Social media has become a critical component in every small business's online marketing plan. For some businesses, social media acts as an extension of the company's website; for others, it functions as the hub of the company's online presence. Regardless of how integral social media is to your business, you will want to select social media platforms that align with your marketing objectives.
There are many platforms available to choose from; each is better suited to different types of content and has a different user demographic. Your business does NOT need to have a presence on all social media platforms. Developing high-quality content is time consuming, so it is best to focus your efforts on a few platforms that your target customers use. To make an educated decision about which platforms you should focus on, you must first understand what each platform has to offer and who they are targeting.
As of January 2021, nine of the most popular social media platforms in North America are: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Quora. We are also going to tell you about a 10th "bonus platform" that your business should be using.
In this article, we will discuss each platform's user demographics and main features, and tell you which platforms YOUR small business should be using.
Facebook is the "OG" of social media. With 2.7 billion users around the world, it is (by far) the most popular platform. Facebook is a favorite among men and women, young and old, and just about every other demographic group! The majority of users are between age 18 to 64. In other words, there is a good chance that YOUR target customers can be reached here.
Facebook can be classified as a social networking platform because it allows users to interact with each other in a variety of ways. Some of the best features it has to offer businesses are Pages, Groups, Events Pages, and Advertising.
Pages are public profiles that anyone can view, "Like" and "Follow". They are a great place to stay in touch with your existing customers and build relationships with new ones. You can post a variety of content to your Page as often as you like (including photos, videos, questions and more). The objective is to post engaging content that your audience will want to like, share, and comment on.
In addition to establishing a Page, you can also join groups that are relevant to your business. Facebook is has groups for most industries, geographic areas, professions, and hobbies or interests. If you can't find the perfect group for your business to join, you can always start your own! Lastly, if your business provides classes or is hosting an upcoming event, you can create Event Pages to help you promote your event to Facebook users who might be interested in attending.
Most Facebook features are 100% free to use, but if you're interested in doing some paid advertising to take your social media presence to the next level, Facebook is our platform of choice for doing so. Its ad system offers outstanding targeting options, affordable rates, and tools to help you develop and manage your ads.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using Facebook?
The short answer is YES! Every small business can benefit in some way from having a presence on Facebook. Its wide range of features and massive audience make it well suited to just about every type of business! We highly recommend including Facebook in your business's social media portfolio.
Twitter is a social networking platform (like Facebook), but unlike Facebook, Twitter moves at a much quicker pace and has more restrictions on the type of content you can post. Posts on Twitter are called Tweets. To use Twitter effectively, your Tweets must be kept short (under 280 characters) and should include hashtags. You can also include images, GIFs and short videos (under 2 minutes) to draw attention to your Tweets.
In terms of demographics, both men and women enjoy using Twitter; the majority of users are between the ages of 18 to 49 and over half of users have a college education.
Twitter is all about joining the conversation. It's kind of like a group text message that the entire world can chime in on. It's primary function is to facilitate conversations about current events as they are happening. Twitter's home page gives a real time overview of trending topics that are currently being discussed. Trending topics are fleeting and usually center around breaking news, current events, TV shows as they air, sporting events, election results, etc.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using Twitter?
If you are a politician, news or media company, performing artist, professional athlete, celebrity or public figure, you should definitely be using Twitter! If your business doesn't fall into one of these categories, it may still benefit from having a Twitter account if you're interested in starting or joining conversations. As one source puts it, "if your content doesn't inspire conversations, it isn't worth publishing on Twitter".
Instagram is the "fashion show" of social media. This platform is best suited for sharing professional-looking photos and short videos.
Instagram is now owned by Facebook which allows users to easily share content between the two platforms. To upload content to Instagram, your must either post from Facebook or from a social media management tool (such as Hootsuite), or using the Instagram App on your phone. You cannot upload content from your desktop. For this reason, most users access Instagram from their mobile devices. The App provides filters that you can add to your photos to make them look more professional.
Instagram appeals to a younger demographic than Facebook. Most Instagram users are between the ages of 13 to 50, and are more likely to be female than male. The overarching theme on this platform is 'putting your best foot forward'. Instagram users enjoy getting insider looks into the fabulous lives of others... which is why Instagram is home to many social influencers and self-made celebrities.
