This guest post was written by Chris Kilbourn, VP of Strategy at Fit Marketing.
Who wants to buy a new VCR?
Probably not a whole lot of us. Most of us prefer DVDs, Blu-ray discs or simply streaming videos online.
The point is, a company just getting into the game won’t survive if it ignores the way people consume videos today.
Image credit: Rachel Hinman
If you’re ignoring social media in your business, you might as well be selling VCRs.
An infographic by Social Jumpstart reveals that half of all Internet users have signed into social networks. That’s expected to rise to 68% in 2013 and 71% in 2014.
But with audiences split among multiple social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and more), how do you select the right ones?
Here are 8 steps that will guide you to the right audience.
1. Set Goals
Before choosing a channel, set goals that prioritize your business needs. Social media is only as effective as your overall marketing strategy. As with all things in business, you want to make sure that your invested time and effort generate an ROI.
Image credit: greyweed
Before making any resource investment, know very specifically what you want to achieve. Examples include boosting web traffic by 20%, increasing leads by 10% each month or rising several spots in the search rankings. Set specific, measurable goals, and work backwards to establish what it will take to get there.
Pinpoint which social media channels best accomplish these goals. If you’re not sure where to start, look to your existing analytics.
You may notice, for instance, that a sizable proportion of your highest engaged web traffic is coming from Pinterest. If you’re not active on Pinterest, it may be time to develop a Pinterest strategy. Look for organic patterns in existing web traffic.
2. Identify Your Audience
You probably already have avatars or personas that you are using in your marketing. Are these the same for your likely social media audience? If you don’t have a mental picture of who you are talking to, you won’t be able to tailor messages the right way, so it’s something you need to work on early in the planning stage.
When deciding which marketing channels to use, take a look at what platforms your customers are already using.
Image credit: mkhmarketing
For instance, if you’re trying to reach a visually driven female audience, Pinterest might be the best fit. If you’re looking to connect with older adults in their ‘40s and ‘50s, Facebook will be a robust option. If you’re trying to reach journalists, you’ll definitely need to be on Twitter.
Also pay attention to your marketing segment. B2B marketers, for instance, will find better luck on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter than they will necessarily on Pinterest or Instagram. Consumer segments are particularly strong on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
If you’re not sure where to start in terms of finding your audience, just ask them. Talk to your existing customers about where they’re most engaged and where they want to find the information that they need from your brand.
3. Be Driven by Analytics
Your marketing strategy is only as good as your data. Don’t make assumptions, and don’t guess what your users want. Play close attention to your Google Analytics (or other analytics software) reports.
Look to organic sharing activity. Where is performance already strong, and where can your efforts generate additional returns? Ecommerce site Underwater Audio uses social sharing buttons at the end of each blog post, like this:
Image credit: Screenshot of www.underwateraudio.com
Social reports can tell you which pieces of your content are being shared on which sites. Any concentration of activity on a particular site shows you that it’s a good contender for developing a brand presence.
Photo Credit: Convince & Convert
Combine analytics data with the social data in Google Webmaster Tools and you will see where you are most likely to make a social impact.
4. Research Geographic Preferences
By the time you get to this step, you might have a shortlist of social media sites. One factor that might make the difference is the size of the audience for each social network.
This best practice goes back to a concept that we covered earlier – the need to know your audience. Make sure to cover your bases and understand how social media corresponds to where your customers are physically.
If you’re marketing to customers in China, for example, you’ll need to choose a different network than you would if your main audience is in the United States. If you’re reaching older adults in the midwestern United States, you may not want to use Twitter.
Image credit: dullhunk
A commonly known fact is that Facebook is the dominant social network in many countries and geographic areas. This platform will help you cover your bases.
A good resource for identifying the geographic preferences is the Pew Internet and American Life Project – this Washington D.C. features a wealth of datasets and studies to help in analyzing the preferences of Internet users.
5. Explore Nuances Between Channels
The best site to engage with business users won’t be the same place you run a social media contest. There’s plenty of research around on the main users of social networking sites and the differences among the users of Twitter vs Facebook and others.
If you need a platform for hosting your contest, use Facebook. If you just need to build distribution, Facebook and Twitter are both strong candidates.
6. Assess the Competition
Where are your competitors making a successful impact and what are they doing? Your competitors can shed a wealth of knowledge into how you should craft your social strategy.
Once you’ve done some competitive research, you have two choices. Either target the same sites because you have proof that they work well for your target market, or do something different and try to take the lead on another social media channel.
Whatever you do, don’t be a copycat. Your customers won’t need two of the exact same thing. Find a way to stand out with a value proposition that’s different from the existing market.
7. Prioritize Your Content
What content will you be sharing? Video? Infographics? Consumer-driven or B2B content?
When you’re researching channels for social media, you’re ultimately determining where to invest your time. If you’re sharing B2B content, you’ll need a presence on LinkedIn. Visual content will be a great fit for Pinterest. Video-based content has the potential to gain signification distribution through YouTube.
Image credit: Gavin Llewellyn
When in doubt, let your content guide you. Remember that your social media and content strategies go hand-in-hand. Distribution and content are equally important counterparts to one another.
8. Find a Niche
Is your business operating within a small niche? If so, focus your social media strategy on one of these niche communities.
Usually, these organizations are topic-driven. If your business specializes in entrepreneurship, for instance, you can develop a strategy for Quora and Clarity.fm. Or if you’re running a company that specializes in bow-hunting, make sure to check out forums that specialize in this exact topic.
Aim to be a big fish in a small pond – not the opposite. The more focused your community is, the bigger presence your company will have in that community.
PandoDaily believes the time is ripe for more niche social networks. What is your perspective?
Even though social media is “free,” your time isn’t. As a business owner, it’s important that you choose channels that will deliver maximum impact to your brand.
Be warned – this is not a set it and forget it exercise. Social media is an ever-changing landscape and you will need to adapt as your business and customers evolve.
Ideally, you should repeat this assessment at regular intervals to stay on track with your social media strategy. Make sure to monitor results (and overall social media patterns) consistently.
Chris Kilbourn is the VP of Strategy at Fit Marketing. In past lives, he was a professional rockstar (seriously), and he built and sold two successful companies from the ground up.
You can request a consultation with Chris and his team at Fit Marketing here.