Social Media Blogs by Aliza Sherman
Aliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Picking the Right Social Networks for Your Business

Picking the Right Social Networks for Your Business

Which social networks are you using to reach your customers and prospects? Not every social network is right for every business. Understanding who uses which network and how they use it is important to knowing where you should be focusing your social media marketing efforts.

Before assessing the popular social networks to find the right ones for you, examine the following:

  1. Your business goals - If you’re looking for sales, you’ll need more than posts on a social network to be effective, but Pinterest Shopping and Instagram Shopping let you integrate ways for people to purchase products and Facebook lets you integrate an online store into your Facebook Page. Social media marketing can be more effective for brand awareness, authority building, rapid customer service, traffic driving, as well as consumer insights and market research. Sales requires a more integrated approach with paid advertising, email marketing, and other marketing tactics.
  2. Your company’s brand image - Serious or lighthearted? Professional or casual? Matter of fact or entertaining? The image you want to project may go over better on certain social networks and fall flat on others. LinkedIn is a more business-oriented social network whereas Instagram is more about lifestyle and YouTube is more about entertainment.
  3. The audience you want to reach - Even though most of the popular national (and global) social networks appeal to a wide range of people in terms of geographic location, they typically attract specific age groups. Knowing the demographics (age, location, education) and psychographics (behaviors, habits, preferences) of your target audience helps you zero in on the social networks where you’ll find them.
  4. What you are trying to get them to do - If you want people to click away from a social network to your website or online store, you’ll want to pick the social networks where that action is supported. Most social networks want to keep users on their sites so you want to check the features each one supports to make sure you can build in the actions you’re seeking into their platforms. For example, if you want more subscribers to your email newsletter, Facebook lets you add a "Subscribe" button to your Facebook Page.
  5. The type of communications you prefer - Be honest about the resources you have and your ability to produce content as well as spend time in social networks communicating with others. If you have limited time and resources, pick fewer social networks to manage.

Picking the right social networks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a presence in more than one social network, but it does mean deciding which social network is the most relevant for your business and spending the most time and effort on it. You can still have accounts on other social networks and create a dynamic presence through strategic content creation, some automation, and monitoring, but you should pick one social network where you’ll focus most of your efforts.

In terms of finding your audience, here are the demographics of some of the most popular social networks:

Facebook - Many loyal Facebook users began using the platform in college or right out of college when the social network initially launched and then opened to the public. While Facebook can be a good place to reach 40- and 50-something, family-oriented users, the largest age group is 25-34, possibly due to their purchase of Instagram which skews younger, and with a gender breakdown of 44% female to 56% male.

Instagram - Since Facebook purchased this lifestyle-oriented social network, the user base has grown considerably but remains a favorite of the 25-34-year-old set, appealing to 57% female and 43% male. Instagram has been losing its younger audience to TikTok.

Twitter - This social network skews older, with the largest group of uses in the 30-49 range and mostly male at 68% versus 32% female. Users also tend to be more educated and higher earners than some of the other social networks.

LinkedIn - This professional social network skews even older than Twitter, with the dominant age group ranging from 46-55 years old and a gender breakdown of 51% male to 49% female. Users on LinkedIn tend to be the most educated of all the popular social networks and the highest earners, an ideal social network if you’re looking to reach an audience with more disposable income to spend.

Pinterest - More women use Pinterest in the U.S. than any other social network, with a 78% female to 22% male gender breakdown and a dominant demographic of 30-49 years of age. Pinterest is also the most product-focused social network so more conducive to selling things.

YouTube - Because of its integration with Google searches, YouTube reaches a wide range of people, however, the largest group spending time on the network is between the ages of 15 and 25 with about 46% female to 54% male. YouTube is far less about discovering products or brands and more about entertainment as well as how-to style learning.

TikTok - By far, TikTok reaches more young people, between the ages of 18 and 24, than any other social network with a 59% female and 41% male gender breakdown. TikTok also wins in terms of the most time spent on any social network, with users spending over 45 minutes per day on average watching videos compared to about 42 minutes on YouTube, 38 minutes on Facebook, 29 minutes on Instagram, less than 4 minutes daily on Twitter, and weekly access on LinkedIn.

Not every social network will be right for your business so don’t feel you have to be everywhere and everything to everyone. Think of your social media accounts as the top of the funnel that leads people closer to you. Look for ways to get their direct contact information beyond their social network handles. Email is still the most direct way to reach customers and SMS marketing (text messages) via smartphones is gaining acceptance by consumers. Get permission to contact your customers and prospects in more ways than social networks to get the most out of your social media marketing.

Read other social media blogs by Aliza Sherman