Last week, I started a series on social media. I get lots of questions in this area, and although I myself am ever-learning, I do think that today’s question is one I can help answer:
Which social platforms should I be on for my business?
I love this question, and I’ll tell you, my reason for loving it is a bit unusual. I have found that many young entrepreneurs, particularly millennial entrepreneurs who look from the outside to have hit the jackpot with a single good idea, will tell you that “the only social platform you need to be on is __________” (fill in the blank). They know whatever strategy they tried worked for them, and so they believe with all their hearts that it will work for you.
But in the same way that some folks lose 30 pounds just by cutting out carbs and others cut out carbs and find in two weeks they’ve gained 5 pounds, social strategy is not something that will ever be one-size-fits-all. If there was one sacred platform that could drive business for everyone, then we probably wouldn’t have all these other platforms that speak to different people in different ways.
Every successful social platform out there fills some “need.” Facebook addressed all kinds of pain points about email: In the pre-texting era when email was big, people liked having a way to correspond with one another at any hour from anywhere without having to dial a telephone—but they didn’t like having to memorize and update email addresses to do it. Facebook overcame that issue.
Instagram cut out all the extra fluff you have to weed through on Facebook if all you want to put in front of your eyes is fortune-cookie wisdom or beautiful images. It also gave users an instant way to share those small moments in life that we often have to appreciate alone, like when we spot an owl just hanging out on a telephone pole, or a heart-shaped crack in the sidewalk, or a rainbow, and there’s no one next to us to prod and say, “Hey, look!”
I could go on down the list with all the platforms—and I will—but the distinctions between each social space won’t be more than interesting if we can’t apply that knowledge to our social media plans in our businesses.
The key concept to cling to here is that every platform fills a different need, and different people gravitate to different platforms for different reasons. You want to know what the best way is to communicate what your business does to the right people, and in order to do that, half the battle is understanding where your ideal clients hang out online and why they like to hang out there.
Some people love to hang out on YouTube because it’s a place where they can get education for free. Others hang out on YouTube because they want mindless entertainment that distracts them momentarily from their lives.
Some people hang out on Twitter because it’s a place to share witticisms in the same way that people like to share small moments on Instagram—“It came to me, there’s no one here to share it with, so the whole world gets it.” Others hang out on Twitter because they want to know in real-time what’s happening with a political campaign or sports event.
Very few people spend time on any social platform because they’re excited to know what their favorite businesses are up to. (I do, but I am a freak!) In fact, social platforms often change their setup when the businesses start to move in, because they don’t want the value of their platform to drop in the eyes of their primary users. Think of it like when a strip mall goes into a really nice suburban area—nobody wants it there, property values go down, and the families start to flee.
So when you show up with your business in a social space, you want to add to the pre-existing social experience for the people you are hoping to attract. Easier said than done, but knowledge is power, and knowing approximately what you need to do is all you need to start experimenting to find exactly what works.
Now, I said that understanding where your ideal clients hang out online and why is half the battle to leveraging social media. The other half is honestly assessing what would be the best way to communicate what your business does.
For example: My good friend Jacquie is a neuroscientist. She works in a neurofeedback practice. Very few people I know have ever heard of neurofeedback, but it’s a pretty incredible science. It can treat migraines, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, insomnia, depression, and a host of other common ills to the United States. The best part? It’s a non-invasive, chemical-free technique, and the success rate is crazy high—almost 100%.
But Jacquie and her team at the clinic have a very hard time marketing to new people. The trouble is that no one recognizes the science visually, and when they read a word like “neurofeedback” and don’t know what it means, they just tune it out. Therefore posting on Instagram and writing blog posts has been unsuccessful for the clinic, even though many of their potential clients hang out on Instagram and blog posts can explain the process of neurofeedback in detail.
Jacquie asked me what ideas I had for getting her clinic traction on social media. I suggested that video might be her best bet. Many of the top platforms today offer at least one video streaming option, even if video isn’t the biggest driving force on the platform. Since most people seem to enjoy a good Before/After post, for Jacquie’s clinic, I suggested that filming a new patient come in and try neurofeedback for the first time could show how powerful a technique it is. Nothing extravagant—the video could be very simple, just to pique curiosity. Fortunately, video has one of the highest engagement rates on pretty much any platform, so it’s worthwhile to at least give this idea a chance.
Is video the best medium for every business, though? Perhaps not. Video is a way to imply story, and people always want to know “how things turned out,” so we’re anticipating the engagement on the video at the clinic to be higher than anything else they’ve posted. Also, since so many people have ailments they want alleviated, seeing someone else go through a painless process and experience success will prompt them to ask the question, “Could this work for me?” That’s where they’ll start engaging on a deeper level, and doing research for themselves—which is what they want at the clinic! Excitement leads to appointments.
But video might not work to engage the ideal clientele at, say, a bakery. I’ve seen videos on bakeries’ social profiles—the team singing “Happy Birthday” to a customer, or bread dough being kneaded in the kitchen.
