Do Small Businesses Need to Be On Every Social Media Platform?

Your obsession with being everywhere is likely the reason you’re always nowhere.

Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, BeBee…

The list of social platforms seems to grow endlessly, and you’re left wondering if your business should be present on all or most of them?

Do Small Businesses Need to Be On Every Social Media Platform?

After all, everybody wants to be on the cutting edge and you feel like you simply can’t afford to miss the next big thing, right?

Pause.

There are two major points of consideration when deciding where your small business should have a social media presence.

  • What marketing resources do you have available to you?
  • How do your customers prefer to consume information?

As you approach an answer to these questions, you’ll inevitably narrow down what platforms are likely to return the most value.

So, let’s chat about these considerations in detail.

Do You Have A Marketing Bottleneck?

With social media, it’s tempting to dive in and start posting like crazy on all the different platforms.

Every self-proclaimed marketing guru/ninja/wizard out there is screaming, “social is an absolute must and you’re dumb if you’re neglecting it.”

Besides that, there’s a lot of enjoyment in feeling like you’re talking directly to your customers, and even more in watching your follower counts and engagement numbers go up — this can definitely be an addicting distraction.

The challenge is, as a small business, you probably have a bottleneck that’s going to hinder your social media efforts — a lack of time, budget, or internal manpower/expertise to support a widespread social media presence, which leads to:

Whatever the bottleneck is, it usually ends up overwhelming your team, leading to few results and the unfortunate conclusion that social media “isn’t right for your business.”

But that conclusion is far from the truth the majority of the time.

If you don’t have the option of expanding your resources to support social media, you don’t need to abandon social media. You just need a better grasp on where your customers put their attention, and you need to narrow your focus to only those platforms that yield the highest returns.

It’s sufficient and far better to be consistently present on 1-2 social platforms, rather than fragmented and neglectful on 4-5 platforms.

That takes us to deciding how to narrow your focus.

Understanding Your Target Customer’s Behavior

You wouldn’t advertise in a magazine your target audience doesn’t subscribe to or read.

Or how about placing a radio commercial on a station your customers don’t listen to?

These wouldn’t be wise investments, right?

Selecting social media platforms is conceptually the same.

If your target customers are Baby Boomers, for example, then there’s no reason to pour lots of resources into having a Snapchat presence, because Snapchat’s user base skews young. Similarly with Instagram.

If your target customers are primarily men, for most businesses, it probably doesn’t make much sense to invest heavily into Pinterest.

If your target customers respond much better to video than text/graphics, then you’d be better to focus on Facebook and YouTube.

As always, you have to understand your customer.

MORE: Get three free practical lessons teaching you how to pinpoint your target customer and create a winning social media strategy for your business. Join for instant access here.

More importantly, you have to research and understand how your customers prefer to consume information, and pinpoint where they put their attention when looking for entertainment.

  • Do they prefer written content or visual content? Respond well to video?
  • Are they visual learners (infographics)? Are they readers (blog posts and case studies)?
  • Are they auditory learners (podcasts, Facebook Live Audio)?
  • Do they go on Twitter and chat about TV series using branded hashtags like #TheWalkingDead?
  • Do they extensively read product reviews before buying something or visiting your store (Yelp, Google Places, Amazon Reviews)?
  • Do they visit Reddit, message boards, or similar online communities to ask for opinions about products?
  • Do they follow influential people on social media who might be relevant to your business and industry?

You’re thinking, “Well, how am I going to figure out what my customers like?”

Well, Just Ask Them

If you have an existing customer base, survey them and toss in an incentive for responses. This can be as simple as a coupon code or free branded swag (t-shirts, hats, etc.).

Give them a reason to share their opinion, and frame the message in a way that makes it clear you’re trying to gather their responses to provide a better, more entertaining content experience.

Alternatively, if you already have a decent social media presence, ask your followers what kind of content they would prefer to see more often.

Secondary Research: Google Is Your Friend

You probably have a solid idea of who your typical customer is just based on day-to-day involvement in the business. Or you may even have customer personas established from past market research (do this, if not).

With that little bit of insight, you can take to Google and start looking for secondary sources of information. There are plenty of marketing research agencies constantly pushing out reports on the state of social media and content consumption.

While the information you find might not inform some hard-lined rule about your customers, it can help you form an educated guess about where they’re spending their time online and what kind of content they might prefer to see from you.

Test, Test, Test

Between asking your existing customers and doing some secondary research, you’ll have enough firepower to confidently push forward on some new social media and content initiatives.

Success is just a matter of testing, at that point.

If video, for example, looks like a frontrunner based on your surveying and research, invest some of your marketing budget into creating 2-3 videos, publish them on social media, put a bit of money behind them targeting your audience, and observe the results.

Matching Customer Preference with Social Platform

Once you have a strong grasp of your customer and how they prefer to consume information and entertainment, you can match that with the most applicable social platforms.

Pew Research has a great summary of the demographics of each major social platform. Some highlights are:

  • Facebook’s user base dominates all other social networks by a large margin, so it really makes no sense to neglect the platform, regardless of your business. Video and Facebook Live are very popular on the network currently.
  • Instagram is growing, is heavily used by younger adults (18-29), and skews female. There is an emphasis on graphic appeal, of course, and short videos also perform well. There is also quickly-rising popularity of their Stories feature.
  • Twitter’s growth has somewhat stagnated, but the platform is still popular among young adults. It’s a great outlet for conversational, consumer-facing businesses to connect intimately with the community surrounding their industry.
  • Pinterest, as always, skews heavily female with 45% of all online female users being on Pinterest vs. only 17% of men. If you have a very visual brand that caters to women, Pinterest is the place to be.
  • Snapchat recently went public, continues to see growth, and is an exceptional platform to be present upon if you want to reach young adults and even teens to some degree. If you’re able to keep people interested in your brand using very short content and your target is young adults, you’ll find success on Snapchat.

Remember, the point is to make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin. You don’t need to be on every single platform posting multiple times a day.

Pick one or two of these platforms that most closely align with the research you did on your customers, then go 100% all-in. You can always expand later if you have the resources.

Focus narrowly, but be the absolute best on the platforms you’re focusing on. The results will come.

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About Jonathan Payne

I'm the Founder and Author of My Social Game Plan, where I've spent the last six years writing about social media marketing in an effort to help business owners and marketers stay on top of the rapidly-evolving marketing landscape.

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