Social Media Explained: Which Platforms Connect You to Your Audience?

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Social media explained by Robert Sharp and Associates so your social media marketing efforts make maximum impact.

Social media is inescapable. Fifteen years ago, college and high school kids were customizing their homepage background and choosing their favorite theme song for their MySpace pages, or tagging their closest Facebook friends in their first photo album.

Since then, dozens of platforms have come and gone, and billions of users have logged on worldwide to follow their friends, family, favorite brands, media personalities and influencers, all the while sharing and consuming content at an exponential rate.

In 2020, roughly 233 million people in the US used a social network, approximately three fourths of the population. They don’t cost a cent to use, and theoretically you COULD reach all those people with your business for free.

Realistically, you won’t come anywhere near to reaching all those people, nor do you truly want to. But with research and well-planned strategy, you could be reaching and engaging most of your target audience with minimal spend, creating lifelong customers and personal advocates of your brand to their friends, family, and social followings too.

Let’s say you have a firm grasp of who your target demographic is and now you’re ready to formulate a social media and content strategy. Where will that strategy be most effective? Which types of content will your audience find most engaging? What will get your message across so you can Capture, Convince, and Convert?

Let’s break it down platform by platform!

YouTube
Depending on who you ask, some might argue YouTube is a video sharing platform and not a true social network. They maybe once had a decent argument to support that, but YouTube continues adding features that gives it similarity to other social networks.

With that in mind and the fact that 73% of US adults use YouTube, it seems pointless to argue semantics when you could instead think about how to use YouTube to reach your audience.

Distribution of YouTube Users in the USA

No matter what type of business you have, you should at least create a YouTube channel and post a video that lets people know who you are. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google, and Google owns YouTube, so they often display video in relevant search results.

From here, your business niche should inform your content strategy. Educate people on what you do and/or what your product is. Conduct research to see what types of content other businesses in your industry are having success with. Figure out how to make it better fit your brand and target audience, as well as try to increase production value and overall quality.

Every brand should use YouTube in their content strategy

Maybe take advantage of a trending topic or viral moment. Perhaps you remember The Harlem Shake or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. With new viral moments happening every day, it’s important to note that if something is blowing up on social media, it’s an opportunity for your brand.

Facebook
No matter your brand’s industry or target audience, there’s no reason not to have a presence on Facebook. Excluding individuals aged 65 and older, Facebook’s fastest growing demographic; the majority of Americans in every demographic (69% of total US adults) use Facebook. Additionally, 73% of Facebook’s users log in at least once a day.

Frequency of Facebook use in the USA

The platform supports the sharing of multiple types of content. From text-only status updates, images, long and short form video content, article and link sharing and so much more, Facebook can provide a home for just about anything you create and allow it to be instantly shared with the world.

Facebook supports the posting of virtually any kind of content you can create.

The platform has grown immensely from its humble beginnings, and in many ways, is a microcosm of the entire internet. Early on, businesses used Facebook primarily as a customer acquisition and communication tool and means for driving traffic to their website, but now there are numerous ways for businesses and creators to get users to convert within Facebook itself without ever leaving the app.

In-stream video ads, fan subscriptions, paid online events, branded content, and Ecommerce are only some of the ways you can earn money directly on Facebook, with more being added all the time.

Facebook makes it incredibly easy for people to place ads from their phone or desktop with in-depth targeting, allowing brands both big and small to get their message out to their target audience effectively and relatively affordably.

Facebook is an essential part of any brand's social media strategy, no matter their industry.

Instagram
With 116 million users in the United States, Instagram is one of the most popular social platforms in the country with adult usage reaching 37 percent of the population. Total Instagram users in the U.S. are set to continue growing with forecasts estimating almost 131 million monthly users in 2022.

Instagram is a great social media network to explore in the marketing of your brand

Instagram is an image and video sharing platform only, so your strategic focus for this platform should be on the curation and development of that content.

That said, your video capabilities for Instagram are somewhat limited compared to Facebook and YouTube, so you may want to consider creating different types of video content to use on Instagram than you do other platforms.

Video posts for the feed can’t exceed one minute. Short form video content like Instagram Stories are a fun and effective way to show behind-the-scenes moments and more personal aspects of your brand to your audience.

Cultivating visually striking content that represents your brand should inform your Instagram strategy.

With the advent of IGTV in June 2018, creators were able to upload videos that were up to an hour in length. Initially IGTV was a separate app and feed that supported vertical video only, but over time it has allowed for horizontal video as well and has developed integration into the regular Instagram app and feed.

IGTV uploads can be mirrored to a linked Facebook page with the press of a button, so if you’re a small brand or a one-man-band, that can be an efficient way to quickly post your content across multiple platforms.

No matter your strategy or industry, it’s hard to beat focusing on putting beautiful photography in your feed to engage your Instagram audience.