Few people will care that it’s a stranger’s birthday or want to watch the entire bake team singing the birthday song to that stranger. Also, few people want to learn how to bake so desperately that they’ll watch an in-the-kitchen video straight through to the end. Furthermore, those videos won’t help to sell anything that the bakery offers, which is the only reason they’d bother filming for social media in the first place.
Maybe at a bakery what explains the experience best is photos—photos of the bakers in their white chef’s hats placing bread into baskets in the morning; photos of perfect lines of tiramisu in the display case; photos of guests having that first divine bite of brownie and the looks on their faces. Bakeries touch on a pleasure point, rather than pain points (like the clinic), and the way they communicate what they offer should be different.
When people ask me, “What social platforms should I be on for my business?” I run through a quick list of questions in my mind—is the concept at the business one that is familiar and easy to understand, or is it something that requires some explanation? Who buys the product or service, and where do they hang out online? What about the business is exciting or unique enough that it makes me want to tell my friends about it?
Below is a list of ways to create content for social media, along with the merits and pitfalls of each. When you consider your business, which of these types of content could entice your ideal client? Match that type of media to the social platforms that offer that option in this PDF. Do you already know that the types of clients you want to attract hang out on a particular platform? Is there a way to share your best kinds of content on that platform?
Types of Content
- What it is: Captions, articles, blog posts, newsletters, quizzes, surveys—anything that is written out by you and read by your audience.
- Merits: You get to put your own spin on an idea by explaining it in your words and your “voice.” If your personality or method of explaining ideas tends to resonate with people, then you might consider writing content to promote your business.
- Pitfalls: Due to the shortening attention span of people in an era of mass media, written content tends to get less engagement than other forms of content-sharing. Often what you write has to be shorter than you’d want it to be, and it can be hard to pare down what you want to say.
- What it is: Photographic images. This is the dominant choice for platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. Different from graphic imagery.
- Merits: If you are a good photographer and understand the story you’re trying to tell (or messageyou want to communicate), then photography can be a powerful tool. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it can read and process text, so photos also have the opportunity to pull people in before they can think to write them off, the way they might with long paragraphs of text.
- Pitfalls: If you decide to use Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, or other image-driven platform for your marketing, it’s going to take a while for you to gain traction, only because you’re competing with so many other talented photographers out there who are also leveraging these platforms. Also, photography takes a lot of work when done well, and the time-consuming nature of it can become a hangup from posting. Lastly, photographic content generally also has to be paired with substantive content in order for it to lead to follows, shares, and sales.
- What it is: Images that aren’t photographic—icons, cartoons, dioramas, charts, and the like.
- Merits: In its original home, graphic content piques curiosity. Like video, it suggests that there’s something to be discovered there, and people want to know what it is. Also, graphic images don’t always distinguish between race and sex the way photos often do, making them more accessible to more people.
- Pitfalls: Outside of the context where they were originally created, graphics often look salesy, alien, cheap. I.e., when you’re used to seeing photos on Pinterest and Instagram, and whilst scrolling come across a graphic, it seems out of place; it interrupts the experience. Also, creating graphic imagery takes time, specialized software, and either money or talent.
- What it is: An integration of visual and auditory cues in a single experience—different from any other kind of content.
- Merits: Video, while not the driving force on most platforms, often has the highest engagement overall among the different forms of posting. It implies that a story will be told, which all people enjoy. Most platforms offer some way to sharing video now, so video can be used to reach many different kinds of audiences on whichever platform they hang out on. And it’s a fast way to communicate authenticity.
- Pitfalls: The length of time people are willing to commit to a spontaneous video viewing varies platform to platform, but is usually surprisingly short. Pre-recorded videos often lose viewers around the one-minute mark on Facebook, for example, and when it comes to live streaming, anyone can tune in at any time and if what’s being streamed at that precise moment isn’t interesting, the viewer checks out.
- What it is: Content that is mostly just intended to be heard. Podcasts and radio programs are versions of audio content. Occasionally a “video” will have a single screen that is displayed throughout, while audio plays in the “background.” Although technically video, I would consider this to be audio content.
- Merits: The listener doesn’t have to sit down and give audio content his undivided attention in order to engage. He might just listen along as he drives to work or while he makes dinner. Because of the nature of audio being not all-consuming, it also tends to offer the possibility of running longer, because it won’t detract from other pressing tasks.
- Pitfalls: In general, audiences have to seek out audio content. Most of the social platforms available have not had success in offering an audio-sharing option, so specific platforms like iTunes and Reverbnation have been designated for audio content.
I'm also providing this PDF for you to measure different social platforms' capabilities against the types of content you think are best for you to create!
What do you think? I'd love to see what you come up with from today's information! Take a week and imagine your new social strategy. Then tag me in your notes over on Instagram, @alexisthegreek!
What do you think? Leave a comment over on Instagram @alexisthegreek! As always, if this information was helpful, share it with a fellow business person and stop by my tip jar to let me know you appreciated it. And if there's a topic you'd like me to cover in a future blog post, let me know by emailing email@example.com.