March 17, 2021|
6 min read
Which Social Media Platforms Should We Be Using?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube … there are so many different social media platforms today. It’s almost overwhelming. And as Marketers, we’re encouraged to learn them all, use them all.
But social media is also time-intensive, and it sometimes doesn’t have the results we’re looking for. In fact, it often seems like it’s getting harder and harder to reach our audiences. Can you get the word out without spending an arm and a leg on ads so you can go up against the big guys? Or are you shouting into the void, clamouring for people’s very divided attention?
It often feels like the latter. It can be tempting to jump on something like TikTok, which is growing, but hasn’t yet become a Facebook-sized network. You have a better chance of actually getting views and people tuning in for more.
There’s a big question here for us as Marketers, because our time and other resources are limited. Which platforms should we be using? People will tell us “oh, you need to be on LinkedIn if you’re doing B2B." If you want to reach young women, Instagram (and now TikTok) is the place to be.
There are other factors we need to look at—particularly, what kind of content our audience wants. Tone and character of your language is also important. Some platforms lend themselves to certain kinds of content, so we need to think about that aspect.
What Kind of Content Do You Make?
The first question we need to ask here is what kind of content we’re making. If we’re doing sleek, splashy productions, we probably don’t want to be on TikTok or Snapchat.
Why? Different platforms come with different expectations. We expect to see big-budget films on Disney+ or Netflix. On Instagram or TikTok? We expect to see more raw, informal content. We want things “unfiltered,” so to speak.
Who Is Your Audience?
The next thing to consider is who your audience is. More than “who is your audience,” we need to think about how wide or narrow our audiences are.
Most platforms that cater to casually created content are focused on narrow audiences. Think about Messenger or other chat programs. Often, we’re communicating with just one or two other people. We might have a group chat going, but it’s not going to be 25 or 50 people, let alone hundreds or thousands.
So, the kind of content we put in chat is usually casually created for this narrow audience. Facebook and Snapchat give us broader audiences than chat or text, but not by much. And the audience here is also looking for more casual content. If you give people slick videos or sleek images, they'll see it as “inauthentic.” In short, they’ll sniff out your pitch as a pitch and disengage, because that’s not what they’re there for.
By contrast, most professionally created content belongs on platforms that reach wider audiences. Here we have the Disney+ and Netflixes of the world. More traditional media outlets, like The New York Times, also tend to fall in this category. They have big audiences, but those audiences aren’t always engaged. And they’re looking for more professional content.
TikTok Breaks New Ground
TikTok is interesting because it’s a wide-reach platform. But it deals almost exclusively in casual content. Its user base is broad (and getting larger). But they don’t want sleek videos. They want raw, unfiltered content.
Almost no other social media platform operates this way. That may be one reason TikTok has launched so many more viral videos in the last year. The broader reach allows this content to travel further. And, in turn, the “casual” nature of it adds to the virality—because people see it as being “real” and raw.
There are only two other platforms that even come close to this: Reddit and YouTube. Reddit tends to have narrower reach than TikTok, though, so it’s barely into the “wide reach” category.
YouTube sits at a perfect juncture between narrow-wide audience and casual-professional content. In essence, YouTube handles all kinds of content, with all kinds of audience reach. You can narrowly target on YouTube or try to go wide. You can put out casual content or you can put more professional content on it.
Which Platforms Should You Be Using?
Here, we want to look at the intersection of audience and content. Do we want a wide-target audience, but we don’t want to spend the extra cash making super slick videos? Then we’re likely looking at YouTube or TikTok.
What about if we want to connect with a narrower audience, like a group of fans? Facebook might actually be the place to be.
Of course, we need to keep demographics in mind as well. Facebook tends to have an older audience than Snapchat or Instagram. Even when we’re looking at narrowcasting and casual vs. pro content, we still need to think about which platforms our customers are using.
LinkedIn is definitely still the place for B2B brands, because that’s where the audience is. This is a professional networking platform! People are looking for business connections here. They may not be looking for them on Instagram or Snapchat, so it makes less sense to be on those platforms.
The one platform everyone should use, almost regardless of what they’re doing? YouTube. YouTube sits at that crossroad between narrow-wide audience targeting and casual-professional content. So anyone and everyone can make use of YouTube. (A lot of us are guilty of forgetting YouTube as a platform. It is massive, the audience broad, and the expectations for content just as broad.)
There’s no narrowcasting platform for that more “professional” type content right now. That might be something that comes up in the future, but right now, that’s a no-man’s land. Narrowcasting tends to focus on casually created content. There could be issues about costs here too. Making professional-looking content is expensive, so it doesn’t make sense to narrowcast it. Again, that might be something that changes in the future.
Deciding what social media platforms to use is a big question for a lot of us. There’s so much pressure to try out this one or that one, to hop on the TikTok train or to adopt the idea that you’ve got to be using all of them. That’s just not true—it will spread you too thin and there will be some platforms that don’t work for you.
So, like always, we need to ask ourselves that big question: why? Why are we on this platform? Why is our audience on this platform and not that one? And why do they use it? What are they expecting from it?
Asking and answering those questions lets us make better decisions about our social media strategies. So start with the why!
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