Avoid the social media time-suck: Choose the channels that align with your audience to become a social media success story.

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Social media can be a lot like social life: fun, demanding, confusing, awkward … and rewarding. As a rule, though–once we’re out of high school–social doesn’t dominate our lives. By the same token, most people believe there is value in social media, but need to manage the amount of time they invest in it. With the proliferation of social media channels, it can be tempting to throw up your hands and simply forget about the whole thing. Yet, as your mom told you long ago: Picking up your toys and going home is really not the best way to handle the frustrations of social situations.

Mom probably gave you another tip that applies here: Choose your friends wisely. When it comes to social media, there’s something to be said for wise choices as well. It is essential that you select the best social media sites for your content marketing efforts to make the most of the social media time you have.

Instead of blindly following the in-crowd to the social site du jour, start with an approach we all wish we’d had taken in high school: “Where’s the hangout filled with folks that share my interests?” As our social lives mature, we realize that the definition of the desirable social set is not the same for everyone. You should have a good idea who potential or existing customers are and the type of content they’ll be interested in. Then, to narrow the social media playing field, you’ll need to decide in which networks they are most likely to congregate (see chart).

Here is a quick set of considerations as you select the best social network(s) for your business:

Facebook is right for you… if you are building a community presence or want to reach as broad a network as possible. It is losing some traction among younger users, but with more than 70 percent of online adults actively participating in Facebook, it remains the most popular social media site by far. Not only does it have the most users, it is the most-frequently used, which demonstrates a high level of engagement. Sheer popularity may not be your primary criteria, however. Given that the primary reason people are so engaged with Facebook is to connect with family and friends, it may not provide the most effective medium for your business message.

LinkedIn is right for you… if you are in B2B or in another industry or role in which you can provide useful insights to people thinking about their work, seeking to make business connections, or looking for their next job. While LinkedIn is trying to broaden the scope of its information, most users are in work mode on LinkedIn so it is optimal for peer networking and industry-specific information. Given the high income and education levels of the average LinkedIn user, it offers a distinct audience worth targeting with the right message.

Pinterest is right for you… if you are in a highly visual industry with customers who will naturally seek to express themselves through images. However it can also work in areas that you might not consider visual at first glance. Think about your audience and their interests. Are they likely to collect images that will inform their product or service buying decisions? Are they deeply interested in a subject that can be visually represented? Given Pinterest’s particular popularity among women, it is also the place to be if that is your market target. Inspire and inform them on Pinterest and you can create real engagement.

Twitter is right for you… if you want to reach both men and women, especially younger ones. It is also particularly appealing to “information junkies” so if your business lends itself to the provision of topic-based news or timely insights, Twitter is a great choice. As with Facebook, Twitter is more effective when it is a two-way platform in which you respond to and engage with followers.

Instagram is right for you… if, like Pinterest, you have a visual aspect to what you do and what your customers are interested in. Interestingly, its users also often overlap with Twitter so it can be good as part of a one-two punch. Given Instagram’s appeal to specific ethnic segments and its popularity among urbanites, it can be a good choice for certain market targets.

Another (less popular) visually-centric site is Tumblr, which tends to attract a younger and less affluent audience overall, according to Business Insider. BI also looked at Google , which it found to be very male-dominated. Google has some interesting social community tools such as “hangouts” that are worth exploring if you want to create highly-interactive opportunities.

Alright, now you are ready to get past your social media anxiety and choose the platform (or platforms) that are right for you. Certainly, that means finding your customers where they are with the right kinds of content–be it original or collected from news, entertainment, sports or other trusted sources. But it also means being realistic about what you are willing and able to do in terms of interaction. Social media is, after all, a two-way channel so you need to participate in conversations that make sense for your customers and your business.

Use among internet users More popular with women More popular with men More popular 18-29 More educated Higher income Popular among Hispanics Popular among African Americans
Facebook 71%
LinkedIn 22%
Twitter 18%
Pinterest 21%
Instagram 17%

Source: Pew Research Center’s Internet

Source: http://www.inc.com/michelle-manafy/how-to-choose-the-best-social-media-sites-to-market-your-business.html