If you want your content to get noticed here, your business must consistently post exciting, professional-looking images (or short videos) that appeal to Instagram's young, trendy audience. Users are not interested in reading lengthy posts; they want to be entertained with visual content that they can digest in a matter of seconds. Emotional ad appeals do well here.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using Instagram?
The short answer is 'probably, yes'. If your business provides products or services related to lifestyle, travel, fashion, art, beauty, food, hobbies, or trendy products, you should definitely have a presence on Instagram! And even if your business doesn't fit into one of these categories, it may still benefit from a having a presence if your target customers align with Instagram's user demographics.
Pinterest is another photo sharing platform, but it has a different user demographic than Instagram. Pinterest is most popular among women between the ages of 18 to 64 (especially Moms!) from higher-income households. The majority of users access Pinterest from their mobile devices.
Pinterest profiles are called Pinboards and are meant to resemble bulletin boards that have a collection of photos you like "pinned" to them. Pinterest users are called Pinners. Popular topics include home decor trends, party planning and wedding ideas, life moments and special occasions, recipes, inspirational quotes and funny memes, clothing and outfit ideas, hairstyles, tattoos, and DIY projects. The over-arching theme here is sharing trends and ideas.
To use Pinterest effectively, you will want to use relevant keywords to help Pinners find your content. Pinterest prioritizes fresh content, so post often! Images, GIFs and short videos are all well-received types of content on this platform.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using Pinterest?
If your business targets women aged 18 to 64, especially moms, then YES! If your business provides any product or service that is congruent with popular Pinterest topics, the answer is again YES. If you're still not sure, consider doing a little research... Visit Pinterest and take a look around to see what Pinners are posting to determine if your products or services would be a good fit here.
YouTube is video sharing platform. It's kind of like an online channel where anyone in the world can be the star of their own TV show! Naturally, this free access has resulted in a tremendous amount of content. As of 2021, YouTube has 2 billion users (and counting).
People love YouTube because it's FREE and you can find videos on just about anything. In general, YouTube users like videos that either entertain or educate them. DIY and how-to videos, music videos, and funny videos about cats all do very well here. This is also the only platform on our list that is well suited to longer videos. If you want your videos to get found in YouTube's sea of content, they will need to be professional (or at least semi-professional) quality and unique in some way.
In terms of demographics, things are pretty wide open. Everyone uses YouTube (especially people under age 30), so it is highly likely that your target customers can be reached here!
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using YouTube?
This will depend on two things: 1) do your competitors use YouTube? and 2) do you have any video production skills? As we previously mentioned, YouTube is flooded by new content every day. So, if your business wants to use YouTube, it must be able to make high-quality videos that differentiate themselves from the content that is already available. If video production is not in your skillset, you will either need to learn about it (YouTube has some great videos!) or hire someone to help you. You will also want to look at what your competition is doing. If your competitors have YouTube channels, check out their content to see what you could do better than them.
TikTok is the newest social media platform on this list. Since its inception in 2016, it mas managed to gain an impressive 800-million user following, and that number continues to grow! Like YouTube, TikTok is a video sharing platform. However, unlike YouTube, TikTok only allows short videos (between 3 seconds to 1 minute long).
This platform is all about quick entertainment. Users have incredibly short attention spans and want to be amused in one minute or less! Content that performs well tends to feature children or animals doing funny things, but there is also room for educational/how-to videos and other interesting subject matter. You can also add music and special effects to your videos to make them more entertaining.
TikTok's demographic is young. It is a very popular platform among teenagers. 42% TikTok users are between the ages of 18 to 24; and 27% are aged 13 to 17.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using TikTok?
If your business targets teenagers or people under the age of 24, the answer is yes! This popularity of this platform among young people cannot be ignored. You will want to get creative and think of ways to make fun, short videos that incorporate your products or services in some way. Participating is "hashtag challenges" is also a good way to get your content noticed.
LinkedIn was created in 2002, making it the oldest platform on this list. LinkedIn is exclusively a career networking platform. Profiles resemble resumes and users want to make connections that could further their careers in some way. LinkedIn is not necessarily a great place to find new customers (unless your business provides B2B products or services). But, it is a good place to connect with other business owners in your industry or area, or to find new employees.
