You’ve probably heard that your small business needs to be on social media. But where do you start? There are so many social media platforms out there, but they are not created or used equally. In just 6 steps, you can determine the best platforms for your small business. This will be the beginning of your social media game plan or, as many professionals call it, strategy.
1. Determine your reasons for being on social media
Do you want to be on social media because you heard it was a good idea? Or do you want to join the conversation and engage with other business professionals, prospective customers and current clients? If you want to create a social media page because you feel like you need to, then you will probably not see any results because you’re heart isn’t in it and social media users will see right through that. But if you want to meet your prospective customers where they are to communicate and listen, to improve your small business by hearing their questions and solving their problems, then continue to step 2.
2. Research which platforms are used by your target audience
As a small business owner or employee, you should already know who you’re selling to, including general demographics and general interests. Now it’s time to see which social media platforms your target audience is likely on. A great way to do this is to compare the demographics of your audience with the demographics of the different social media platforms.
- YouTube is now the top platform used by U.S. adults, but people of all ages use it.
- Facebook is the second most popular platform for adults, but teens are using this platform less and less.
- LinkedIn is primarily used by middle-aged men and women, but millennials and Gen Zers are active on this platform, too. These individuals are business professionals in a variety of industries.
- Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is primarily used by Gen Z and millennial women, but also by older women and men of all ages.
- Twitter is a fast-paced platform used primarily by men, Gen Z to middle-aged, but is also used by women of all ages.
- Pinterest is primarily used by women of all ages to plan and purchase, but many men are using this platform, too.
From the above general insights, what platforms do you think your audience is on? Write them down.
There are also pockets within social media platforms that house different online communities. Ask others in your industry if they belong to an online community or group, and on which platforms. It might take asking a few different people to find one, but there likely is one somewhere. For example, Twitter has a very active #WriterCommunity for writers of all kinds, published and unpublished, and there is a similar but smaller community on Instagram.
There are also other websites and less-known social media platforms that you may want to consider, too. Again, ask professionals in your industry. For example, a jewelry company may want to create profiles on The Knot and WeddingWire to reach some of their prospective clients – recently engaged and looking for wedding bands.
For more specific demographic information per platform, visit this link.
3. Determine whether you are an image-focused business or a text-focused business.
All platforms encourage image sharing, but some require it. In fact, Instagram and Pinterest focus on images just as much as YouTube focuses on video. Sharing content without those images or videos isn’t even postable.
- YouTube requires videos. The barrier for business owners is that creating videos can be timely and expensive. However, there are many uses for video for small businesses. With a decent camera, you can record events, interviews, and more. With software that records your voice and computer screen, you can show how computer programs work, create virtual office walkthroughs, and more.
- Facebook works well with text, images, videos, and a combination of it all. Videos are not required for this platform, but they perform better than posts with images; likewise, posts with images perform better than posts with text alone. Facebook is a great place to build rapport with your followers, but it may require paid advertising when just starting out.
- Business professionals use LinkedIn the most for work and personal connections, so most of the content is text-focused with some images and videos. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with like-minded professionals and share industry insights, blog posts, and more.
- Instagram relies on beautiful, high-quality images. E-commerce businesses can include shoppable links within posts.
- Twitter is text-focused, but images and videos perform well on this platform, too. However, the main focus for this platform is news; what’s new, what’s the latest, and what’s trending.
- Pinterest relies on beautiful, high-quality images with links to quality content. E-commerce businesses can include shoppable links within posts.
If your target audience is on Pinterest but you don’t have any reason to have beautiful images, then you probably shouldn’t be on Pinterest because it is so image-focused. The same goes for Instagram. However, if your target audience is on a platform, then that might be enough reason to hire a photographer or graphic designer or to take the time to learn one or both talents.
Review your list from step 2. Are any image- or video-focused platforms not feasible? Cross them off.
4. Determine who will manage your social media pages
Time is limited in business. Once established, posting on multiple social media pages doesn’t have to take a lot of time. This part is tricky, though, because it can take a lot of time. Posting a month’s worth of posts can take a few hours if you choose to post twice a week, but it can literally be a full-time job performed by a social media manager for a business that posts multiple times per day every day.
Without worrying about your post frequency just yet, determine how much time you can allocate to all social media pages per week. If you’re a solopreneur, your time is pretty limited and you might only be able to spend a half-hour per week focusing on social media. If you have a team, you can take on the task yourself, designate a team member who understands the business side of social media already, train one or hire one, or choose a few people to share the responsibility. This task takes time, know-how, a willingness to learn, and a dash of creativity.
After you know who will be posting and for how many hours per week, add those names to your list next to the appropriate social media platforms. This list still isn’t final, so don’t worry about finalizing everything with your team just yet. Right now, we’re making a tentative game plan.
5. Decide how much time you can allocate to each social media platform consistently
Once you know who will be working on your social media and for how long every month, split that up amongst the platforms you still have on your list. If you still have all six but only have a few hours available per month, then you’ll need to narrow your platforms down accordingly.
As a general rule, we suggest using the top three social media platforms and managing them well, but some small businesses don’t have the time for this while other small businesses have more time they can dedicate to this effort.
Remember: It’s better to start small by choosing one or two platforms and learning how to manage them well than to attempt to publish on all platforms and not be able to keep up a few months in. You can always add pages on different platforms, but you can lose followers (and potential customers) if you aren’t active on the pages you nourish for a short period.
Another thing to keep in mind during this step is the time it takes to take or curate images for social media, if applicable. You can save time for a small fee by purchasing stock images on a variety of websites, too, if you aren’t ready to hire a photographer or graphic designer, or learn about photography or graphic design.
Review your list and split uptime across the social media platforms you do not have crossed off. Can you dedicate enough time to each one every week? Aim for at least one hour for solopreneurs and at least two hours for teams. Split that amount of time between the different platforms and write it on your list next to names.
6. Finalize your game plan
Consult your team, as appropriate, to finalize the time allocation before creating any pages. Once you have enough people with time to dedicate to social media, create your accounts and start posting.
If you have too many social media platforms on your list and not enough time or people to post on them, start out small. Choose one platform to start with and work your way up. You can always join other platforms later.
Either way, schedule the time you and your team are dedicating to social media on your calendars so you don’t forget. Also, schedule a meeting to review your progress on social media in three months.