Inbound Marketing

What are the best social media platforms for business?

By Matt Creswick

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In this blog post, Inbound Marketing expert, HubSpot specialist, and social media guru Matt Creswick explores the best social media platforms for business, as well as how B2B businesses can select the right social media channels to increase brand awareness, engagement, lead generation and customer acquisition.


Social media networks have quickly become a cost-effective way for both small and large businesses to amplify their reach and promote their products and services to a wider audience on the Internet. Through social media, businesses have an affordable and easy way to increase brand awareness, engagement, lead generation and customer acquisition.

Many of today’s customers – your prospects – are interacting with businesses through a variety of social media channels. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and others all provide the means to keep up-to-date with the latest developments, research businesses, investigate services and get in touch.

However, with the sheer number of social media channels available, choosing the best social media platforms for business can be tricky if you are unsure of where to begin and don’t understand the benefits or application of each social media channel. And, while many social media channels will offer the same functions, some are more inclined to specific activities and demographics than others.

How many people actually use social media?

With over 2.8 billion active social media users worldwide, you could be forgiven for delving into every social media channel head first to appeal to a wide audience, get as much coverage as possible, and find your ideal prospects.

However, you run the risk of coming across as ill-informed when you post content and social media updates into channels irrelevant to your business – and honestly, in today’s world, this is something you want to avoid.

With any marketing strategy, to deliver value, generate high-quality leads, produce meaningful interactions and provide valuable insights, you need to be specific and targeted with your approach – and for this to work, you need to know, or have an idea of, where your prospects are.

And you can achieve that through Buyer Personas.

Buyer Persona? How are they related?

Buyer personas give you insight into what your customers are interested in, what their pain points are, the industry they operate in and much, much more. Armed with this information, you can make informed decisions about the channels your prospects are likely to use to get the information and resources they need.

However, if you haven’t compiled detailed buyer personas, this blog on buyer personas will certainly help.

Once you have identified possible channels by using your buyer personas as a benchmark, you should then investigate these channels using social media monitoring tools to find out what your potential prospects are talking about. Take the opportunity to monitor keywords relevant to your business or the industry it operates in, as you can then use them to optimise your content, or create relevant #hashtags or titles to attract more prospects.

But what are the benefits of each channel?

To provide you with an in-depth analysis of each of the best social media platforms for business, we turned to HubSpot’s State of Social Media infographic report to tease out the most important information and provide you with a bit more detail regarding each of the social media channels.

Facebook

Facebook is the “King” of Social Media. It’s the largest and most popular social media channel on the planet, drawing 1.9 billion unique monthly users. Historically, Facebook has been more inclined towards personal networking, such as keeping-in-touch with friends and family, but recently, it’s become more of a large-scale media network, providing businesses with a platform to advertise.

Facebook’s user demographic is slightly more female, drawing in 83% of online women and 75% of online men. In terms of age groups, it’s primarily used by those between the ages of 18-49 – and it is the best place to reach Millennials and Generation X. In addition, 75% of Facebook users spend 20 minutes or more on the platform every day.

YouTube

YouTube, bought by Google back in 2006, is the Internet’s go-to video-sharing/hosting service. It boasts over a billion users – almost a third of all people on the internet – and racks up two million video views per minute, which is an incredible statistic. Also, the platform is predominantly male (55%).Video has quickly become an integral part in any business’ digital marketing strategy and ideally, businesses should try to utilise YouTube to show off their brand, their culture, and their expertise. It’s a tremendously effective channel to drive brand awareness and build credibility online.

Instagram

Despite only being launched seven years ago, Facebook owned Instagram is the fastest growing social media network with over 600 million unique monthly users – quickly closing in on the one billion mark. In terms of age groups, 90% of Instagram users are under 35 and the platform’s user demographic is slightly more female. Instagram gives its users an easy way to share their experiences with the world and be involved in others. With 53% of Instagram users following brands on the platform, it’s an excellent way for businesses to grow brand awareness and showcase products, services, events, offer discounts and much more.

Snapchat

Snapchat is one of those social media platforms that rocketed into popularity in the digital world – growing significantly year-on-year up until 2016. Originally the platform focused on (and pioneered) private person-to-person image sharing, but has since expanded to include video, video chat, communication and live ‘Stories’ – a video storytelling feature.

As of February 2017, Snapchat has 160 million daily active users (more than Twitter) and is predominantly used by Millennials (45% of Snapchat users are aged between 18-24 and 71% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old – meaning it’s a relatively young platform).

In terms of usage for businesses, Snapchat is a great way to build brand awareness and credibility, as well as engage with customers in real-time. You can use the platform to showcase products or offer discount codes (Snapchat allows for clickable links in-app). For B2B, businesses can use Snapchat to build a community of people interested in what they do – giving people an insight into their company, culture, work and people. A good example of this is HubSpot and IBM – who use the app to show off their people, expertise and day-to-day operations.


Twitter

Twitter has long been a go-to for both B2C and B2B businesses, giving them a powerful mouthpiece to distribute and amplify what they have to say – reaching a large audience on the Internet. However, the main problem with Twitter is the sheer amount of Tweet activity. As of May 2017, according to Internet Live Stats, every second, on average, there are more than 7,600 Tweets, a number that continues to grow – making it incredibly hard for brands and businesses to cut through the noise and be heard and seen by their target audience.

Twitter has 317 million unique monthly users, is predominantly male (22% of online men, 15% of online women), and mostly used by 18-29 year olds. As mentioned previously, the volume of Tweets mean that the platform is oversaturated and 53% of Twitter users never actually post any updates. Instead, the platform is more for keeping up-to-date with news, events and developments in real-time, retweeting, and connecting with like-minded individuals.

Of course, Twitter can be a powerful tool if you can cut through the plethora of Tweet activity on a regular basis. In order to do that, the content your business distributes and what it has to say needs to be of value and relevance to its target audience.

LinkedIn

More so than the other networks, LinkedIn provides businesses (particularly B2B) with a direct line to fellow industry professionals, making it an effective and efficient way to generate high-quality leads in a cost-effective manner. Due to its professional, business-orientated environment, LinkedIn has significantly less content ‘clutter’ than other platforms, providing valuable, relevant content at every opportunity, meaning businesses have a greater chance of being noticed and engaged with.

However, compared to the other platforms, LinkedIn’s active user base is somewhat smaller: only 106 million unique monthly users of its 467 million user accounts. The platform’s user demographic has slightly more males, (31% of online men, 27% of online women) and LinkedIn users are typically slightly less likely to use other social networks.

And there you have it. Our analysis of the best social media platforms for business and who they are mostly applicable to. It’s important that you take this analysis as a framework and rely on your own buyer personas to validate your decisions – your prospects could potentially be on any of these channels. Keep this information in mind, experiment, monitor, analyse and evaluate your efforts and, if your activity works – replicate it!

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by Matt Creswick

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