A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER
First and Foremost; Assess Your Business Landscape.
As a marketing tool creator, we get a lot of questions about how best to use social media to increase brand visibility or increase lead generation. Of course, the question usually sounds more like, “How do I get more likes on Facebook?” or “Can I connect my website to Instagram?”
Perfectly good questions but its always important to look at your bigger picture and ask these type of core questions before trying to answer specific implementation questions:
- What is my market and how does my market use social media? This question will point you at which social medias should be your focus (ie. Is Instagram or YouTube a better fit, and why).
- What type of “conversation” can I engage in with my customers? This question will help you focus on the way to use the social media(s) of choice.
- What type of media am I most likely to be able to sustainably generate? This question will guide you toward what kind of media (photo, video, audio, text) is ideal for you to focus your efforts on.
- What are my specific goals in my process? This question will help guide and drive your efforts with a way to measure success.
- How much time and resource do I have to support the effort? This question helps scope both your internal process, and how much exterior support you can afford.
These are not easy questions to answer on the fly, and the best thing you can do for your business, is to engage a pre-production phase of assessment, like drawing a blueprint before building a home. A good assessment process will help you answer the questions above, and gets you ready to make decisions about the scope of your development effort while deciding on which areas to focus your attention and resources.
Social Network Standards.
Before we dive into specifics of each major network, there are some standards that exist across all social media, including:
- Posting Best Practices. Each social media platform has its own set of posting specifications that need to be adhered to in order to best take advantage of the specific platforms strengths. Your SM provider already knows these details, but they are also very easy to find online. They include things like optimal size of graphics or length of text content, etc.
- Consistent Brand Projection. Consistency allows your viewers torecognize your brand amongst the many people screaming for attention online. This means using the same logo, font and colors. It also means the tone of your written voice and message. This branding standard works for any size business.
- Professional Standards.It is surprising how important maintaining business standards is to keeping and growing your audience. Good spelling, proper grammar, visible moral and ethical standards… these are make and break!
- Visible Value.Mission critical to all social media success is delivering value to your audience. Empty content with no payoff and blatant advertising does not work well on any platform. Give value as you deliver your promotion and you will find your audience grows steadily.
- As their primary source of revenue, all major social media platforms offer advertising in various forms, from subtly pushing your posts to more people, to banner ads that are a close parallel to classic ad placement. It is not necessary to use ads, but it certainly increases your exposure, and can be used selectively to kick off campaigns or raise post awareness.
Each social media platform has built in strengths and weaknesses, and each are ideal for different reasons and for different markets. Let’s take a look at the top offerings, their basic advantages and disadvantages, and some examples of how to dive into the biggest networks…
Top 21 Social Media
(in monthly users or visitors)
1. Facebook – 2.23 B
2. YouTube – 1.9 B
3. WhatsApp – 1.5 B
4. Messenger – 1.3 B
5. WeChat – 1.06 B
6. Instagram – 1 B
7. QQ* – 861 M
8. Tumblr – 642 M
9. Qzone* – 632 M
10. Tik Tok* – 500 M
11. Sina Weibo* – M
12. Twitter – 335 M
13. Reddit – 330 M
14. Baidu Tieba* – M
15. LinkedIn – 294 M
16. Viber – 260 M
17. Snapchat – 255 M
18. Pinterest – 250 M
19. Line – 203 M
20. Telegram – 200 M
21. Medium – 60 M
Top Social Media Sites.
The following are brief descriptions of the main social media engines (networking, messaging, blogging, etc.), and how people typically take advantage of them.
The largest and most widely used social network on the planet (2.3 billion users per month active!). Take this with a grain of salt as it is not growing nearly as fast as it used to be, and with the “Fake News” and “Privacy” issues rocking the system, it has its downsides. Caution is needed if you are delivering “news” style content. Facebook is best with consumers, keeping humans connected to each other and their past. Best uses of this network focus on the human side of connection, tapping friends, relatives, and co-workers to spread your word. FB isn’t as powerful for direct business-to-business representation but it shouldn’t be discounted, as it’s still individuals that drive business decisions. The ways you can use FB to promote are deep and rich, from custom Apps to display ads and more.
Considered to be a separate entity (with 1.3 billion monthly users), this is A FB asset that focuses on instant messaging, and is tightly integrate with the FB platform. You can use this platform to advertise, send newsletters and other communication type promotions.
YouTube is second biggest with almost 2 billion monthly users! It’s interesting to note that the bulk of the users are between 16 and 24, making this platform most appropriate for that market segment. While there is a lot of content to wade through, this video-centric sharing platform is great for brands that rely on video to deliver their message.
While WhatsApp is owned by FB, it’s still a powerful separate identity (monthly 1.5 billion users). It’s focus is on instant messaging, making communication and smooth as possible between individuals and groups. For brands that do a lot of current message delivery (like communicating daily specials, or pushing frequent press touch-points, for instance), this may be a strong option.
QQ, WeChat and QZone
These are the Chinese equivalents of WA and Instagram (with a combined 1.5 billion monthly users), and perfect if you want to target instant communication in the eastern markets.
