Are you involved in online marketing? That means you deal with social media in one form or another. And you will know that an overwhelming presence on social media is no guarantee of sales success. You need to do more than just be present on Facebook. You need customers to engage with you and your product. That starts with knowing your platforms. Here are the keys to engagement for the 6 largest social media platforms in the world.

TL;DR Read the infographic.

Welcome to the age of social media overkill

These days there are almost countless social media. Statistica, one of the biggest statistical bureaus, expects the number of worldwide social media users to reach 2.95 billion by 2020. Blogs, forums, business networks, photo sharing platforms, social gaming, chat apps, and last but not the least social networks remain ever popular. For this article I included only the 6 largest social media platforms. That means I excluded immensely popular connecting platforms like WhatsApp (which has the most users in the world) and Messenger, and platforms like YouTube. I concentrate on the 6 most commonly used platforms, since those are the platforms most marketers engage with: Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

“You’re doing social media without strategy? Tell me how great that’s going!”

Before you decide which platform to use and whether to use it at all, make sure to have ready answers to the following questions:

  • What type of business are you doing?
  • Who is your target audience? What are their needs/interests?
  • What are you aiming to achieve?
  • What type of content do you have or do you produce?

Depending on the answers you have, you could select one of the following 6 (dominating) platforms:.

Instagram: for visual inspiration

If you have great and inspiring visuals related to your work/business, you will consider visual driven platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest. It is important to be original and authentic. Do not go on Instagram to share iStock images!

Hotels and restaurants often make use of Instagram. Not for selling, but for advertising. Instagram users love sharing picture of their experiences, gatherings and ‘nights out’. Even more so with their meals. High teas with girlfriends, smoothies for breakfast and cupcakes can be found in countless numbers on Instagram.

Recently it has been revealed that Instagram developers are working on integrating a sales bid into the platform, which will make it more like Pinterest.

Pinterest: for collaboration with trendsetters

Talking of Pinterest, selling designs and interior would be best there, as you can tag used materials, brushes, paint, etc. and send your followers to the online shop. It works just as good for clothing and consumables (such as hair paint, toothpaste, cosmetics, etc.) Say your followers wonder where that jacket you are wearing on your photo was bought. You add a brand tag to the jacket, maybe even a price tag and link it to the online shop, where one can purchase it.

The greatest thing about Pinterest, however, is the possibly to collaborate with trendsetters and brand evangelists. Your loyal customers who have a couple of dozen followers and are seen as trendsetters could really boost your sales. All you need to do is reward them through a small ‘royalty’. You allow your trendsetter to get a small commission on every sale they trigger with a discount code that you generated for them. Influencer marketing, as this is called, has become increasingly popular the last couple of years.

However, you will have to do some prior research before approaching the influencers. Remember, there are user who see themselves as a brand and they only promote items they identify with. While there are many opportunists and commercially oriented users. Bear that in mind when planning your next collaboration.

LinkedIn: opportunities for B2B and recruitment

When you write articles, blogs or produce work related video’s and e-books for a professional audience, your best choice would be LinkedIn and possibly Twitter, depending on your core business.

LinkedIn has an awful lot of users who are not only jobseekers and recruiters, but companies themselves, industry gurus and people like you and I. This type of audience does not want to see vines in their updates. They often have a particular focus and preferences, which is why they are very selective and picky about the content they want and follow. These are more often working people than not. Usually educated and with some sort of experience. If you want to reach them, be specific in your messages, tailor the content to their liking. 

Industry trends and niche markets can have a good shot with LinkedIn. The group of followers may be rather small, but more often than not they will engage and care about what you have to say. They may actually delivery (monetary) value to you and become rather loyal.

Twitter: be a thumb stopper

Twitter has seen a massive outflow of users, who felt that the platform requires more time than anticipated. Nonetheless, Twitter is a great place to be if you have valuable content and can be concise about it. 140 characters minus hashtags and often a bit- or ow-link is often a real challenge for those with long propositions. The free services you get amount pretty much to 140 characters with spaces and punctuation, plus possibility to add a media file – image, video or a GIF.

In the words of Twitter guru, Ashley Vinson, you have to have a good visual supporting your message in order to make it a ‘thumb stopper’. GIFs are great for that. Further, many consider Twitter the most honest platform of all. After all you do have only 140 characters to play with and that newsfeed is pretty full…

Twitter hosts all kind of companies and users. Media companies do really well on Twitter, as content is in abundance by those type of providers. People also tend to follow them more because of that. Celebrities, public figures (politicians) and influencers are also doing really well, as people care about what they have to say.

Other big names on Twitter belong to beverage companies, travel agencies, sport brands, as Nike and Adidas. The latter make really inspiring campaigns and often sell a lifestyle rather than just sneakers. Platform can be very engaging, but you need to have something worth sharing. Otherwise, do not waste your time on it.

However, some much-needed perspective on Twitter success

To put it into prospective for you, companies like KLM and Adidas spend more than 10K ($) per campaign. They make use of all types of paid services that give one more ‘capabilities’. They use such paid services as ‘first tweet in the feed’ – the tweet one sees when he or she opens her Twitter.

Their Twitter campaigns are a small part of an omni-channel experience, where potential customers are taken on a very well planned journey with multiple engagement points.

They put an ad on during the Superbowl, but because you will be on your phone during the commercial break, they will target you on your mobile. And that is something to bear in mind.

Just as LinkedIn, Twitter is sensitive to the posting times. Make sure to research your followers’ behaviour to find out the best time to post. Regularly check your analytics.

Google+: small community platform

Google+. You either love it or hate it. There is nothing in between.

It is a Google based platform that offers certain ‘advantages’ to businesses. Google+ Pages helps business to connect to fans, but has also been in decline lately. Nonetheless, the platform is integrated into Google’s every product and service, such as Search, Android, YouTube, Chrome, Local and Drive. It is also pretty engaging and friendly to businesses. Perfect for niches and individuals with a specific interest.

Google+ is all about like-minded people and communities. Which is a great opportunity with a target audience in mind. However, it is rather limited. More often than not people do not use the platform. A couple of years ago, certain tools were taken out and the platform is still fairly experimental. Despite that it received a makeover. There are rumours however that Google may stop with the platform and the search enquiry “Is Google+ dead” appears first when typing “is google+….”.

Facebook: new venture into business territory

Facebook for business is still rather new in Europe. However, the platform offers paid ads, just as LinkedIn and Twitter do. Facebook is the most widely used platform, and has seen an enormous rise in usage among seniors. Thanks to cookies and path tracking, ads will chase you from one website to another, especially so on Facebook. After your potential client has seen the coat you are selling, he will most probably be chased by it on Facebook later on (in case you advertise there) or be exposed with competitor’s alternative to it.

Facebook is very commercially oriented. It can be a great place for a business organizing events and offering an engaging type of content. In one way or another, for most social media platforms it holds that user will have to end up on a website or a landing page with a call to action (CTA).

Prior to making an account on Facebook, conduct a good market research. There are all kinds of age groups present on Facebook, but what they do there is what is of interest to you. Do they check company pages or only chat with their friends? What is a ‘like’ worth to you? Do you want simply to be there for exposure or do you want to have a dialog and engage with your users?

No social media marketing without strategy

Just as there cannot be a house without a foundation, there cannot be good social media marketing without a strategy. As there often appears to be someone who said it better, I will quote David Meerman Scott, who said: “You can buy attention (advertising). You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales). Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.”

We will be posting regular how-to blogs on the various social media platforms we have mentioned here. In May 2017 we will have an ebook available for download on how to market on all popular social media channels. Be sure to check back regularly!