If your business isn’t on social media yet, you’re missing out.

Twenty eight percent of the population worldwide is active on social media. In the United States that number jumps to 81% – more than three quarters of the whole country! Unless your target market is technophobes, your business needs a presence on social media. However, with so many channels out there, it can be tough to figure out which ones to focus on.

Regularly posting and engaging on social media takes time and strategy, but, if you’re using the right channels, it’s totally worth it. Easy enough, right? Not so fast. First and foremost you have to identify the right social media channels for your audience. “But there are so many to choose from!”, we hear you groan.  No worries.  We’ve laid out a brief overview of the most popular social networks, who’s using them, and which businesses are best suited to benefit from them to help guide your way. 

 

TWITTER

On average, Twitter sees approximately 500 millions tweets per day – that’s 6,000 tweets every second! Despite this volume of usage, only 24% of all online adults are on Twitter. Zoom in on Americans, and that number drops to 21% of monthly active users. Usage is highest among younger demographics, though split relatively evenly among men and women with around 25% of each reporting having an account. Eighteen to twenty nine year olds make up the largest portion of users at 36%; while all other age groups report less than 25% usage. 65+ year olds have the least number of users at just 10%.

Generationally, Twitter is largely dominated by millennials, with 38% of the demographic reporting that they have an account. In Q3 of 2016 it seemed that Twitter growth had become stagnant. However, with 67 million active users in the United States, there is most certainly still an audience worth exploring.

The sheer volume of tweets is both Twitter’s draw and its greatest challenge for businesses and marketers. With an average lifespan of 18 minutes, you’d be right in assuming that Twitter requires more frequent posting than some of the other social media channels. But don’t get put off just yet. Recent analyses have determined that 1-5 tweets is sufficient to garner new followers, encourage engagement, and get your content seen by your followers. Beyond its organic reach, Twitter also has opportunities for promotions to reach more users, gain more followers, etc. In our experience, Twitter advertising has netted out as more expensive than on some of the other social media networks, but, if your ads connect with the right people it could be well worth the extra spend.

WHO SHOULD USE TWITTER?

Businesses that want to engage with younger audiences, have the time to dedicate to social media, who are consumer facing, or who are in a hot B2B industry, should be on Twitter. For B2C it’s a great way to engage directly with customers on a regular basis and humanize your brand. While for B2B it’s a critical avenue for displaying thought leadership and engaging in real time discourse with your industry community.

 

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn was designed to enable professionals to network and connect in a single, easy to use, digital platform. And professionals are exactly who you’ll find there. More than 40% of Americans use the professional networking site and it’s currently the only one that has a higher percentage of male users (31%) to female users (27%). Though most popular with 18-49 year olds, LinkedIn has relatively good penetration across all age groups with 20% or more of 50-65+ also using the platform. Due to its professional nature, its more popular with users who have a college degree than it is among those with fewer educational qualifications.

Millennials account for 38% of LinkedIn’s total user base. Though the current crowd trends slightly more towards an older user base, it is also one of the fastest growing social media networks, which certainly justifies focusing some time here. Though it has the lowest engagement rate among competitors Facebook and Twitter, it has the highest conversion rates at a rate of 277% more than the other two.

WHO SHOULD USE LINKEDIN?

LinkedIn is a great avenue for B2B businesses. It’s highly targeted advertising opportunities let businesses narrow down their ideal customers and hit them with the right ads to drive conversions. It’s also a tremendous forum for thought leadership. Getting specialized employees to become active in Groups and/or publishing to LinkedIn Pulse is a great way to showcase expertise while engaging with an interested and active community.

 

INSTAGRAM

Instagram is a wee babe in comparison to the other social media networks we’ve looked at, having arrived on the scene in 2010. Despite its relative “newness” the photo sharing app has 500 million total users, with 60% of those using it every day. This makes it the most second engaged social network after Facebook. In the United States, 28% of all online adults use the site, with women outnumbering male users by almost 10%.

Instagram is overwhelmingly populated by a younger demographic. Almost 60% of 18-29 year olds report having an account, while only 18% of 50-64 year olds use the app. Generationally speaking, millennials and their younger Generation Z counterparts dominate this user base. 90% of Instagram users are under 35 and 32% of US teens list Instagram as their most important social network.

Its explosive growth and high organic reach has seen many businesses and brands adapting a ‘gram strategy to reach new audiences. With 50% of Instagrammers following at least one business and 70% of campaigns generating statistically significant lifts in online conversions or mobile app installs, Instagram has lots of opportunity for businesses looking to connect with younger audiences. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it’s also inherently linked from an advertising perspective, making it easy to boost posts and increase engagement on a small budget.

WHO SHOULD USE INSTAGRAM?

B2C businesses are currently dominating the Insta-space with 31% of B2C marketers calling the channel “very important” as opposed to just 8% of B2B counterparts. However, that doesn’t mean that B2B’s should shy away from the channel if the audience is relevant and they can create compelling visual content. The nature of Instagram and its adoption of video and stories means brands have a real opportunity to showcase their personality, and to leverage hashtags to tap into and drive conversations. However, in order to make the channel work for a business or brand, consistency is key. Changing the frequency of posting from one week to the next will have negative impacts on your engagement rates, so coming up with a schedule you can maintain is critical for success.

 

PINTEREST

Pinterest arrived on the scene around the same time as Instagram and has continued to draw a similar crowd. While 26% of total adult US internet users report using the social network, it’s user base is predominately (81%) female. However, the numbers may soon start to even out as men are currently the fastest growing demographic on the channel. Overall, Pinterest has relatively good penetration, 25% or higher, across all age groups, with the exception of those 65 and older.

