Social Media Marketing – What’s the best platform?

"Social Media Marketing Share Icons"In almost every group or forum I participate in there’s at least one discussion related to which social media platform works best for businesses. The opinions and advice range from they all work and you need to be active in every channel to social media marketing is a complete waste of time.

I personally fall somewhere in the middle.  I do think social media platforms present an amazing opportunity to build your reach far beyond a local market and open up the possibility of meeting people you never would have met otherwise.

My opinions of the various platforms may be completely different a year from now (maybe even a month from now), but after six months of trying on the major networks for size, here’s my take on each of them.

Social Media Marketing Platforms – The good, the bad, and the ugly:

Facebook

I originally started using Facebook because I ran out of space on my free Flickr account and because it was easier to share pictures with my mom through an online album than sending emails.  It is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, however I can’t say that I’m a fan of the Company pages and I don’t view it as a great marketing tool overall.  I think the company pages are clunky and from what I can tell they aren’t a great place to engage with people.

Take a tour of company pages and you’ll find that there is a fairly low engagement rate and there seems to be a whole lot of  – if you “like my page,”  I’ll like your page, which smacks a bit of the old days of reciprocal link building in SEO.  In my mind, there’s no point in having a lot of “likes” if they aren’t your potential clients or business partners.

There are some case studies that demonstrate success, however it seems like the best way to succeed on Facebook is to run sweepstakes and contests which supports my opinion that Facebook is a platform that people use for personal reasons.  So to that end, if a company is selling a product or service that people use in their daily lives it’s a good fit and will drive traffic.  I struggle with the concept that Facebook is an effective marketing tool for a few reasons.

  • Facebook started as and is still primarily a personal social network – do people really want to think about business when they are posting pictures or status updates that are of a personal nature? If it’s a discount for a product or service they use in their everyday personal life, they probably do, if not I would question it. Sweepstakes and contests do drive engagement, people love to win free stuff, however be sure to analyze your results before you declare it a success. This is especially important if you’re giving away something that’s popular like the latest iPad, but isn’t something you sell. Did any of those new fans translate into customers?
  • Updates don’t reach everyone in your network – Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what gets displayed to who – the numbers vary, but from what I’ve read, on average your posts only reach 12 – 16% of your fans.
  • They need to find a way to monetize their model and I for one can’t see spending money to advertise on Facebook.
  • Interest groups are available but conversations can be hard to follow because they aren’t categorized.

I do have a company page and due to the fact that a whole lot of people who are a lot smarter than me ardently advocate for Facebook as a viable marketing platform I plan to put more effort into it and make a call on it sometime next year.  The fact that it has the largest number of active users is hard to overlook.

Twitter

Twitter has been an interesting experiment.  In just under six months I’ve somehow managed to attract around 700 followers.  Interestingly, and much to my surprise I’ve met one of my most valuable connections through Twitter.  Contrary to my initial opinion, I’ve come to believe that Twitter can be a great social media marketing tool.

  • Awesome place to share links to content like blog posts – the key is finding a way to get people to click through and share what you tweet about.
  • Hash tags help you target your Tweets to people who are interested in the topic.
  • It is possible to form relationships and network – like anything else it just takes time and you need to have a strategy.
  • The 140 character limit is a blessing not a curse – it forces you to think about what you write and how to be compelling in just a few words.

LinkedIn

Love it!  LinkedIn is by far my favorite social network platform.  I’m not sure how I feel about it yet from a marketing perspective as it relates to promoting a business, but it’s a fantastic platform for promoting your personal brand, networking, and learning.

I tend to think LinkedIn is the most underutilized platform from a business perspective.  Many people still think of it as a large file cabinet of resumes and the only time they sign on is to update their profile, which is a big mistake in my opinion.

  • LinkedIn is the only platform that provides a way to showcase your professional profile in detail.
  • Groups on LinkedIn are organized around industry and topics within an industry and can be a tremendous resource for learning, sharing, and meeting people.
  • You can evaluate a group before you decide to join.
  • There is a method for giving and receiving recommendations – there are people who think this is bunk and I’m sure there are people who manipulate it, but for the majority of us reading a good recommendation on someone’s profile adds to their credibility.
  • LinkedIn has some great tools for searching for potential customers and business alliances.
  • Company pages – my opinion is about the same for LinkedIn company pages as it is for Facebook pages.  I never think to look for companies on LinkedIn, if I want to know more about their business I go straight to their website, however I do plan to continue to try and optimize the usage of it in the following year.

GooglePlus

Google Plus is most often compared to Facebook and the critics say that Google is late to the game and that it doesn’t offer anything that Facebook doesn’t. I’ve started looking into Google Plus more lately and here are a few things that I find to be an advantage over Facebook.

  • Google plus doesn’t have a magic algorithm to determine what posts your friends see – (unlike facebook where only reach 12 – 16% of your friends and the same goes for company pages).
  • Hangouts can be used for video conference/webinar type things and they are automatically recorded and uploaded to YouTube with a transcript.
  • Communities can be set up in an organized around subject and then topics within a subject so it makes it much easier to keep conversations straight.
  • Google Plus Local pages are great for local SEO.

One other thing that’s interesting is that Google isn’t dependent on Google Plus for revenue whereas Facebook has to figure out how to monetize it, which is why they’ve been doing some of the things that are making the community unhappy with regard to advertising

I don’t see my friends and family migrating to Google+ for social/personal updates any time soon, but I can see it eclipsing Facebook from a business point of view. I know there is a lot of hype and everyone says you “have to have a Facebook page” but I can’t honestly say I buy it. I think it depends on the business.

Having said all that, I haven’t completely embraced Google+ yet, but I do find it more intriguing and potentially more useful than Facebook for professional network and I’m going to pursue it.

There are other platforms such as Pintrest, Youtube, and instagram that I didn’t include because I have limited exposure to them and this post was already long enough.

Social media marketing is here to stay and whether you have a big business or a small one it’s become an important component of marketing your company and generating leads.  Which platform is best?  It depends on a number of factors, the biggest one being whether or not the people you want to acquire as customers view it as important.

If no  one in your target audience is on Facebook, then it probably makes no sense to be there.  Whatever you do, do it well and have a strategy in mind.  Posting inspirational pictures and tweeting quotes all day long may attract followers, but not business.

What platform works best for you?

 

 

  • Great post Beth. What I learned early on is to use the P.O.S.T. formula created by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Groundswell), and demonstrated by Mari Smith in (The New Relationship Marketing). I find that folks go to solution all to frequently to soon. Post stands for People, Objective, Strategy and Technology. In a nutshell, who are you trying to connect with, what is your objective when you connect, how are you going to communicate and what platforms do you need to be on to connect with them. Note that technology always comes last. As a marketer, I feel obligated to have a rudimentary to enhanced understanding of all the various platforms, so that I can help client’s make informed decisions around which platforms they might consider as part of their social business.

    • Thanks Gordon. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s been an interesting first 6 months and I’ve learned a lot! I’ll be sure to write updates as my experience continues to evolve.

      Love the POST formula and I would agree that people jump straight to the solution. I also find that people often miss the solution completely and spend their time tweeting inspirational quotes and pictures of cats 🙂

      Although my focus isn’t marketing per se – SMM is very intertwined with SEO these days and I too feel obligated to have a basic understanding of the platforms. At least in my experience I see more SMM professionals gaining exposure and talking about SEO than I do vice versa.