To tweet or not to tweet—is there a choice?
Businesses must garner awareness to have an impact. You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows you exist, never sell it. Social media constitutes an effective, inexpensive tool that your business needs to be employing. No matter your industry, you must have a social media presence. But you don’t necessarily need a presence on every single social network. Depending upon your target audience and what product or service you offer, you can likely skip some of the networks while capitalizing on the others.
So how do you choose? Here’s a current guide to the top social media platforms, followed by a ranking of how essential they are to nine sample industries: Finance/Insurance, Clothing/Apparel, Food, Construction/Architecture, Legal/Accounting, Advertising/Marketing/PR, Hospitality, Real Estate, and Healthcare.
Facebook is mandatory. Sorry, I don’t set the rules of the Internet. Facebook is the market leader and you have to have it. I know it feels like old news, but it has 1.59 billion monthly active users and it is not going away. Your Facebook page essentially confirms your existence, so you need a completed, polished profile for your business. Facebook allows you to post long-form text, images, or video, so you can repurpose most of what you post on other social networking sites here. Additionally, it is easier on Facebook to find local followers than it is on any other site listed here, which is especially useful for smaller businesses.
Google+ is an anomaly in the social network space. It’s sort of like that weird kid from your neighborhood who got to be the one to smash the piñata even though he wasn’t actually invited to your party. On paper, Google+ has more users than Facebook—2.5 billion. But even Google doesn’t play up that number. The reason it’s so high is because every gmail address automatically has a Google+ account associated with it, meaning some people don’t even realize they have signed up. So, of that staggering pool of users, only about 9% are actually active. That’s an incredibly low rate compared to the other big social networks, but it still doesn’t mean you can completely ignore Google+.
There are significant SEO benefits that come with a fully-fledged Google+ profile. The content you put on your business’s page gets indexed by Google, so the more you have, the better chance you will be found when someone does a related search. Google essentially owns the search engine market–that means we have to play by their rules. You don’t have to be nearly as active on Google+ as you need to be on most of these other networks, but you should at least have a page with all of your company info and a description (with a few key words for SEO) set up. Because it is the absolute easiest of these to maintain, and it comes with huge benefits, it’s practically as mandatory as Facebook on this list.
Instagram is a force to be reckoned with, as it has surpassed Twitter with more than 400 million active monthly users. Most of them are relatively young, with 53% falling in the 18-29 age category, and 25% in the 30-49 group.
Instagram is dedicated to imagery. You cannot even post without a picture or a video. For many photographers, it has become a sort of interactive portfolio, and the quality in many spaces is sublime. Because of this, you only want to use Instagram if you have visuals to show off, and a reasonably good photographer to capture them. Companies with tangible products (e.g. food, clothing, jewelry) can really do well here if they take creative shots of their merchandise either on display or in use. Also, companies with improvement services (e.g. cosmetics, architecture, interior design) can gain a valuable following on Instagram. But for industries that deal in intangible services or products (e.g. banking, law, accounting), Instagram is less useful. If you do use Instagram, be sure you find the right hashtags to use in your posts, as that drastically affects the type of followers you reach.
Twitter is the place to go if you have something to say, but you better be able to say it succinctly. With 320 million monthly active users, it is still one of the big social networks, but it has fallen behind lately, letting Instagram surpass it. Currently, Twitter only allows 140 characters in a tweet, forcing you to simplify your content and be creative—a feature that has worked well and made them stand out in the past—but that may be changing.
Today, though, Twitter remains a powerful tool for businesses trying to reach potential customers. Industries that don’t have a lot of imagery to share on platforms like Instagram can typically find a better use for their time here. While tweets that include photos or media do tend to perform better, the essence of a tweet is unmistakably the written text. You can promote content from a company blog or website, comment on things happening in your business or industry, or simply share relevant content from other places.
Live events are another of Twitter’s strengths. If you can cover relevant events using the right hashtag, you will find even more value on Twitter. For example, a company that sells sportswear would want to be live tweeting during the Super Bowl under whatever Super Bowl hashtag happens to be trending. Similarly, an online clothing boutique might find valuable followers by live tweeting during a televised fashion show. Get creative and utilize popular TV shows or even one-off incidents that have gone viral. Be sure to search for associated hashtags that may be trending when you take advantage of these. If you have a business that can benefit from followers of similar interests in diverse locations, you will want to create a Twitter account.
Linkedin has 414 million users, but the vast majority of them are not regularly active. After Google+, it is the next least used social media on this list—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. The social network for professionals is very useful to businesses, and not just for recruiting. Adding a business page requires very little upkeep. Like Google+, you simply need to fill out the basic profile information and add a logo. Then, when your employees add their positions to their own profiles, your company will be on the drop-down menu for them to select. By doing this, you ensure that everyone in your network of employees will be publicly connected to a page with your business’s information. Linkedin isn’t mandatory, but it’s easy, and legitimizes your business’s professional imprint.
Youtube has over 1 billion users (also owned by Google, every gmail address or Google+ account automatically has a Youtube username), but it probably feels more like a resource than social media. Indeed, content is more important than interaction here. Youtube is a place for videos, so it’s easily the most time-consuming social network listed here in terms of maintenance. No matter what industry your business falls in, video is highly beneficial when done correctly. Quality is very important, however, and you will want to hire a professional if you don’t have someone in-house who can create high-quality video for you. That also makes Youtube potentially the most costly of the networks listed here. You may not be able to spend the money it requires, but if you do have videos for your customers–whether they are promotional, educational, or simple tutorials–you will want to create a Youtube page for your business. That way, there is one place to go and see all of your business’s videos at once.
Pinterest is all about style and creativity. The things that do best on Pinterest are recipes, workouts, hair and clothing styles, and everything DIY. If tutorials are at all relevant to your industry or business, Pinterest can be a very useful tool for you. With over 100 million monthly active users, Pinterest boasts a uniquely targeted potential audience. Because of this, it’s relatively easy to decide whether or not you need a Pinterest account for your business.
Snapchat is not something that most businesses need at this time. But you should be keeping an eye on it, especially if you are targeting a younger audience. Newer than all of the social media sites on this list, Snapchat is growing faster than any of them, with 100 million daily active users and 7 billion video views a day. To put this in perspective, that is nearly as many video views as Facebook sees from its much larger pool of 1.04 billion daily users. Snapchat is unique in the social media space since there is so much creative freedom for what you can do. You can take impermanent videos and pictures to let your audience see behind the curtain of your business, give them access to your events, or deliver private content that isn’t available on your other social media accounts. The drawback is that there is no hashtagging or method of discovery—the best way to drive followers to your Snapchat account is through other social media accounts; that’s why this is a lower priority on the list.
*Please note that the social media landscape changes quickly, and you will need to pay close attention to stay in-touch with the current trends. Had I written this article a year or two ago, Instagram would have been ranked lower, Twitter and Pinterest higher, and Snapchat would not have been included at all.