How to Decide Which Social Media Channels to Use

There’s a dizzying array of social media sites out there, from giants like Facebook to small, niche-oriented sites you could hardly find if you didn’t know them. It’s impossible to create and manage a profile on every site on which your target market hangs out. Instead, you need to choose the most effective and most active social media networks for connecting with your customers.

Different Types of Social Media

Social media sites come in all shapes and sizes. The first step is to identify what kinds would work best to communicate your marketing messages. The main categories include:

General Sites – These are sites like Facebook and Google+ that are meant for people to hang out and connect with friends.

Microblogging – The most popular microblogging sites are Twitter and Tumblr. These sites allow you to make short posts in real-time.

Blogs – Blogs are a form of social media on which a business or individual can write posts and readers can comment. You can host your blog yourself, or use a platform like Blogger or WordPress.

Video Sites – These are sites for sharing videos. The most popular is YouTube, but there are many others as well.

Coupon and Check-in Sites – Another important type of social media site is one where businesses allow users to check in to offline locations, write reviews, and get coupons. These include Groupon, Yelp, CityPages, and Foursquare.

Visually Oriented Social Media –These include image-oriented sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr.

Music and Entertainment Sites – Some sites are excellent tools for bands and recording artists, such as MySpace and BandCamp. They’re specially designed for posting and sharing audio files.

Professional Networking Sites – Sites such as LinkedIn are primarily B2B sites for professional networking or recruiting.

Finally, there are niche-specific social media sites based around the common interests of a specific group.

Essential Social Media
Among the above list, there are certain sites that are pretty much essential for any business, no matter what field you’re in. The most important one is Facebook. Facebook is the world’s biggest social network and because it’s general and caters to everyone, it’s suitable for any kind of business which wants to better understand their customers on a more personal level.

YouTube is another social media site that’s very popular and suitable for all businesses. You can create short videos that demonstrate your products, teach customers how to do things related to your business, or inform viewers about your business or industry.

Finally, a blog is crucial to your business. Blogs not only give you a way to connect with your customers, but when they’re part of your main website, they provide you with fresh content and offer search engine optimization benefits.

What to Consider
When choosing which social media sites to use, first look at the site’s philosophy. Is it something that your business can use? For example, Facebook is a site where regular people hang out. LinkedIn is where professionals network. Twitter is for real-time news. Does the site’s main use suit your business?

Take a look at the characteristics and features that the site offers. For example, Google+ offers the Hangouts feature, where you can hold a video teleconference or live event for your fans. Twitter, with its 140-character limit for posts, may be unsuitable for some businesses that need to make longer posts.

One way to choose is to ask your customers. Give them a survey and ask which social media sites they’re most active on. Another way to gather this information is to put social media widgets on your site and see on which networks you get the most sharing, liking, and comments.

Keep in mind that each social media site you choose will take an additional chunk of time out of your day. The best practice is to start with one site, get it rolling, and then move on to the next. Don’t sign up for too many at once, or you may spread yourself thin.

December 4, 2014