Since the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005 two things are clear. First, there are more people using social media every year. Second, the amount of time that people people spend on social media increases every year.
In March of 2005 surveys from Pew Research Center reported 5% of adults used at least one platform. By February 2019 the number who used at least one platform rose to 72% of adults. Additionally a 2018 survey revealed 51% of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 reported they use Facebook. This was lower than the percentages who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat. But when you contrast this with the platforms they use most often Facebook ranks fourth.
Social media can be a great way to promote your business and connect with potential and current customers. But the sheer number of social media platforms can leave business owners and marketing professionals feeling overwhelmed. How do you decide if you should set up a Facebook page, create YouTube videos, or hang out on Twitter?
The solution to high a ROI with social media marketing is rooted in understanding who your customers are. Assembling a well-designed Buyer Persona is not limited to identifying and understanding your ideal customer’s needs, wants, hopes and fears. You must also determine their preferences, habits, and how they spend their time. This includes what social media platforms they use, and how frequently.
A well-researched Buyer Persona is the foundation of any successful marketing effort. If you haven’t already done so, check out our guide to building a Buyer Persona and download our free persona template now.
Having said all that, you came here for answers, so let’s go through an honest comparison of some of the more popular social media platforms and see which ones will offer you the maximum ROI.
With 2 billion+ users, it’s the biggest social media platform in the world. There are numerous ways to take advantage of Facebook, ranging from a simple fan page which can act as your “home base” on the platform, to paid advertising options which allow you to research who your customers are, and target ads with an incredible level of precision and specificity.
While some people still think social media is mainly for young people, that’s not the case with Facebook. As of 2019, 69% of Facebook users in the United States were over 18 years old and 52% of adults use the platform to get their news.
Facebook is a “full service” social media platform. It acts as a second website for your company, in that Google indexes links which are searchable. It's also an advertising platform, and a customer service/engagement tool all at once, allowing you to promote your business and interact directly with your customers, even in real time. You can use tabs to set up email marketing campaigns, and sell products or schedule appointments directly from the platform as well.
Bottom line: If you only have one social media account, Facebook is probably the best place to start if you don't want to create videos. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and given how many consumers are using it coupled with the sheer variety of things it can do, it’s a good idea to set up a page to steer people toward your site.
Twitter has been a source of division in recent months. Pew Research Reports that since 2016, when 24% of U.S. adults were on Twitter; In October 2019 this 22% of adults now use the platform. Additionally, 80% of US Tweets come from 10% of Twitter accounts meaning that while there are 159.56 million accounts usage is dropping.
As of summer 2019, Twitter sat in the #5 spot among social networks for business referral networks at 6%. This statistic outpaces Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and sits aligned with Pinterest making this platform one businesses shouldn't ignore.
Bottom line: Twitter is ideal for engaging with your audience, if they are on Twitter, promoting brands and new products, as well as discounts, contests, limited-time promotions and sharing company news in a rapid, up-to-the-minute way.
The world’s most popular video-sharing service (and second largest search engine after Google) is also an excellent marketing tool. The fact is that video is an incredibly effective way to communicate and build trust and credibility with your target audience.
In 2019 YouTube took the top spot for social media outranking Facebook as well. Pew Research Center reports that 73% of adults use YouTube and Think with Google notes that People watched more than 50,000 years of product review videos over the last two years.
A case can be made that video is, some ways, the most effective marketing medium there is. Why? Because it most closely simulates interacting in real life and speaking directly to a customer. Video allows for nonverbal communication such as body language, as well as the aspects of verbal communication like tone, which can be more challenging to convey by text. Everything from copy to images and infographics, to music and the spoken word, are combined to form videos. Because it is both visual and auditory, people can absorb information better through this multi-channel communication method than almost any other medium.
Videos are also excellent for producing viral content: video shared over social media generates 1200% more shares than images and text combined. Videos are also a fantastic way to demonstrate your expertise in an industry and why your products are better than your competitors.
If you’re going to embrace video, YouTube is unquestionably the best place to start. 61% of businesses worldwide are already using YouTube. But again, it's important to take time to consider where your buyer persona hangs out before investing in this medium.
Bottom line: Remember— most people are looking for answers to a question or solutions to a problem when they search online. Take time to consider why and how you will use YouTube before getting started.
Many people are visual learners and look for a quick video to explain what they want to know. YouTube can be an excellent way to provide that content to your target market and redirect them toward your site where you can continue guiding them through their Buyer’s Journey. While highly produced videos can be expensive and time-consuming to make, it may be worth incorporating them into your larger Inbound Marketing strategy.
Instagram is ideal for sharing images and short videos that appeal to very targeted niches and position your company as an influencer in that niche. With 1 Billion users every month, Instagram has far surpassed Twitter's users.
This visual platform is attracting a larger audience in part because it's all about images where as Facebook and Twitter were created for words first.
Bottom line: Instagram is perfect for targeting young markets with visual content that builds brand awareness and distinguishes you from the competition. Oh, and in case you were thinking about Snapchat— you may want to reconsider. HubSpot reported in 2017 Snapchat use among top influencers was down 33%. In 2019 Pew Research reports that percentage continues to drop. In 2018 users decreased to 27% and in February 2019 Snapchat usage hoovered around 24% as users continue to leave the platform for Instagram.
This is an interesting one. Pinterest functions as a sort of online file cabinet which allows you to “pin” visual content that interests you or your audience. This platform sits on the opposite end of the “bells and whistles” spectrum from Facebook; it is inherently simple. It’s designed only for collecting and sharing content rather than creating it— and it works.
One thing that distinguishes Pinterest from other platforms is that its users are overwhelmingly female (80%)— although 50% of Pinterest’s new sign-ups are men.
Here are some other eye-popping stats:
Bottom line: Pinterest is best for posting compelling visual content that displays your brand and directs traffic toward your website. If women make up your target market (especially younger women), this is one to consider.
The most “professional” of all social media platforms (no silly cat videos here). Previously designed as a networking tool for job seekers, it is now common for businesses to create dedicated profiles as well. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to share video, images, and written content. It also enables users to start their own LinkedIn blog associated with their profile.
Bottom line: LinkedIn has a more serious and professional atmosphere than other platforms, so it’s perfect for those who know that their customers are more interested in competence, data, and facts than flashy marketing. B2B marketers are strongly encouraged to look into LinkedIn.
While there are certainly other platforms we can explore, this should give you a basic sense of where your social media efforts will get you the most results. As always, success comes down to understanding your Personas and their behaviors, as well as a willingness to experiment. Check out our free Social Prospecting Workbook, full of easy to understand tips on leveraging the power of social media to grow your business.
Original publication date November 22, 2017. Updated January 22, 2020.
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