Eric Wendt

The list of available social networks is massive, and it’s only growing larger.

Facebook may be the reigning champ, with nearly 2 billion monthly active users heading into 2017, but there are social media platforms geared toward everyone, from book lovers to travel bloggers.

The question you must ask yourself is: Which one is right for my brand?

Figuring this out is easier than you think, and will help you craft a social media marketing plan that works.

Let your business objectives act as a beacon for your social media marketing.

The tao of targeting

With so many social options to choose from, you may assume it makes sense to cast as wide a net as possible. After all, focusing on numerous social media platforms allows you to reach a wider audience, right?

While the logic is sound, it’s vital to remember there’s a difference between the general public and your targeted buyers.

“It’s all about where your audience lives,” said Brafton Associate Social Media Manager Mike Murphy. “You want to make sure you’re reaching the right people and your message isn’t getting lost in the shuffle. It’s a better strategy to focus on the networks that will bring the most valuable return on investment for your business rather than spreading your social presence too thin across platforms that your audience might not be using.”

Before you can put social media to work for your business, you have to have a targeted audience. Creating buyer personas is step one. Ensuring these align with your website visitor personas is step two. Even if you think you have a world-class idea of who is purchasing your products and services, it won’t count for much if the content you create isn’t speaking to them or reaching them on the social channels they frequent.

While there’s certainly no harm in using smaller, hyper-specific social platforms that resonate with your target audience, you must first determine where they are. To start, it’s safe to assume you’ll be able to reach a highly targeted audience by using the holy trinity of social media marketing giants: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Even then, however, you must let your business, and its prospective customers, light the way.

Selecting social media marketing platforms doesn't have to be difficult.

Remember who’s listening

Instead of getting hung up on what others are doing on social media, consider your business and the types of people who interact with it. Viral videos and memes may be great time-killers, but do they make sense for your audience?

“Every platform definitely has a unique audience,” Mike said. “If you’re a business-to-business software company, for instance, you’ll want to focus your attention on LinkedIn and Twitter over Facebook and Instagram. If you’re a business-to-consumer clothing company, however, those latter two platforms are essential for your social media presence. It’s important to differentiate between consumer-facing and business-facing platforms, although platforms like Twitter decidedly cater to both.”

Just in case that seemed too simple, however, remember there are exceptions to every rule.

“I’ve found that B2B companies that serve more blue-collar industries like construction or maintenance can actually excel on Facebook because these workers tend to be more active there than on business-driven platforms like LinkedIn,” Mike continued. “Sometimes it takes a little bit of digging and testing to find out where your audience has the strongest presence.”

Goals as guides

Having your audience down pat is essential, but what are you trying to accomplish in speaking to them?

Is your ultimate goal increasing brand awareness? Are you hoping to be seen as a thought leader in your space? Do you want more leads? The answers to these questions will inform your social media strategy.

For most businesses, no matter the initial goal, the ultimate objective is always the same: Closing more deals. With that in mind, there are two key components to remember:

  • Social media is a top-of-funnel marketing technique that is unlikely to lead directly to sales.
  • The social landscape is now a pay-to-play game, requiring investment in ads to make an impact.

The first factor means you must see social media for what it is: an initial handshake between your brand and potential customers. Trying to push a hard sale after someone has just begun engaging with your business on social will only turn them off. However, social is an excellent way to introduce your brand, demonstrate value and establish trust.

The second factor indicates the days of seeing social media as a “free” marketing tool are done. In order to make a splash and cut through the noise, you must dedicate spend to targeted advertisements. Fortunately, the primary players in the social space offer a wide range of targeting options that make it easy to drill down to the consumers most likely to buy from you.

“Truthfully, there are no business goals that can’t be helped through social media,” Mike said. “There is so much opportunity in social for any kind of business, even in the most niche industries. You can establish trust among your audience that ultimately leads to conversions and faithful customers. It’s important to make sure your brand lays that foundation to see success with social media marketing.”