Which social media channels should you be using to market your business? This is the kind of question that pops up time and time again. It used to be that all you needed was a Facebook page and maybe a twitter account and you were all set. But now there’s Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Periscope, Vimeo and the list goes on and on. It seems like there’s a new trendy social media channel popping up almost daily, and for brands it can get pretty confusing to know which ones you should focus your time and attention on.

The reality is there is no simple answer to the question. As with anything in marketing, different techniques work for different brands, and there is no one-size-fits-all. The key with social media marketing is identifying which channels are right for you and your brand, and then creating a realistic strategy. It’s no good trying to be active on all social channels if time is a scarce resource. And there is also no point being active on a channel that is not driving the results you need or attracting the audience you want. So, to figure it out, ask yourself the following questions…

1. What is your business? And what makes you special?

Sounds pretty obvious but this is where you should always start. Identify who you are as a business and what makes you stand out. What is unique or special about your offering? And then determine the kind of personality you want to portray as a brand. This will help you determine tone of voice and will go a long way towards identifying what social channels you need to be active on.

2. Who is your target audience?

This is where details really matter. Try to get as specific as possible so that target audience profiles or personas can be created. Rather than just focusing on age and gender, get more granular by identifying details about your target audience like life stage, income, hobbies, likes and dislikes, music preference, travel habits etc. A lot of these details may seem irrelevant, but they will provide you with more information about your target audience and what channels they’re most active on. This in turn will help you determine which social channels are most suited to your business, and give you an idea of the type of content you should be posting.

3. What is your objective with social media?

In other words, what do you want to get out of this? Or what do you want to use social media for? Social media can be used for many things including driving sales, building a community, customer services, complaint handling, reviews and feedback, brand awareness, and so on. Identify what you want to get out of social media, and it’ll make it easier to figure out where to start.

4. How much time do you have for social media?

If time is a scarce resource, then being active on four or five channels is out of the question. Social media requires a lot of time, because it’s a platform for two-way communication. If you’re doing it right, you should be receiving constant communication from your audience in the form of likes, comments, shares, messages, posts etc. and it’s your job to action these in real-time. So, consider how much time you have available for social media, and that’ll determine how much you can do.

5. How much budget do you have for social media?

Building a community doesn’t happen overnight, especially on platforms like Facebook, where your reach is limited by the Facebook algorithm. So, you may want to consider investing in social media advertising to boost your followers, or to market your products. Growing organically is possible, but it takes a lot longer. Consider whether advertising is right for you, and how much budget you have. Also, if you have identified that you don’t have enough time for social media, then consider whether you have budget to outsource or hire a social media manager.

6. What are your competitors doing?

You shouldn’t be copying what they do, but you should do some research and identify what your competitors are doing to figure out what works in your sector and possibly how you can stand out. Take an in depth look at their social channels and how they interact with their followers. Are they receiving much engagement from a particular channel? How often are they posting? And does this appear to be an adequate frequency? Use social listening tools like Buzzsumo and Brandwatch Analytics, to help you analyse your competitors’ activity.

7. What brands inspire you on social media?

Learn from what they do and take inspiration from them. They may not be in your sector, but they stand out for how great their social media interaction is with their followers. Think of brands like innocent, Tasty, Airbnb, Red Bull who are always coming up with innovative and exciting social media campaigns. Use these as inspiration to think outside the box and give your audience something unexpected.

8. What type of content do you want to share?

There is so much variety in content. From text to imagery, video, GIFS, eBooks and infographics the choices are many. Are you looking to share company news, industry updates and whitepapers? Or are you looking to share product photos and blog articles? Do you have a lot of video content or is it mostly editorial? The type of content you share is really important in determining the channels you should pick.

Answering these eight questions in detail will give you a strong roadmap and help you figure out where to concentrate your marketing efforts.