New business owners are always excited to get their message out into the world. Starting out on social media though can be overwhelming especially if you are new to online marketing.
You sign up to the various platforms and then wonder – what comes next? You may even send out a few messages but nothing seems to be happening. It is usually at this early stage of the game when business owners quickly turn into social media skeptics.
Don’t let the silence discourage you. Social media platforms are great marketing tools but before you can use them effectively you need to know your target audience. Specifically, which social media platforms are being looked at and used on a daily basis by your target audience.
Know your target audience
Stop for a minute and really think about your ideal client. The one you had in mind when you first launched your business.
Do they work from home or are they part of national or international business? Are they male or female and what would be their approximate age range? What about industries, are they professionals in medicine, health, law, accounting or the services industry? Perhaps it isn’t industries you are focused on but rather the person. Is your ideal client dealing with a chronic health issue, suffering from professional exhaustion or perhaps seeking a career change? Once you can envision your ideal client you can build your target audience around these basic demographics.
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This is a very important step because in order to find your target audience on social media you first need to have them clearly defined in your own mind. Don’t try to keep the definition too broad in the hope of attracting more clients. It is a simple fact of social media, the broader you try to cast your net the less likely you are to find engagement.
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If you want to save yourself some time exploring the dozen possible platforms out there, you can start with the top 5 outlined below.
Find your target audience
In 2015 data shared by ebizmba.com and by Sprout Social revealed the most popular social media platforms worldwide. No surprise, Facebook is still ahead by leaps and bounds. Overall tracking of industry stats indicate that Twitter is not gaining market share but LinkedIn and Pinterest continue to gain active users at a steady rate. Renewed talk on the future of Google+ has made things unclear but for the moment it still ranked as #5.
This is the one platform that almost everyone is familiar with for sharing family updates and photos with friends around the globe. Business Facebook pages operate in a very similar manner only the content businesses are generating and sharing tends to be less personal and more client focused. Users of Facebook are predominantly female (77% vs 66%) between the ages of 18 and 49 and active on a daily basis, often up to several times per day.
This platform operates like a news feed that is constantly generating fresh content. The types of content shared vary widely across personal and business interests. The investment in time comes from finding the right people/brands to follow and helping your target audience find you with the strategic use of hashtags. Users are equally split between males and females between the ages of 18 to 49 with the majority shifting towards the older half of the age range.
This is a professional platform that is used for sharing and finding content related to business. It is for networking and connecting with people in the business and non-profit community across a variety of industries. Connections are launched one on one through your profile page, your business page and within groups you can join. Users are split equally between males and females with an average age range of 30 to 64.
This platform is ideal for visual marketing. The users are predominantly female between the ages of 18 -64 and active on a daily basis. Pinterest pages are a combination of personal and professional pages with the majority of them being linked to a person and not a business. Pinterest can be viewed as a lifestyle search engine so strategic use of keywords and key phrases with memorable images is important. Pinterest has just recently enabled ecommerce with buyable pins.
This is the platform to use for building circles between brands and users. As noted above, the comments on the future of Google+ are mixed but the community activity is strong and may be an ideal fit for your business. Users of Google+ tend to be male in majority with the age demographic being somewhat elusive.
Define your marketing objectives
In addition to knowing where your target audience is, you also need to determine your marketing objectives. Why are you integrating social media into your online marketing – force yourself to be specific. For example:
- If you want online sales, the top social media platforms are Facebook (using paid ads) and Pinterest
- If you want to drive website traffic use Facebook or Pinterest. Publishing on LinkedIn to your profile also generates website traffic.
- If you want to build an active and engaged community both LinkedIn and Google+ have advantages over the other platforms.
Now see where the areas of overlap are. There is no point being on a social media platform that doesn’t fit in with your marketing objectives. Find one or two platforms that work with your business goals and are frequented by your target audience. Don’t try to cover them all unless you can hire someone full time to manage the accounts. It is very time consuming to create and source quality content for each platform.
Customize the content to the platform
There is an abundance of great ideas for creating content specific to each social media platform. Once you have narrowed down your selection to two platforms, take a few minutes to see what types of posts do well. Then match the types of posts to what your target audience is looking for.
Facebook is a very visual platform. You need to make use of great images and short videos in order to engage and get the likes, comments and shares. People want to share what makes them feel good and happy and your clients are no different. If you have some inspirational thoughts, stick them on a beautiful image and share them. You don’t need to be all business all the time on Facebook.
Twitter is also a visual platform and if you take the time to add a visual you significantly increase the chance of your post being retweeted. The ideal combination is to front load your tweet with the critical information you want to get out there and pair it with an awesome image. Tips, tricks, tools and how to posts tend to do very well and will drive traffic back to your blog.
LinkedIn requires a great picture for the headline image but the focus is not just on the visual. Content that does well tends to be concise and industry specific. Both educational/teaching style content and storytelling based content does well so try out both writing styles and see what works best with your target audience.
Pinterest is fun and more than a little addictive. Once you set up a page and start creating boards you have to force yourself to stop pinning and look over the thousands of boards of interest. It goes without saying you need great images that are specific to your target audience with respect to interests and needs. Don’t overlook the description for each board and pin. Using the power of the platform’s search tool, you can insert strategic keywords and key phrases to ensure your content is at the top of the search results.
Google+ requires a bit more expertise. In addition to a great headline and header imager you need to include a description of what your post is about. Think of it as a mini-sales pitch. Why should someone take a look at this post? You can also use hashtags so be sure to use the keywords that you have identified as being important to your target audience.
It all comes down to knowing your target audience
The only way to be strategic with social media is by knowing your target audience. You need to know which platforms they are using and the types of content they find engaging. Once you have that data in hand, you can speak directly to your target audience.
Your activity on social media, what you create and share, becomes part of your personal brand. The focus needs to be on both information sharing and relationship building. Your target audience will get to know you through your website, blog and social media content. Avoid shortcuts. It is better to post less often but with quality content.
It is a time investment to do the research into your target audience but the time invested up front more than makes up for the hours of social media frustration down the road when you don’t have a strategy. This way you know that your investment of time and money will show a return through more effective online marketing.
Jennifer Arnold, Founder at InnovaMap, Ph.D. in Neuroscience
We are now on our summer editorial schedule posting our blog every other week.
Enjoy your summer holidays!
InnovaMap is an Ottawa based content marketing firm, specializing in the health industry.