Choosing a Social Media Platform: It's About Finesse, Not Brute Force

In today's modern age, the importance of social media marketing is no secret. In fact, it's a message that business owners are constantly bombarded with:
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In today's modern age, the importance of social media marketing is no secret. In fact, it's a message that business owners are constantly bombarded with: "Get your business on social media!"

While this might have constituted good advice in, say, 2007, social media isn't just Facebook anymore -- nowadays, your business can be on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat . . . and by next month, there will probably be even more new platforms to choose from.

So, does this mean that your business should brute-force its way through social media -- creating, customizing, and maintaining accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, and whatever comes next?

The answer is a resounding no. The world of social media is about finesse, not brute force, and your business should choose carefully where it directs its marketing efforts.

An illustrative example comes from Tyler Sullivan, President of Operations at Paul Mitchell of Northern New England. A large part of his responsibilities as President of Operations involves mentoring budding salons in their business and marketing strategy.

Recently, one of his clients heard that there's a lot of buzz surrounding Snapchat, and asked if his salon should open up a Snapchat account. Sullivan quickly 86ed this idea: whereas Snapchat's most popular age bracket is between 18 and 24 years old, this salon's clientele was comprised of a more mature demographic.

"For this salon to use Snapchat would be totally missing the mark in terms of their target audience," Sullivan explains.

As Sullivan puts it, "You have to major in the major league, not the minor league." This means knowing what platforms your ideal clients use, and capitalizing on those.

For instance, if your business caters strongly to Millennials, it makes sense to direct your marketing efforts to Millennial-friendly platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

If your business caters primarily to middle-aged or older folks? You're best off sticking to Facebook. (There's a good reason why you don't see Depend adult diapers advertising on Snapchat.)

But it's not just who your clients are: it's what your offerings are, too. For instance, Sullivan's company has an active Instagram account. This makes sense, as the hair and beauty industry is a highly visual one, which lends itself aptly to a visual social platform like Instagram.

That's why having Instagram makes sense for a lot of industries -- beauty, fitness, and food, to name a few, but not for all industries. Less visually oriented brands -- for instance, life insurance -- would be wasting their efforts on Instagram, as life insurance isn't exactly conducive to photographs.

Finally, business owners have to consider not just where they'll be posting on social media, but how they'll be posting, too.

In Sullivan's experience, given that the world of beauty and fashion is highly personal and interactive, adopting an interactive social media presence, in which he personally interacts with his clients, has proven fortuitous.

"We really put our personality out there, because we want people to understand who we are and what we're about. Our followers are buying into us as much as they are our offerings," Sullivan explains.

But again, this strategy won't work for all businesses. Let's revisit the example of a life insurance company. Most of us don't want constant reminders of our own mortality, so life insurance companies are better off refraining from, say, tagging their customers in photos, or retweeting their posts.

In summary, then, social media is a complex world, and the oft-given advice to "get your business on social media" is overly simplistic.

Every business is different, and will thus have a different social media strategy.

What you're selling and who you're selling to should help you hone in on specific social media platforms, and should help you decide how you want to present your brand to your clients.

So when it comes to social media, you've got to major in the major league: play to your strengths and cater to where your audience is living.

By focusing on the platforms that make sense for your business -- and ignoring the ones that don't -- you'll be able to optimally reap the vast benefits that social media has to offer.

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