In the last ten years, social media has exploded. We know this – it’s why we as a company exist. How popular has it become? To mention just one metric, according to Pew Research Center, 65 percent of American adults use social media sites, which is ten times as many as in 2005.
This is partly due to the increase in popularity of mobile devices. People carry their smartphones and tablets everywhere, and can easily access their social media accounts this way. In other words, more and more people are logging into social media sites constantly during waking hours.
So what does this mean for digital marketers? First and foremost, it means you should be devoting plenty of effort into reaching your customers and prospects on social channels.
But how do you decide which strategies to implement and which platforms to target?
The Benefits of Different Social Media Platforms
The first question you must address is where you want to put your energy and, in some cases, advertising dollars. There are more and more social media sites popping up, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
You have to consider several criteria when making this decision. You can look at the raw numbers, as compiled by services such as Statista, which give you an idea of how many people use each platform. However, you have to go beyond this and look at the demographics of the users and the particular pros and cons of each site.
Let’s do a brief rundown of the top social networks and who can benefit the most from them.
Facebook – By far the largest social media site, with well over a billion users, Facebook is still the top dog when it comes to social media. While every business can benefit from having a strong presence, the true value comes in understanding what people are talking about and sharing with their networks.
Up until now, this insight has been hard to glean, but thanks to the release of Facebook Topic Data – which is aggregated and anonymized – companies can now gain a glimpse of what people talk about and share across the platform (see Scout for more details).
This can be incredibly useful when it comes to paid advertising (Facebook offers one of the most targeted advertising platforms in the industry). See Scout, our Facebook analytics tool, for more details
Twitter – Another huge platform, Twitter has some unique advantages, such as the ability to connect with influencers and to build a following fairly quickly. It also has interesting advertising options, such as promoted tweets (performance of which can be highly boosted with targeted solutions like Optimize). This is another site that everyone in digital media should be using.
Instagram – A fast-growing platform with an estimated 300 million users. As the focus is on images, it’s especially useful if you are reaching a younger audience who responds to photos, memes, and short videos. Instagram also offers a paid advertising platform.
Pinterest – Another popular image-based social network. The majority of Pinterest users are female, which is important to keep in mind for marketing purposes. It’s very useful for displaying products and it can even be integrated with shopping cart platforms such as Shopify.
LinkedIn – This is the premier B2B platform and can be powerful for networking. In addition to being able to reach out to others in your industry, you can purchase paid posts and participate in groups.
SnapChat – One of the newer social sites, this one is mainly popular among teens and young adults. Snapchat advertising is also becoming more flexible as the company is currently releasing new options for advertisers.
Budgeting For Social Media
When allocating your social media budget, you have to decide which platforms can best serve your purposes. Some of the best ways to leverage social media don’t require a great deal of spending, unless you outsource content creation.
There are two main approaches to social media, though many businesses use both. One is engaging customers by building a following and adding compelling content to pages. You might use a social media management tool to help you automate many of these tasks. You might, for example, create a blog post or video and then share it simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or any other sites that you use.
In addition to posting content, you want to make your pages as interactive as possible. Ask your followers questions and encourage them to give feedback. Posting polls, surveys and contests helps to keep people involved. You should also respond to as many comments as possible. This goes a long way to engaging people and encouraging them to keep participating.
The other approach to social media involves paid advertising. At this time, Facebook probably offers the most flexible and targeted advertising platform. Others, however, are catching up by offering their own targeted marketing options. One approach that is often effective is using paid ads to direct people to social media content. For example, Facebook ads can link to Facebook pages.
Future Social Media Trends
If present trends continue, we can expect to see new and innovative social media platforms making an impact. Digital marketers must stay current on the latest developments, as things move quickly in this arena. Some of the trends to watch for include:
- Increasing popularity of chat and messaging platforms. Skype, WhatsApp and Snapchat are only a few of the leading players offering these services, which are especially popular among younger users. As they continue to grow, it’s likely that such apps and services will offer more advertising opportunities.
- Video and live streaming. YouTube, Vimeo and other video sharing sites are already huge. Facebook has recently offered its own video platform. Meanwhile, short videos can be displayed on Vine, Snapchat and Instagram and services such as Periscope and Meerkat are fast-growing live streaming services. All of these have the potential to be leveraged for marketing purposes.
- Buying on social platforms. Another trend to watch is the ability to sell directly from social media platforms. These are now available on Pinterest and Instagram, with Facebook and other sites experimenting with this technology. Although still in the early stages, it’s the logical next step, making it possible to sell to consumers on social media sites without the intermediary step of sending them to a website.