The standard social network advice is to “go where your audience is.” For most, that means Facebook…
That sounds like good advice. After all, “everyone” is on Facebook.
The catch? It’s hard to reach enough folks from “everyone” to build a following. And then it’s just as hard to reach a decent percentage of those folks. For every 100 people who follow you on Facebook, only 6 will see your content in their feed…
And it’s getting harder…
Since Facebook announced that it will start giving higher priority to content from friends and family over brands, that “6%” has probably dropped further.
“It’s all in the name of a better experience,” they claim.
It’s about forcing solopreneurs to advertise to reach those they’ve converted into followers.
After all, if someone engages with your Facebook page more than they do with a friend’s, shouldn’t your posts be rewarded with greater priority?
So, are we saying not to use Facebook?
Nope. Just don’t let its ginormous number of users be a huge factor in your decision-making. Once a network has passed the 100,000,000 mark, what matters most are…
- network relevance/fit with your target audience, and
- can you actually grow a following and then reach them?
We’ll talk about relevance/fit in a future blog post. Today, let’s think about WINNABILITY. The must-ask question…
Which network enables me to win the largest and most engaged following?
Think of social media as a game – several games, actually. Each game (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) has a set of rules that makes it different.
That difference determines two key points…
1) The nature of its users. To oversimplify…
- Facebook = general
- Pinterest = visual, discovery
- Twitter = news-oriented
- Instagram = visual, “cool” (younger)
2) Winnability. Few understand this simple-yet-important point: The game with the best rules for you gives you the best chance to win.
Instagram’s Hashtag Rule
Instagram is much more winnable than any other major social medium. And it’s all due to it’s hashtag rules.
Hashtags are to (most) social media what keywords are to search engines. They are how people discover you.
What’s so special about Instagram’s hashtag rule?…
- They actually do get found and bring targeted people to your account!
- You may use up to 30. If you know how, you can cast a BIG, targeted net, one that catches tuna but not dolphins (just don’t include “#dolphins” in your set of 30 ).
Note: In August, 2017, Pinterest has changed it’s stance on and treatment of hashtags. Details and best practices are still vague at this time, but could factor into your “most winnable network” decision in the future.
How to Perform Better Than 95% of Instagramers
Don’t let the size of a social network sway you. Once a network has passed the 100 million mark, it’s more important to think about…
- Relevance. Is your target audience there?
- Winnability. Can you actually grow a following and reach folks every time you post?
So what’s the most winnable social network (currently)? Instagram, because of hashtags.
Hashtags are how people discover you. On Instagram you can use up to 30 of them, allowing you to cast a great BIG targeted net, as mentioned above.
How to Win With Hashtags
- Use the 30 hashtags allowed. You’ll see advice to the contrary (“it’s cool to use fewer”). Ignore it.
- Use words that people would use as search terms. High counts may only indicate popularity among content creators. To improve your hashtag selection (and your results!) think about what keywords the searcher would use.
- Avoid hashtags with too-low or too-high counts. Ever notice “TOP RESULTS” after a search at Instagram? People click on them! You want to be there! It’s tough to rank for high counts, though. And ranking for low counts is pointless. No one is searching!
How Do You Find the Right Range For You?
Great question. Here’s a slick technique…
Examine your last 10 posts. Add up…
- the number of likes
- 3x the number of comments (why 3x? Think on it)
Now divide by 10 to get your “Average Instagram Engagement.” Find hashtags with TOP RESULTS in that range (plus or minus 25%). The hashtags must be relevant, of course!
An example? Sure. Have a beeeeautiful pic of Southbank, London?
Which hashtag are you going to use for this pic?
- #london‘s hashtag count is waaaaaay too high (58 million at the time of writing).
- #southbank, an area within London, is better (700,000) – but for a small account, it’s still out of your league.
- #southbankcentre (24,000) is eminently winnable, as is #southbanklondon (9,100).
- Too small? #southbankatnight (84 )
Is Instagram for Everyone?
Depends on your niche.
Instagram is winnable. But if your audience ain’t there, there’s nothing to win.
How can you tell who’s there?
Got a visual niche? You really should be on Instagram.
Not visual? Search Instagram for some of your most common keywords – your competitors may have figured out a way to make the “unvisual” visual. You’d be surprised at what a little creativity can do!
No niche competitors? You may be better off at Facebook, Pinterest and/or Twitter!
Bottom Line Takeaways?
When choosing which social network(s) to use, ask two questions…
- Is the social network right for your niche audience? No point being there if your audience isn’t!
- How easy is it to build and reach an ENGAGED FOLLOWING? This determines how valuable a social media channel will become for your business.
Also, remember that hashtags are how people discover you (like keywords in search). Instagram’s hashtag rule makes it the most winnable social network, so long as you…
- use the full 30 hashtags allowed
- use hashtags that people actually search for
- choose “Goldilocks” hashtags (neither too high nor too low).
Assuming your audience uses Instagram, the “rules of the game” make it easy to win!