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Which Social Media Platforms Should You Be Using in 2014?

If you’re new to social media, it can seem like a daunting prospect. Which social media platforms should we active on? is a common question, and I’ve seen many businesses answer this by signing up for every social media channel going – but don’t do this!

You need to think about how much time you have spare for your social media marketing – it really is a 24/7 job. Social media doesn’t shut down after work hours; people are active on sites all day, every day. So don’t take off more than you can handle in one go.

Start off with joining a couple of key sites – think about where your target audiences/clients hang out. There’s no point getting excited and joining Pinterest when the majority of your target audience are actually using Instagram.

And remember, not every social media platform works well for every business. LinkedIn works specifically well with B2B companies, but if you’re a new and small local boutique you’d be better off on Pinterest or Facebook. 

If you have no budget…

Social media marketing is NOT free. Don’t believe the hype. As mentioned above, social media really is a 24/7 job – and we are all aware that time is money. Can you afford to have someone work on your social media pages 24/7?

No?

Well then can you afford to pay for an automotive service? So you can update your social media channels in the evenings and weekends (when they’re most active)?

And can you afford to pay for promoted posts and adverts to help the growth and visibility of your posts?

Ah…you’re starting to see the real cost of social media marketing now. I understand if you’re feeling a bit disappointed…take a moment…

…feeling better? What if I told you that you can still be successful without paying for your social media marketing? You just got to use the right platforms.

If you don’t have, or are unwilling to spend money on your social media marketing efforts, steer clear Facebook and LinkedIn.

Facebook’s organic reach is capped due to their complicated algorithm – so without paying to ‘boost’ the visibility of your post, you can be guaranteed that not all of your followers will see it. Maybe not even half of them.

Similarly with LinkedIn, it’s extremely difficult to get your business page and updates seen without spending some money on promotion.

Twitter

Twitter, on the other hand, is perfect for zero-spending marketing. Each and every tweet can be seen by all of your followers – and even non-followers! You can also tweet and directly message any other twitter user, so it’s great for networking as well.

Google+

Google+ is another good one. It may not be as popular as some of the other social networks, but it’s steadily growing year after year, and SEOs are excited about the possibilities of social signals impacting Google search ranking in the future. What makes Google+ so great for marketing, is that you can put people/other businesses into different circles – and share content specifically with those circles.

Instagram

Instagram allows you to be a bit more creative than other social media sites, but you’re limited to the type of content you can share: photos or short, capped videos. That’s it! Great if you have loads of good quality images to hand.

Brands have been using Instagram cleverly, by showing ‘behind the scenes’ photos the people behind the brand. This promotes engagement and allows brands and businesses to show a more human and relatable side.

Pinterest

Pinterest is another photo-based social media platform, although arguably less ‘social’. Pinterest is more like a scrapbook; a collection of pictures, recipes and tutorials that can be shared.

If your business is in the fashion, food or crafty industry – then you can go really far with Pinterest. Remember though, that the majority of Pinterest users are female – this can either be good or bad depending on who your target customers are.

If you have money in the kitty…

Then social media is your oyster!

YouTube

Consider using YouTube for videos. Some people might not refer to YouTube as a social media channel, but it does have a huge community who use the platform every single day, and you have the potential to get your video seen by hundreds of influencers and potential clients.

Plus, creating and using videos is another form of original content that will give you an advantage. Making videos is difficult and expensive. Not all of your competitors are going to be in the same position as you. Take advantage of that, and remember to share your videos on your website and across your other social media channels as well!

Facebook

If you’re lucky enough to have a decent budget set aside for your social media marketing, it’s worth investing it in Facebook.

Facebook is still the number one social media platform, with over [x amount] of users. Targeting ads and promoting posts is going to get you noticed, and if you can develop a large community on Facebook, you’re laughing.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn works particularly well if you’re a B2B business. It was designed for working professionals, and is a great way to network with other people in your industry.

The best thing about LinkedIn, is its advertising targeting. You can be much more specific about who will see your advertisement than other social media platforms. 

Quick Pros & Cons for Each Platform…

Facebook

Pros:

  • Large number of users
  • Good for engagement (likes, comments, shares)
  • Target audiences through paid advertising
  • Good and clear insights
  • Can add videos to your page

 

Cons:

  • Limited organic reach – not all your posts will be seen by all of your followers
  • It can take a while to build followers (especially if you are a small/new business)
  • To be really effective, need to invest in advertising (which can be costly)

 

Twitter

Pros: 

  • Large number of users
  • Every tweet is seen by all of your followers (and even non-followers!)
  • 140 character limit allows you to get to the point
  • Easy to make new contacts/connections
  • Allows your audiences/customers to directly interact with you

 

Cons:

  • Everything is public (that includes bad reviews/sloppy mistakes)
  • Twitter is busy and crowded – tweets can get easily lost and have a very short lifespan
  • Not ideal for visual content (but getting better)
  • 140 character limit can be restricting
  • Direct messages can only be sent to one user at a time (and are often seen as ‘spam’)
  • Insights are harder to acquire

 

Google+

Pros:

  • Google Hangouts
  • Good for SEO
  • Google Communities
  • Can target and interact with different audiences by using circles
  • Gmail and YouTube integration
  • Google Authorship

 

Cons:

  • Smaller number of users (although growing steadily)
  • No contests or promotions allowed
  • The mystery of the +1 button – does it have any significance?

 

Pinterest

Pros:

  • Ideal for visual content (fashion, food, design, travel, DIY etc.)
  • Every time a post is re-pinned, another link to your content is created (although links are no-follow)
  • Majority of users are female
  • Images can be linked to specific landing pages
  • Content has a long lifespan

 

Cons:

  • Issues with copyright – re-pinned images are not always properly credited/attributed
  • Majority of users are female
  • Not really ‘social’

 

LinkedIn

Pros: 

  • Ideal for B2B
  • LinkedIn groups are ideal for networking and sharing content
  • Establish yourself as an industry expert
  • Make business contacts
  • Showcase your products/services
  • Very specific targeting options for advertising
  • New feature allows you to publish content directly on LinkedIn

 

Cons:

  • Can initially be slow to build connections
  • To be effective, you need to be prepared to pay for sponsored posts and adverting (which can be costly)

 

Instagram

Pros: 

  • Ideal for visual content (fashion, food, lifestyle, travel etc.)
  • Has seen the highest member growth of any social platform and currently has over 150 million monthly users
  • High levels of brand engagement (NB: Could be because there aren’t many brands using the platform…yet)
  • Owned by Facebook

 

Cons: 

  • Links don’t work in captions – hard to drive traffic back to your website
  • Still new – yet to prove staying power

 

YouTube

Pros:

  • Most popular video platform (with an estimated 450 million monthly visitors)
  • Google+ integration
  • AdWords integration
  • Videos can be embedded onto your website/blog
  • Google owns YouTube – and shows videos in search results at the top
  • Track the performance of your videos using YouTube analytics
  • Pay for promoted videos/adverts

 

Cons:

  • Not really ‘social’
  • Enormous amounts of content to compete with
  • Thumbnails for videos similar to yours (like those of your competitors) may appear next to your video
  • Shows unrelated videos at the end of your video
  • Displays ads at the beginning of your video

Author Bio: Louise Dickens works in Content Marketing/Digital PR for digital agency Aptitude.