to help you save time, others will need a lot of your attention.
6) What are your goals?
Maybe I should have asked this question earlier in this post. It should be a question you ask yourself long before you decide on your social channels. If you have no clear idea on why you want to be in social media, you are highly likely to fail.
IMAGE SOURCE: Shareaholic
But this question also strongly influences the choice of the best social networks. While some networks can be awesome to drive traffic, others may not be the best choice for that; an example may be Instagram, which rightly earned a place in the top social networks but is not ideal to drive traffic for the simple reason that you cannot post links. The only place to set links in Instagram is your profile.
However, if your goal is new customers or customer service the situation may look totally different.
Do not get blindfolded by the huge user numbers and traffic graphs some social networks show. If you are tackling a highly targeted and specialized market a niche network with meager user numbers may be a better starting point than the huge networks.
It takes a strategy to stand out and get heard in all the chit-chat of the huge social networks. While a niche network may well have been waiting for your insight and value, you can add.
8) What are your resources?
Can you spend some money on ads or do you have to rely on a network you can grow without paying for it? Do you have some existing audience you can use to find some first fans and followers? An email list of happy customers and prospects can help you grow some first followers. If you are starting from scratch, networks like Facebook with limited reach will often give you a hard time to assemble the critical mass of fans to make your messages spread. Twitter may then be a better choice.
9) Finally: Analyze what you have
If you are not a total newbie to social media and already have active accounts in some social networks to optimize your activity you should also consider the following additional questions:
Which of your existing profiles gives the most traction? Take your website analytics and see which of your networks drive traffic or conversions. Even if it is small, try to figure out why this network has better results and see if you can scale your efforts and results? What works and what does not work is the most important question to ask and answer to get better at marketing
10) In which networks is your following growing, where is your audience most engaging?
Even if you do not see traffic or conversions from your activities so far, there are some hints you may get from your past actions. Visit the analytics pages the networks provide (Twitter analytics, Pinterest Analytics, Facebook Insights). Analyze if your followers grow, find out their interests and look at the engagement stats. Often the targeting goes wrong, or you fail to attract an initial audience, without which “growing” is very hard.
The question of which network is the best for you is complex and depends on your special situation. It takes time and effort to build a social audience and get results from social media, choose where you put your time and money with care. The above questions are not necessarily complete, they are intended to provide you with an idea what you need to consider if you are trying to find the best social network for your online marketing activities. You should always take your own special situation into account.
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