Which social media platform is right for your business

When I’m out talking to small business owners, or those who work in social media marketing for a living, I often get a few very similar questions:

“Do I need to be on every social media platform? There are so many!”

“Facebook is the place to be, right? Everyone is there?”

“Seriously, what platform do I need to be on for my business?”

Today I’m going to answer these questions for you — well, as best I can. Because, as you may have guessed, the answer is complicated, but is really dependent on three key factors:

  1. The industry you’re in
  2. The level of resources you can dedicate to these channels
  3. Your goals

Where you don’t need to be

First and foremost, I can guarantee you one thing for 2019: your business or organization absolutely, positively does not need to be on Google Plus!

(But that’s mostly related to the fact that Google will discontinue the service over the next few months).

While I kid about Google Plus, that news was actually welcomed by those of us in the social media community. Even the best of us are at times drawn to the allure of “free” marketing channels. So while many of us knew this day would come, we kept hoping that some alchemy would turn the act of funneling content onto a zombie platform into revenue.

Ultimately, that strategy just leads to a lot of wasted work. And wasted work means your business doesn’t grow.

So, don’t make the mistake of spending time on a channel you don’t need, and let’s evaluate other social media platforms your business or organization should be on, according to these three key factors.

What is your industry?

What type of business or organization you run (or work for) is really one of the key factors in deciding where you should put your social media effort.

For example, let’s say you’re a B2B company that sells a very specific software tool for health care practitioners. Your product isn’t very visual, and your audience is very professional. Is Instagram or Pinterest going to be the place you want to spend your valuable time? Probably not.

In this scenario, using LinkedIn and/or Facebook would be in your best interest. Both of these platforms cater to broader audiences and have detailed ad-targeting capabilities related to specific professions.

And yes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this here: You need to spend money to advertise on social media. Even if you build a massive audience and have a ton of engagement, it’s still going to be a pay-to-play world in the long run. That being said, I’d highly recommend spending your money on efforts to grow your email list, so you’re not perpetually held to the ever-powerful whim of the social media algorithm.

Does that mean, in this scenario, that your business shouldn’t be on Twitter or Pinterest at all? Well, yes. If the handles are just going to sit there, doing nothing for you, why build them at all?

What resources can you dedicate to social media?

Despite what you might think, social media marketing is not free.

It costs time, a lot of mental and creative energy — and, of course, money.

The money you’ll need to spend could be put towards a do-it-yourself planning and scheduling tool (like Hootsuite or Buffer); an employee or an agency to support you; or in advertising dollars.

So, what’s social media worth to you? This can be especially tough when it’s hard to quantify, for example, how many people came into your restaurant because they saw your Instagram post.

That’s one question I, unfortunately, can’t answer for you. It’s a little different for everyone.

But know this: With social media, you get out what you put in. The more you invest, and the more you grow your presence and activity, the more benefits you reap.

For example, if you set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account, automating the same post to go live across all three channels once a month — well, don’t expect leads to turn into gold.

In the infographic at the bottom of the post, we’ve included tips to measure the level of resources, expertise, and effort needed to be successful on each platform.

What are your goals?

Perhaps this section should have come first because let’s be honest, you shouldn’t dive too deep into social media marketing until you know what you want to get out of it.

Do you want more foot traffic to your business? Do you want people to just be aware that you’re in town? Trying to drive traffic to your online store or donation page? Event sign-ups?

Take out a pencil and paper, and answer this question: “If you had $100 and five hours to spend on social media, what would you like to get out of it?”

OK, have your answer?

Let’s say you said something like: “I want to drive 50 new people to my website.”

Great — let’s reverse engineer your strategy (and do some math). You need to find a way to drive at least 50 clicks to your site, for less than $2. There are two ways to approach this:

  1. Spend $100 on a tool or service (like those mentioned above) to allow you to do social media more efficiently across a variety of channels. Then, spend those five hours creating and scheduling a number of posts to go out on Twitter and Facebook, hoping that, over time, you get at least 50 clicks.
  2. Spend $100 on social media ads, with a goal of driving clicks. You’ll reach more people, more quickly this way, but your return on investment will vary based on your targeting methods, and the messages you create. You could do better than $2 per click — or worse.

Is one of these two solutions better than the other? Nope. But doing both on limited resources is tough, so you need to figure out your budget, and assign reasonable goals to those resources.

In the infographic below, we’ve included a bit about which goals align most to each platforms (though results may vary!).

Get your small business started on social media

So, we didn’t totally answer the question of what social media platform you “need” to be on, but that’s because there’s no one right answer. And, that answer might change over time. If you really need to pick just one, however, we’ve got a little quiz you might want to take.

Social Media Infographic