Which social media platform is right for my startup?

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There are so many things to do when your startup is getting close to being ready to launch.

You’ve heard the mantra that everything is PR: from buying office chairs to recruiting your staff, to getting your first sale; you need to tell your new audience all about it.

Everyone tells you that investing time in free social media marketing is absolutely essential.

You don’t have any spare cash and your time is at a premium, so you need to take advantage of every free pound you can save.

It’s true, social media has no cost-barrier to entry, but it can be costly to run, if you let it.

Social media by the numbers

Statistia, a source of social media statistics, gives us a useful overview of the size of the relevant social media platforms we want to target.

Below are the top-ranking networks as of April 2017, listed by number of users – you might be surprised which networks make it to the top.

How many users does each social media platform have?

  1. Facebook = 1.93 billion
  2. WhatsApp = 1.2 billion
  3. Youtube = 1 billion
  4. Instagram = 600 million
  5. Twitter = 319 million
  6. Snapchat = 300 million
  7. Pinterest = 150 million
  8. LinkedIn = 106 million

Which social network works best for what?

Facebook: For starting out

For connecting with a new audience, or starting conversations, there’s nothing better than Facebook. It has the most users of any social network in the world: a whopping 79% of adults who are online globally have used it.

It’s also the social network with the most community focus, producing the most engagement – back and forth with the people who are buying or interested in your product or service.

The options are myriad and varied. Most young businesses start with a Facebook Page which just outlines who they are, what they do and opening hours etc.

The review rating on Facebook is also a simple and obvious way to build trust between your business and the reader. It’s also easy to write posts linking back to your site with product or deal shouts. The benefits of Facebook become clearer the more you use it.

WhatsApp: To replace email and get personal

Those who haven’t cottoned on to the business potential of WhatsApp are doing their new company a disservice.

Yes, a large proportion of its 1.2bn users will use the tech as a free instant messaging service in place of texting.

However, online stores are starting to use WhatsApp in place of traditional email marketing lists. Sending out new deals or discounts feels more personal than getting an email and is a great way to prompt action from your audience.

LinkedIn: For business-to-business

Despite only having 106 million users, LinkedIn still provides a business-minded platform for those without consumer stories to help promote their company or those who produce B2B-style news and updates.

IT professionals, marketers, lawyers and people in the business services trade will do well here.

It’s great for recommendations and building authority, and one of the main hot topics with LinkedIn now is cross-posting articles using Medium as a way of sharing extended stories or posts that won’t fit easily on other networks.

Twitter: For breaking news and joining national conversation

A lot of the time using Twitter can feel like shouting into a hole in the road – you just don’t know how many people are going to hear it.

It compares unfavourably to the likes of Facebook for creating a conversation with your audience, but is often used by larger firms for breaking news and delivering customer service.

Many will search Twitter’s latest trending stories to find #hashtags to incorporate into their marketing – however this can feel a little inauthentic.

One point to keep in mind: despite its name-recognition, the user base of Twitter has plateaued in the past 12 months. While people are joining WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram in droves, Twitter is growing much more slowly than its competitors.

Instagram & Pinterest: For visual-first businesses

We lump these two massive networks together because they serve the same audience: those businesses with physical products to promote, or those who work in a visual medium.

The likes of gyms, salons, cafes, restaurants, wedding planners, photographers and graphic designers will find a natural home on Instagram or Pinterest.

Social Do’s and Don’ts

When you start getting excited about the potential audience you’re going to reach on your shiny new social media account, it can be really helpful to keep certain things in mind so you don’t get bogged down.

Do: Experiment

Find out which platform gets you the most likes, retweets or other engagements, stick with the ones that you’re getting traction on, and ditch the rest until you’ve got time.

Do: Reach out to the community

Asking your audience what they’d like to see can be a great help in your early days, and a good way to show your human side. People look to social media for a behind-the-curtain insight into the type of business you are, as well as the products or services you sell.

Do: Plan in advance, and schedule for maximum effect

You don’t have to check social media 50 times a day. There are many useful apps that allow you to collect all of your social media posts in one place, and schedule them to fit around promotions or deals you’re offering, or to run alongside blog posts or announcements. We’d recommend these free options: Smarterqueue, Buffer, or Hootsuite.

Don’t: Try to use every platform

It’s tempting, because it’s free marketing (and you desperately need things to be free when you’re starting up). Social media can be a total time-sink if you’re not careful. And a half-finished, uncurated Twitter account – with the stock Twitter egg as a logo – will look unprofessional.

It’s better to have just one well fleshed out Facebook Page than Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr or Google+ accounts you barely use.

People come to social media for the latest news. If your last post was 12 months ago, what does that say about how busy and successful your business is?

Don’t: Use the exact same message across different platforms

There are programs that allow you to cross-post across multiple social media platforms. However, the audience and tone can vary wildly.

There’s no added value in the exact same picture and caption posted on across your firm’s social media accounts. Twitter only allows 140 characters of text, including a link back to your website or selling page.

Could you be more expansive on Facebook to draw your customers into a conversation? Do you want to use that exact same picture on Pinterest?

Don’t: Forget about your audience

Each of those likes, reads or views is a potential sale. Many small business owners wade in to social media with no plan or vision for what they want it to be.

You are the public face of your company, so make yourself available to people. Answering questions individually is a great way to build trust and set yourself apart from competitors. Post links or ideas that are going to get people talking and discussing.

Is there a hot news story right now that links to your brand? How do your customers and potential customers feel about it?  Talk to people directly. On Twitter? Open your DMs. On Facebook? Reply quickly to messages and inboxes to give your business a better rating.

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Tom Rodgers is the editor of independent price comparison brands BroadbandDeals.co.uk and SimOnlyDeals.co.uk

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