Although the median age of a Pinterest user is forty, 67% of Pinners are younger than that, with the user base consisting of mostly millennials.  However, where Pinterest really stands out is for its user’s buyer behaviors. Eighty seven percent of Pinterest users have bought products because they saw it on Pinterest and 93% of users engage with the site to plan out purchases. Not only that, but it’s where people are discovering brands. 47% of Pinners report finding new brands through the network. Combine those stats with its average time on site, which is a whopping 89 minutes, far surpassing social media giants Twitter and LinkedIn, and you have a tremendous opportunity to engage your business directly with your consumers.

WHO SHOULD USE PINTEREST?

Pinterest works best for businesses that have products that will ultimately end up in the hands of consumers. Since that applies to quite a few businesses, there is a lot of opportunity here. The challenge with Pinterest is not only creating, but curating, beautiful content and organizing it in a way that will resonate with your target audience. However, once you have your first board up and running, it will become easier to continue to build on it, add complimentary boards, and/or build whole new boards to appeal to your target audience.

 

SNAPCHAT

The new kid, so to speak, on the social media block, SnapChat has been making big waves and has quickly become a channel on the minds and marketers and businesses alike. Unlike the other social networks discussed here, SnapChat is still a privately owned company. But with their parent company Snap Inc. recently filing for IPO, more data on the company has just recently become available.

Of all the social media users in the United States, just 18% are using SnapChat. However, those that do use it are highly engaged. “Per Snap’s first prospectus, over 2.5 billion Snaps are sent from the app every day. Snapchat boasts, on average, 158 million daily active users, 25% of whom post to their Story every day. And on average, those daily active users visit the app more than 18 times per day,” writes MediaKix. Demographically, millennials make up the largest portion of SnapChat users with 71% of users falling between 18 and 34, while just 1% of users are 65 or older. Generation Z are also big users of the platform. In fact, 60% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 38 are SnapChat users and 71% of all users are under the age of 25. The Snap universe is currently mostly women who make up 70% of all users.

The challenges with SnapChat are in the very essence of the functionality of the platform. Snaps are short-lived and largely consumed in real-time. For marketers and businesses, this means identifying new approaches to building and distributing content. Whereas on other channels you might spend significant amounts of time and money creating a carefully branded image or piece of content, this approach doesn’t make much sense on SnapChat (unless you have a big marketing team with an even bigger budget). A large portion of its success has been attributed to its fundamental difference from other social channels. In particular, its ability to deliver authentic experiences that are happening in real time – components that have been found to be important to millennials when identifying with brands.

Although there are some advertising opportunities for smaller budgets with SnapChat, such as geo-filters, it’s advertising platform is largely geared to big budget brands who have significant dollars to spend. Despite this, there is still a real chance for businesses and brands to engage with younger demographics in a way that they haven’t been able to before.

WHO SHOULD USE SNAPCHAT?

If you’re marketing to a younger demographic this is definitely a place to be. However, even if your demographic skews a little bit older, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a shot. It’s differentiation as a platform makes it an interesting place for businesses and brands to explore new and different ways to present themselves and calls for thinking outside of the box. However, because it isn’t the same as other social channels, you’ll really want to develop out your strategy and identify what success looks like for your brand before you get started.

 

FACEBOOK

Facebook is still dominating the social scene with 72% of social media users reporting using the site. It has, by far, the greatest range of users of any other social network. In a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2016 Facebook penetrated more than 60% of every age group and boasted a relatively even split of male and female users.

Looking at it through the generational lens, Facebook also has the largest representation of both millennials and non-millennials, with over 40% of respondents from both groups reporting they use the site every day. With 88% of men and women aged 18-29 saying that they have a Facebook account, reports indicating that millennials abandoned Facebook for SnapChat were seemingly a bit preemptive. Moral of the story? Unless your target market is technophobes, there is a good chance they’re on Facebook. And with new features like Facebook Live, there are lots of opportunities to engage.

However, just because your audience is on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s easy to actually connect with them. In recent years Facebook’s organic reach has experienced a significant decline. The official word from Facebook is that this is a byproduct of new algorithms designed to cut out the clutter and deliver only the most relevant content into a user’s newsfeed. Though some would argue that it’s a way to make businesses use Facebook ads to reach the same people a business could have once connected with for free. With that said, Facebook ads perform significantly better than other digital ads with desktop Facebook ads achieving 8.1x higher click through rates, and mobile ads gaining 9.1x higher click through rates. With the ability to segment your audience with highly granular data points and a minimum budget requirement of just $5/day, Facebook remains a key avenue for engaging with customers and driving new business.

WHO SHOULD USE FACEBOOK?

With its broad reach, huge usership, and minimal maintenance Facebook is a good start for any size business to establish a social footprint. Unfortunately, due to the changes in organic reach, you will likely want to spend a bit of money to promote your content, or at the very least your page, to garner attention and create an engaged audience.

 

CONCLUSION

As with any marketing activity, you’ll want to venture into social media with some clear goals and objectives about what you want to achieve and what success will look like. Though we’ve made some recommendations about what types of businesses could benefit from each of these channels, if you feel your brand would perform well on one we haven’t recommended, by all means go for it! Standing out from the crowd is always a challenge and, when done right, a recipe for success.

Now that you have a general idea about what’s happening on the most popular channels out there, identify the best social networks for your business, make a plan, and start getting social.

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