Another asset purchased by FB, it was built to focus on Photo sharing (since expanded to video and beyond). With approximately 1 Billion users monthly, Instagram plays well with other social media and websites. For brands looking to promote through imagery and quick referrals, this is a popular platform with influencers and a great choice for consumer products.
This is a blogging site (645 M users monthly) for sharing any type of media, and is a good platform to get your blogging efforts noticed. This is mostly consumer focused but some businesses with lots of content generation find this a powerful option.
With politics clearly demonstrating the power of Twitter (350M monthly viewers), this social media is strongest for companies needing to project their conversation on a moments notice, as they focus on real-time information delivery. It is a short form of communication, with a restriction on characters per tweet, so companies with lots to say may want to swerve away.
This is the king of business to business personal networking (294 M monthly users), focusing on connecting professionals and their business networks. A great place to dialog with your audience about technical and informational elements of your business, and connect with possible clients or new employees.
With 330 M users monthly, this is the king of active forums, which encourages active conversations regarding anything and everything. If you drive your company on a dialog with your users, this platform will be a good choice.
With a focus on photos and short videos, this platform (weighing in at 255 monthly users) is popular with the youth who like fast and simple communications. A great business use for Snapchat might be a farmer’s market vendor or gourmet restaurant with daily specials attached to tasty photos… If you have the energy for lots of posting, it is a great way to connect with a younger audience.
Pinterest is the corkboard of the Internet with a monthly 250M users, allowing people to post materials in a way that random discovery of content is easy and fun. This site has a surprisingly high content approval rating, indicating this site has big sway in purchasing decisions for the average consumer.
Flickr is seeing 112M users monthly with its focus on photo sharing. Anyone with images to share as a promotional pivot, will want to tap this high-use network.
Please note that the numbers cited in this article change every month, but I have used as current numbers as possible, with no numbers older than August 2018, and most being from January 2019 and earlier. That said, nothing changes faster on the Internet than social media popularity.
Making Social Media Work for You.
To properly utilize social media, the following should be on your radar:
Build your Profile with care. Every social media network has a profile, which tells the world about the account owner, wether its a business or individual. Proper attention to your profile is absolutely critical as it delivers your core message or brand and allows others to know you are who you say you are (there are millions of imitators or fake accounts).
Consistency and Maintaining Standards. The type and consistency of posts has the same value as properly maintaining your brand. Audiences are more sophisticated than we often want to believe, and they look for consistency from their content or media providers. Professional standards should be rigorously adhered to, including a clean and professional logo, accurate and correctly spelled descriptions, link to appropriate web site(s), and so on
Active participation. Just opening an account on a social media network is obviously not enough. Most of the networks have two driving elements: one, the more individuals follow / join your network the better, and two, the more you post entries the better. Of course, every network is different and require different actions to stay active and grow your visibility. On YouTube, creating a channel with your videos, and constantly adding new videos will keep your account viable. On Instagram, your posts go stale after just a few hours, so determining when your followers are active will enable you to focus your efforts during the hours of the day that your audience are actually following posts.
Parallel network participation. Many social networks look to other networks to tune their own. For instance, Instagram looks to YouTube (as one of their metrics) to determine if your account is worthy of a Blue Ribbon rating. Why? It’s their way of cross promoting, by promoting their users that are being noticed on other systems. Popularity on system drives popularity on other systems. No one said social media was going to be easy…
Clear Communication Lines. As the primary reason for social networking is generally two-way communication, enabling that is critical, and requires considering both pathways; one, how you reach out to your potential audience, and two, how your audience communicates back to you. Design your posts to accommodate both, by making sure your message is direct and actionable (don’t forget your call to action) and make sure it is clear how they can speak with you (don’t forget to direct them to a working email!). On Instagram, this means using hashtags generously and accurately. On YouTube, make sure that you use embedded links accurately, and that the end of your video includes appropriate “Call to Action”.
Advertising vs. Posting. Most networks want you to pay for advertising, but also give you pathways for non-paid outreach. The unpaid outreach generally is more powerful than paid, as it is also more personal, but to bring in strangers to your network, some ads may be advantageous. For LinkedIn, posting interesting articles (whether yours of others) allows you to use content to dialog with your audience. On Instagram (and others), encouraging user-generated content gives you a flow of postings without you having to do all the work. Facebook lets you “push” your personal posts, incrementally increasing your reach by the application of low-level finance. This hybrid between personal post and advertising has helped make Facebook the powerhouse that it is today.
Social media is the state of the art promotional and marketing engine of today. No serious brand or business can ignore its power and reach. Like static advertising of old, the only limit is your imagination and the resources you can commit. Also, like the old model of advertising, there are no simple or easy solutions. The true power of social media is two-fold; global reach and statistical feedback, both of which traditional advertising could not truly deliver.
First and foremost, set realistic goals and settle in for the long-haul, as using social media to your advantage requires hard work, patience and persistence. Then, remember that maintaining your audience is an on-going process that requires constant effort. Lastly, remember that the quality of work you present (creative, technical and so on) will directly reflect on the audiences perception of the quality of your products and services.
The great news is that once you have built a following, unless you abuse them, they will build and grow your business in ways traditional media never could. Have fun and socialize!