Beautiful photography is a cornerstone to an engaging Instagram feed.

Snapchat
As of Fall 2020, 34% of US teens rated Snapchat as their favorite social platform. As of the third quarter of 2020, 48 percent of U.S. internet users aged 15 to 25 years used photo sharing app Snapchat.

If teens are your target audience, you should consider formulating a Snapchat marketing strategy.

Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app with one of the key features being that pictures and messages are usually available for a short time before disappearing and becoming inaccessible to their recipients. As the platform evolved, it has incorporated users' "Stories,” displayed as 24 hours of chronological content, along with "Discover," letting publishing partners show ad-supported short-form content.

Snapchat is a tricky platform to use for marketing your small business. The publishing partners featured in Discover are huge companies like ESPN, Cosmopolitan, and Vice, to name a few, and the process for how to become a publishing partner is still fairly secret.

Social media explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - Snapchat is among the most popular social networks for teens.

That said, you can create a business account and place Snapchat ads within the publishing partner content in the Discover feed, but building an audience organically is a more difficult process here than most other social platforms.

Rather than users being able to search for you and easily follow you like most social platforms, Snapchat users need to directly enter your exact username in search or scan a snapcode in order for you to be added to their friends list. This is often done by brands leveraging their other social platforms and making posts that encourage their followers to connect with them on Snapchat as well.

Bear all this in mind when deciding whether or not Snapchat is a good platform for your business to explore.

Social Media Explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - Almost half of internet users aged 15-25 years old use Snapchat.

TikTok
TikTok is an app for sharing short videos, allowing up to 15 second videos to be filmed within the app, and 60 second videos to be uploaded from your camera roll. The bulk of the app’s users are under age 29, so depending on your business, it could be the next platform for you to focus on.

Social media explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2020 and is quickly becoming a favorite social media app of teens.

Whether or not TikTok is the place to find your target audience, it’s a good idea to pay attention to it for viral moments so you can possibly capitalize on them with your brand. Many of 2020’s most viral moments were born on TikTok, such as @420doggface208 cruising on his longboard, enjoying some refreshing cranberry Ocean Spray and the soothing sounds of Fleetwood Mac.

@420doggface208

Morning vibe #420souljahz #ec #feelinggood #h2o #cloud9 #happyhippie #worldpeace #king #peaceup #merch #tacos #waterislife #high #morning #710 #cloud9

♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) - Fleetwood Mac

Create an account and poke around for awhile. Watch a few videos and think about how you can draw inspiration from the creators blowing up on the most downloaded app of 2020.

Pinterest
Pinterest is a social media platform designed to enable the saving and discovery of inspirational ideas on the internet using images, animated GIFs, and videos into “pinboards.” As of August 2020, Pinterest had over 400 million monthly active users, and most of those users are women.

Social Media Explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - Pinterest is highly visual and its user base is mostly female.

Like Instagram, visually appealing content is what wins on Pinterest. However, Pinterest differentiates from Instagram in that you can share clickable links to things like your blog posts, so it can be a very effective tool for driving traffic to your website.

Social media explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - Put your most inspiration-worthy content on Pinterest.

Again, strategies like exploring the platform to see what’s popular and checking in on your competition to see what’s working (and not working) for them can be great jumping off points to inform your Pinterest strategy.

Twitter
Founded in March 2006, Twitter is an OG in the social network game reaching 321 million monthly users worldwide, with 68 million of those users being in the US.

Social media explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - You have to think differently for your brand to grow on Twitter

Tweets can include photo, video up to 140 seconds, or 280 text characters. Moreso than other platforms, many posts that go viral only feature text. A clever quip or whimsical musing can pick up a lot of steam.


Crafting witty responses to brands and customers is also a great tactic to get your brand in front of more eyeballs.

For example, the fast food chain Wendy’s has made an art form from this technique and is rather Twitter-famous because of it.

Playfully ‘beefing’ with brands in your niche and creating fun back and forth banter with your audience can gain you a Twitter following quickly, so don’t squander those opportunities if and when they arise.


Of course, this guide only scratches the surface of how to choose the right social platforms and content strategy for your business.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social networking site for business professionals. With 58.5 million users in the US, it’s not the largest platform by any means, but it’s an amazing place to reach experts and thought leaders in your industry. It’s also the perfect home for your B2B marketing communications.

Social Media Explained by Robert Sharp and Associates - You should be posting on LinkedIn if your audience includes business professionals in the US.

You can post just about any kind of content you want to LinkedIn, so if your goals are to drive traffic to your website, identify leads, communicate your position as a leader in your industry, or generally grow your network, it’s a solid platform to incorporate into your outreach.

 It's also a great platform for marketing job openings that will attract new employees to your company.

Social Media Explained by Robert Sharp and Associates -  LinkedIn is great for marketing job openings to attract new talent to your company


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