Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Instagram. Google+. Snapchat. Vine. Reddit. Tumblr. Pinterest. I could keep going. That’s 10 social media platforms, and there’s probably at least one that made you scratch your head. Even the most seasoned social media manager would cringe if those were on their daily To Do List. As social media has become the poster child for digital marketing, it can be hard to determine which platforms are “must do.” There are a few things to think about that can help you figure out which social media platform will give you the most bang for your buck.

Before you use any type of social media, think about your audience.
Marketing pros would call this group of people your target demographic, and they’re a good bunch to consider for many reasons. What’s the average age of this group of people? This is important because research shows while Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are widely used by many age brackets, some tools like Snapchat are most often used by a younger demographic. According to recent research by the Pew Research Internet Project, roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram.  More than half (56%) of internet users ages 65 and older use Facebook.

I once advised on social media for a construction company. When they came to me with their concerns about social media, the first thing I noticed is that they were trying to promote their business on Vine. Vine is a great tool for a company, product, or brand that has lots of compelling video footage and a young, quirky vibe, but maybe not so great for a company trying to market to a home-renovation crowd or developers. We weeded out the tools that weren’t working (Vine and Twitter) and re-focused on tools that could work for them (Facebook and Pinterest).

Also, think about you target audience’s gender. While there are always exceptions to the rules, some social media platforms are more driven towards males or females. For example, Pinterest is most heavily used by women, while men tend to skew towards Reddit. Not sure what platforms exactly your audience is using? Get in touch with them. Send out a friendly email asking, or next time you interact with them in person, find out what they’re doing. Your first chance for success in social media is going where your customers go.

Once you know your audience, think about your content.
Let’s pretend we’re the Event 360 Cookie Company. Every day, we bake hundreds of fresh cookies and sell them to an adoring crowd out of our quaint neighborhood bakery. We take lots of pictures, but we really don’t share any recipes, articles, or anything beyond pictures of our beautiful cookies. Now it’s quiz time. Knowing that the Event 360 Cookie Company has a dedicated in-person fan base, and lots of great photos, what social media platforms should they be on?

If your answers were Facebook and Instagram, you get a virtual cookie. Facebook makes sense for most businesses, because it’s the most widely used social media platform and because it’s where everyone is interacting. It’s a wonderful platform for sharing the nuts and bolts of what your business does and it’s safe to say that these days, people expect you’ll have a Facebook page for your business. If you have lots of wonderful photos, Instagram is a great place to show it off. Could other social media platforms work for the Event 360 Cookie Company? Absolutely. But those social media platforms would need lots of custom content; like beautiful behind the scenes videos of cookies being made (YouTube), permission to share the family’s secret recipe to pin it on to Pinterest, or short, fun facts about cookies to tweet. Do you see how this can quickly turn into a ton of work?

Use what you have, and then think about expanding once you see results. Being spread too thin on social media just isn’t good, and people engaging with your content can tell when you’re skimping on content. That’s how the cookie crumbles.

Don’t forget to be flexible.
While audience and content are the keys to your success on social media, don’t think that picking a social media platform or two and running with it is what you’ll do forever. Brands, companies, products and trends evolve, and while maybe you’re not perfect for Pinterest now, that could change in the near future. Be willing to explore alternate platforms and see if they’re a fit. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing usernames and vanity URLs on popular social media platforms, just in case you’ll use them in the future. If you use the platform for several weeks and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, take a long, hard, look at the content you’re putting out and how it’s being received. Sometimes, your company and the social media platform of the moment just aren’t a good fit; and that’s perfectly fine. When you do find the social media platform that’s right for you, the engagement, interest level, and interaction will prove that you’re meant to be there.

We have great options for sharing our stories with potential participants, fundraisers, donors, sponsors and patrons. Make sure to align your goals and audience before jumping on the next social media bandwagon.

Alyssa works on social media for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, a 60-mile walk to end breast cancer. When she’s not tweeting, “Liking”, or blogging, she’s crafting recipes in the kitchen, hiking, or buying more nail polish she doesn’t need. Tweet her on Twitter or link up with her on LinkedIn.

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