Marketing Center

Which social media channel will help grow your business?

Here's how to pick the best platform to connect with your customers.

Published: February 09, 2015
Updated: July 19, 2017

Americans now spend more time on social media than any other internet activity, including email. With social media proving to be an effective way for brands to communicate with their customers, it should come as no surprise that 76% of small businesses use social media, and 41% report sharing social media content multiple times a day.

If your company hasn't tapped into the power of social media yet, start by listening to what’s already out there. Search your business's name on social sites to see what people are saying about you online. Do they have questions about your products? Are they criticizing or complimenting your customer service? Educate yourself on customers’ opinions about your business and your industry, and you'll find ideas on how you can engage them through social media.

Next, identify your target audience. For example, are the majority of your customers over 50 years old? Is your customer base made up of mostly young, single women? The answers to these kinds of questions may dictate which social media channel is right for you.

Then start small. Devote about 30 to 60 minutes to social media every day, in which you post two or three times to keep content fresh. This time should also include moderating your social media posts and responding to comments.

Not every social media site will be right for every business. Instead of using every platform, start with one or two, and make them attractive for your customers. Here's a look at eight of the largest and most popular sites.

Facebook

Facebook is the most popular platform – its users include 68% of all adults. Additionally, 76% of those users report checking Facebook daily.

  • Audience: Facebook ranks especially well with women, 18- to 29-year-olds, and those with an annual income of more than $75,000. Even 36% of online adults over 65 use it.

  • Start by: Creating a fan page for your business and posting photos, articles, and videos. If you operate a daycare center, for instance, write a "how-to" article on childproofing a home, and post a two-sentence preview on your Facebook page. Add a link back to your site, where visitors can sign up for your services.

Facebook for Business provides additional ideas.

Twitter

Twitter allows users, who make up 21% of adults, to post 140-character tweets.

  • Audience: Twitter attracts even usage across gender, income, and education demographics, although 18- to 29-year-olds are the leading age group.

  • Start by: Naming your Twitter handle after your business and tweeting tips to show off your expertise. For example, if you run a garden center, tweet a photo of fresh flowers with advice on watering and sunlight. Tweets with pictures generally get 150% more engagement.

Get more information at Twitter for Business.

Instagram

Instagram is an image-based platform. It was acquired by Facebook in 2012, but the app remains a separate platform. With the expansion into videos as well as photos, Instagram offers a chance for your followers to see both professional curated images and behind-the-scenes outtakes, clips of product development, or sneak previews of upcoming events.

  • Audience: Instagram is popular among women, as well as the 18- to-29-year-old age demographic. It also cites one of the higher levels of engagement among users: over their lifetime, the average Instagram user spends up to eight months on the app.

  • Start by: Creating your account and following like-minded businesses and brands. Carefully choose hashtags when posting and tag your company’s fans and followers when reposting UGC (user generated content) as a means of crediting them, and also thanking them for spreading the word.

Visit Instagram for Business for detailed information on how to create an effective presence.

Pinterest

Pinterest’s popularity surged thanks to the user-friendly ‘pins of visual inspiration’ users can save and share with followers, like a digital mood board.

  • Audience: Affluent women dominate Pinterest’s demographic, so fashion, beauty, and home lifestyle companies have flocked to the site. They often use direct links to purchase products to help users connect the dots between inspiration and commerce.

  • Start by: Joining Pinterest and assembling your own boards of materials that inspire your company’s mission. Follow users who tag and identify your products, or products like yours, and you’ll boost their awareness of your brand – and maybe get a follow back.

Visit Pinterest for Business to learn how to stand out from the competition.

Snapchat

Snapchat’s evolution from a disappearing image-sharing site to a full-service platform ripe with marketing opportunities is a prime opening for businesses marketing to millennials and Gen Z.

  • Audience: As of spring of 2017, Snapchat ranked as the most important social media app among teenagers. Additionally, nearly 40% of all Snapchat users are under the age of 24, according to Statista. Businesses serving teenagers and young adults can reach their audience directly by sharing unique photos and videos with fun filters.

  • Start by Researching what your competitors are doing, and following brands your company aspires to. Learn from their successes and missteps before jumping in, and make sure your content isn’t too engineered. Snapchat users can spot inauthentic content a mile away.

Find out more at Snapchat for Business.

LinkedIn

With over 467 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is a professional platform adults and working professionals can use to showcase their resumes, search for jobs, and make industry contacts.

  • Audience: LinkedIn is most popular with people ages 30 to 64, as well as those with a college degree.

  • Start by: Making a company profile that highlights your experience. If you do freelance design, for example, upload samples of your best work as PDFs, photos, videos, or presentations. You can also join groups and connect with other professionals.

Learn more from LinkedIn Small Business.

YouTube

YouTube is a video-sharing site that reaches more adults in the 18- to 34-year-old age group than any cable TV network.

  • Audience: YouTube skews strongly toward male users between 18 and 34.

  • Start by: Creating a channel for your business and uploading videos. If you own an auto repair shop, you may want to produce videos featuring your staff and your garage. Follow up with helpful "how-to" videos on at-home car detailing or finding trustworthy mechanics.

Check out YouTube's blog for more help.

Yelp

Since its inception, Yelp has facilitated 127 million reviews for businesses in 32 countries. Yelp helps its 135 million average monthly visitors find local businesses online and allows them to read and write customer reviews.

  • Audience: Sixty-three percent of women use Yelp to see reviews, while almost 30% use Yelp to find business in their area.

  • Start by: Claiming your business's profile and posting the information that will help customers find you: your address, hours, and contact information. Read your reviews to learn how you can improve the customer experience, and respond to complaints through private messages or public posts.

Visit Yelp for Business Owners for more ideas.

Remember that your social media channels are professional ones that represent your business. They should have personality but shouldn't be personal. Don't post anything that presents your business as anything less than a credible expert in your industry.

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