There are plenty of social platforms your brand can use to publish content, connect, and engage. Social media is a great tool, but with so many damn social platforms (and more coming out of seemingly nowhere), figuring out where to focus your energies can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting to experiment with content marketing.
How do you know which social platforms to prioritize? How much time do you need to devote to each? Which should you start with? Don’t freak out. If you’re trying to figure out your social strategy (and how it fits into your content distribution plan), you don’t have to go all in from the start. In fact, taking that approach might actually hurt your brand more than help.
Marketers and the Myth of Social Media
Many new marketers are functioning under the assumption that social media is the end all, be all—and that every new social platform provides an equal opportunity for their brand. Hence, they get into gold rush mentality, thinking they have to stake their claim on every platform.
That may have been true in the early days (when there were far fewer platforms), but we’re in a new era of social. Social media marketing isn’t about mass communication; it’s about intentional interaction, finding the communities that you want to connect with and building organic relationships through content.
Still, we see plenty of marketers (and noob business owners) totally overwhelmed by social. They’re either drowning trying to keep up with their posts on every platform or too intimidated to start. Either way, they aren’t using social to their advantage—and that’s the real tragedy.
Social media is a marketing tool like any other. To use it effectively, you need to experiment and find your sweet spot. Luckily, you can start small and grow from there.
Why You Only Need One Social Platform (to Start)
Believe it or not, there are actually some mega brands that survive without having a social presence at all. (We’re looking at you, Trader Joe’s.) But these unicorns are few and far between. Younger brands absolutely need a presence, but it doesn’t have to be massive. To establish yourself, simply focus on one social platform to start.
Remember that social media gives you an opportunity to share your brand story, and bring people into that story. By focusing on one platform, you can learn how to share that story effectively, generate content, engage with people, and get in the groove. Tl;dr, it’s not about having the most presence on social; it’s about making the most of what you have.
How to Decide Which Platform to Start With
If you have limited time, resources, or bandwidth, you need to focus on the platform that’s best suited for your brand—the one most likely to connect you with the people you want to engage with.
To help you narrow it down, here are a few important questions to ask yourself.
1) What are your goals? Different social platforms are better at different things. Knowing what your end goal is, what type of content you’ll be creating, and what you’re trying to demonstrate is crucial. For example if your goal is…
- Traffic: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest
- Brand awareness: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
- Building community: Facebook, Twitter
- Sales/earning business: LinkedIn for B2B or personal branding
- Recruiting talent: LinkedIn for recruiting, Instagram for culture marketing
2) What is your product/service? Each social platform has unique benefits. Instagram is great for visual content; Twitter is good for quick and fun interaction. LinkedIn is great for detailed thought leadership. If your brand inherently lends itself to one, that’s a great way to narrow it down.
3) What is your knowledge level? What platforms are you familiar with? What are you comfortable using?
4) What is your bandwidth? How much time do you have to dedicate to social in a given week? It’s easier to upload to Instagram a few times a week than stay glued to Twitter 24/7.
5) What content can you create? Original content is the best way to provide value to your followers. Content can be as simple as a tip via Twitter, or as detailed as an interactive infographic. It really depends on your time, skill, and resources. For example, if you’re better at producing high-quality photography than comprehensive articles, Instagram would be better for you than LinkedIn.
A quick rundown of what each platform is better for:
- Facebook: Great for cultivating a community, driving traffic to site, and curating content.
- Twitter: A great way to engage and curate content in real-time, but it is fast-moving.
- Instagram: Good for highly visual brands/products. It relies on visually stunning imagery, so you need a cohesive aesthetic and the capability to produce high-quality photography or video.
- Pinterest: Also a visually driven platform, so high-quality images are a must.
- LinkedIn: Good for thought leadership, industry news, B2B, recruiting, etc.
Once you’ve chosen your platform, you can start to explore and experiment.
How to Get Started on Social
It’s not as scary as it seems. Just start with this simple step-by-step checklist.
1) Choose your handle. Find a name that is simple and intuitive. You don’t want people guessing or going on a huge hunt to find you. Tip: To protect your brand, you should create an account for as many social platforms as you can, even if you’re not active. You can simply direct people on those platforms to your site, or to the social platform you’re most active on.
You should also keep your handle consistent across platforms. Pro tip: Make sure to get a business account. This will provide you analytics and other helpful tools. Also, make sure to save all logins/passwords. Even if you aren’t active on particular platforms, you don’t want to get locked out of your own account (and potentially lose the handle).
2) Optimize your page. Your social accounts are useful for both general branding and SEO, so make sure they are complete (and, if needed, include desired keywords). Fill out as much of your profile as possible, including links to your owned properties (e.g., your website). Again, even if you won’t be active, it’s still important to fill out as much as you can.
You’ll also need high-res images for your profile photo and banner. Tip: Use the right dimensions for the platform. Sprout Social has a helpful image sizing guide here.
3) Create a content strategy. Fleshing out a full content strategy is crucial to pursue content marketing in earnest. (Use our step-by-step guide to document your content strategy if you haven’t created one before.) Even if you won’t be posting something on social everyday, it helps to come up with an editorial calendar or simple posting schedule.
4) Brainstorm your ideas. If you’re not sure what type of stuff to post, look at competitors or brands you admire. You shouldn’t copy them directly, but you might find some interesting ideas or inspiration to help tell your brand story. A few ideas to get you started:
- Behind-the-scenes tidbits
- Office/HQ snapshots or employee features
- Testimonials or other user-generated content
- Industry news
- Thought leadership
- Product spotlights
- Fave picks
- Inspiration of the week
- News, articles
Tip: If you’re not ready to create original content, start by curating content. Just always make sure to credit your source and/or get permission from the content creator.
5) Post and promote. Social scheduling tools are your friend. Luckily, there are plenty of tools (like CoSchedule or Hootsuite) that will schedule posts based on your followers’ most active times for max impressions. Tip: If you’re promoting via ads, run a small test so you don’t blow your whole ad budget on something that isn’t effective.
6) Track your metrics. Knowing what content makes the most impact is crucial to track your success on social media. Metrics such as likes, comments, and shares are a great way to gain insight into what content resonates the most. And, of course, don’t be afraid to experiment. The great thing about social is that it’s free.
Once you get in the groove, you can expand to other platforms and apply the insights you’ve learned from your first foray into social.
Share Your Brand Story the Right Way
Remember: Every piece of content you create, whether it’s an e-book or a tweet, is a reflection of your brand. Make sure you’re telling the right brand story every time:
- Write in your brand voice. Here are 5 exercises to help you hone yours.
- Present a strong visual language. Use our checklist to design a comprehensive visual identity.
- Use the right brand messaging. Try our messaging framework to stay on-story at all times.
Read more: Own Your Platform