The big illusion around social media is that it’s easy, and it’s quick. Ask any committed teen and they’ll tell you that engagement on any of the major platforms comes at a price. A successful Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram demands hours of your time, attention, and planning. So, for a time-poor business, it matters that you choose your platform/s wisely. Because you’re going to have to invest precious time if you want to achieve a worthwhile return.

Want to get on with it? You’ll need around 15 minutes to make your decision. First, read through this article. By the end you should have a pretty clear idea which platforms are right for you. You might then want to test your assumptions by checking out where your competitors place their energies.

Rules of Thumb – Whatever Channels You Choose

People don’t tend to visit social media to buy goods. It’s a place to be sociable, grow your network, introduce your brand, and start conversations. Even when you’re selling, it shouldn’t look like selling. And if it does, you’ll lose engagement. Typical content for businesses would be blogs, ‘How To’ guides, intros to the team, photos of products, e-books, and curated links.

Social media is a slow burn and it needs to be enjoyed along the way. Imagine if you got chatting to someone at a party but all they wanted to know was whether you would buy their product. The conversation would most probably end abruptly – and that’s how it works on social media. A proper conversation creates engagement from people who are interested, and that’s how you build your network.

Are You B2B?

If you’re planning to generate leads and develop your network, LinkedIn is undoubtedly the best platform for you. The main reason for this is that the majority of LinkedIn members are decision makers, which makes them a powerful audience to engage with. The tone is serious, and professional, and the average age of users is between 25-45. They’re professionals like you, and they’re interested in your proposition.

B2Bs also need to be on Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because there are over 1.5 billion users who logon to Facebook daily. And Twitter is the place where information about what’s new, what’s great, what’s rubbish and what shouldn’t be missed is exchanged every minute of the day. It’s a big commitment (10 Tweets a day minimum) but you don’t want to miss out on the conversation.

Are You B2C?

Then you have the pick of the crop when it comes to social media. There’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube to choose from.

So, what’s the best platform for you. Take a look at these mini profiles for each one:

Facebook. It’s the most popular social media platform, attracting billions of users from 13-90. If you’re a local business you should certainly have a presence as Google will check out your page when ranking locally. The tone is light, chatty and focused on fun, visual posts. The most successful engagement is around health, sports, media, fashion, cars, and news.

Instagram. If your business doesn’t generate great visuals, don’t try to make Instagram work for you. It’s got a predominantly young user network who can smell a stock photo a mile away. People use this platform to look, rather than read, and the top engagement is around travel, health, hospitality, food, cars, beauty, photography, events.

Twitter. This platform is constantly changing identity. It came to prominence as a way to organise political activity in 2006. Since then it’s been the place to get your news, and rant about current affairs. Recently companies have found it useful as a customer service tool. It also the place to be the first to find out about new products, and read product reviews.

Pinterest. This is home to a million projects and plans from interior design, to crafting, to planning a holiday, to transforming your life. If your product feeds into this kind of landscape, Pinterest is a must. Its user base is predominantly women, aged between 18-45, and they’re looking for visual material to inspire, inform and innovate.

YouTube. It’s the second biggest search engine in the world, and it reaches more 18-50 year olds, via mobile, than any TV channel. And it’s free to use. All you have to do is create the video content, and set up your channel. Lots of businesses shy away from the time and money investment, but if you create videos already, you need to be posting to YouTube.

Choose Two or Three Platforms

If you invest in just one social media platform, you’ll have nothing to compare it against. You’ll never really know whether you’ve chosen the right platform for your target audience. More than three platforms and you’re looking at a SERIOUS investment of time on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. If this is the way you want to go, think about outsourcing your social media to a professional company. Three platform are manageable if you schedule 2 hours per platform per week. If you find one’s a runaway success and requires more management, you can always drop one of the others.