LinkedIn targets an educated demographic with 77% of users having a college education (or higher). It is most popular among people between the ages of 25 to 49; Both men and women are equally likely to use this platform.
LinkedIn is one of the few platforms on this list where it is appropriate to upload articles you write and other long text-based content. These educated users appreciate helpful advice that is related to business growth or career advancement.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using LinkedIn?
If your business provides business-to-business (B2B) products or services, the answer is yes. LinkedIn may be a good place to connect with potential B2B customers. And if your business requires educated employees, LinkedIn is also a great place to recruit. Outside of those two purposes, your business is probably safe to skip LinkedIn in its social media portfolio.
Tumblr is a microblogging platform. Microblogging is defined as "making short, frequent posts to a blog". Profile pages on Tumblr are called Blogs. Tumblr has a few similarities with Twitter, but manages to differentiate itself in some key ways.
Like Twitter, Tumblr is best for short posts about trending topics. Tumblr's homepage has a real time list of trending topics to help you get inspired. Hashtags are essential. Tumblr is a faced-paced environment, so posting multiple times a day is acceptable.
Tumblr sets itself from Twitter in three main ways. First, your content doesn't have to be your own. It is acceptable to pick a theme and curate a blog rather than developing your own content. Second, you can customize your Blog's "theme" to make it your own. This means you can make your Blog look like an extension of your website so that it will be consistent with your brand. And third, Tumblr is capable of long-form posts. Tumblr users prefer short posts, but you are not restricted to a character limit like you are on Twitter.
Tumblr appeals to a younger demographic than Twitter; the majority of Tumblr users are between the ages of 15 to 35. These users respond best to fun, visual content. Tumblr has a slightly smaller user base than other platforms, but this just means it might be easier for users to find your content here!
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using Tumblr?
If your business has a fun, youthful culture and targets customers under the age of 35, yes! If not, your business is probably better suited to other social media platforms.
Quora is a question & answer platform that allows users to ask and answer each others questions. Like LinkedIn, this is one of the few platforms on our list that values written content over visual content.
Quora users post questions related to almost every niche and topic imaginable. Answering questions on topics that you are knowledgeable about is a great way to market your products or services and establish yourself as a credible expert in your field. If users think your response perfectly answers a question, they can "upvote" it, which raises your answer to the top of the thread. Quora users want high-quality, well-researched responses to their questions, so generating content for this platform can be very time consuming. However, Quora is a public forum, so you never know who might see your answer down the road... The initial effort may be well worth your time in the long run!
Two tips to make Quora more useful to you: First, if your business has its own blog, Quora questions can serve as great inspiration for your blog's topics. Consider posting your answer to both Quora and your blog so that your hard work can reach double the audience. Second, be sure to include a link to an appropriate landing page on your website with your answers so if Quora users want to know more, they know where to find you.
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using Quora?
If your business offers any type of professional services that required years of education and/or professional training, yes! You should be using Quora. There is always a niche with unanswered questions in need of someone knowledgeable to answer them!
Google My Business (GMB) is Google's FREE online directory. Even though GMB is not technically a "social media platform", we are including it in our list because it offers 'social media-esque' features.
GMB listings are similar to social media pages; they include your business's name, service area, a brief description of your products and services, and your contact information. You can also include logo and other photos of your business. Establishing a GMB listing is essential for every small business because it will help your customers find you using search engines. GMB listings also allow your customers to post public reviews about your business, which (when positive) can help build confidence and trust in your brand.
GMB now offers a 'Post' feature. Posts are either special offers, products, events, or updates and news about your business and can include images or short videos. Your posts will be visible to anyone who searches for your business on Google. When users click on your posts, it will take them to a landing page on your website. It is a fantastic way to drive more traffic to your site!
Should YOUR Small Businesses be using GMB?
YES! Yes, yes, yes.
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Hi! I'm Danielle Harshenin. I lead the marketing team at OSBS. I'm an entrepreneur in Lake Country with a degree in Marketing and I LOVE to share my marketing tips and tricks with other small business owners!