TS;MC: Battle of the Social Media Platforms

Let’s face it: For the modern audience, few marketing tactics can match the reach of social media platforms. 

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, and even Medium want you to utilize their platforms to distribute your content. But with limited budgets and limited time, companies — us included — must pick and choose which social media platforms are worthy of their time and financial investment. 

So what’s a marketer to do? You can’t be everywhere, can you? And even if you could, should you?

To answer these questions and more, in this edition of TS;MC — a bimonthly interview between myself and my coworker Travis Stewart — we’re talking about which social media platforms are right for your business, plus tips for avoiding common mistakes along the way. 

Related: Read our thoughts on what you need to know to manage your data like a pro.  

When planning to employ social media platforms as an amplification tool, what’s the first question to ask yourself?

TS: I’m a people person, so that’s where my thoughts go first — who am I trying to reach? While every social media platform would try and tell you that it can reach all audiences, you’re going to have a far easier time reaching targeted demographics through specific channels.

If I’m sitting down for an initial brainstorming session to try and determine, loosely, where I might buy media, the first thing to factor in is whether I’m B2B or B2C. If I’m working with an enterprise-level B2B client, LinkedIn is a given, assuming I can manage the high CPCs (costs per click). Highly targeted Facebook media is somewhere in the conversation as well. Medium could be in play, depending on the content strategy. Less traditional B2B plays — interior designers, for example — could be great fits for Instagram and Pinterest. 

The B2C crowd is far more diverse. I shy away from LinkedIn for those purposes (though I’m always open to having my mind changed) and lean most heavily on Facebook, where the targeting options are tough to beat.

The rest of the options you have are going to be targeting various demographics; for example, social media platforms like Snapchat and Tumblr obviously lean young.

How do you go about parsing through the various B2C demographic options? 

MC: It really comes down to the target audience. To your point, if you’re skewing younger (under 25), you’ll want to explore Instagram and Snapchat, as that’s where the younger demo is spending more of their time. 

But at the end of the day, I agree with you: It’s tough to beat Facebook. The targeting opportunities are ridiculously plentiful: 87 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 73 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds in the United States use Facebook, and almost 50 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds check Facebook when they wake up

That’s not to say you should put all your eggs in Mark Zuckerberg’s basket. Anyone with a B2C budget looking to focus on social media platforms should experiment with a few platforms in which their target demographic is known to play.

For example, if you’re in the e-commerce space, you certainly want to explore Pinterest’s Buyable Pins. With Pinterest and Instagram being among the most visually appealing social media platforms, you can see why they should be viable options for retailers. 

Fill me in on some of the lesser-used social media platforms (Reddit, Tumblr, or even Slack).

TS: Most social media platforms have at least some kind of advertising presence now — maybe the most interesting as of late has been Waze, which is pioneering the concept of targeted ads to geographically relevant customers. Some of the more sophisticated Waze advertisers are including coupons that tell you how many miles the store location is outside of your current route.

If your business happens to catch someone with an open-ended schedule for the day, the message is compelling. And don’t sleep on Nextdoor, either; another excellent outlet for geo-location advertising, this newer social media platform helps you speak to people who might be right in your backyard.  

Reddit is interesting, too, primarily because the consumer interest options are exceptional. If you want to find an audience that’s aligned with, say, Superman cosplay, you can do that very easily, and then supply the advertising message needed to introduce them to your brand.

I know some marketing folks get stressed at the ever-expanding number of social media platform options, but really, every new channel that pops up is another chance to work with a very specific audience. Embrace that — but make smart decisions. 

Speaking of smart decisions. What are some mistakes you’ve seen brands make when advertising on their social media platforms, and what can we learn from them? 

MC: From what I’ve seen, brands most always use social media platforms perfectly with very few reputation-damaging or costly mistakes.

Oh, if only that were the case. We could write an entire book on the social media fails brands have stumbled into.

Remember last year during awards season when the brand Total Beauty tweeted in praise of Oprah’s tattoos? Except the image was actually Whoopi Goldberg? The internet never forgets; this is still the top search result when you search their names and social media. Or how about the time American Apparel thought to celebrate America’s birthday by posting a picture of fireworks on its corporate Tumblr account? Seems harmless, until you realize that’s the Challenger explosion. In 2014, when women were sharing stories of abuse with the #WhyIStayed hashtag, DiGiorno jumped on board — with a comment about pizza. My personal favorite is the massive fail by US Airways a couple years ago, when a customer service representative accidentally responded to an upset flyer’s complaint with an extremely NSFW photo (don’t worry, that link won’t take you to the actual photo).

All that to say that there are lessons to be learned from the fails of some of our favorite brands:

  • Proofread: Double-check that post before you publish (and maybe one more time after that). Most social fails can be avoided with an extra set of eyes.   
  • Get context: Don’t jump in on a trending hashtag without fully understanding the context.
  • Fact-check: A simple fact-check can avert your brand from a plethora of issues, like the time Delta Air Lines tried to jump into the conversation about the World Cup and used a photo of a giraffe to represent Ghana. There are no giraffes in Ghana. 
  • Be ready: Don’t jump in the sandbox if you’re not ready to play. Brands open themselves up to all sorts of commentary, trolling, and unsolicited feedback when they enter the social sphere. Come prepared.

What do you think is the biggest takeaway for our audience?

TS: For any brand, the key is to realize that social media isn’t something a marketing team can off-load onto an entry-level position just to tick a box.

Social media — regardless of channel — has a massive impact on your brand footprint in the marketplace, and even a small blunder can have serious consequences. It’s not about being everywhere — it’s about being in the right place, at the right time, for the right people. You need a strategic approach, not a shotgun one, and your choice of social media platform — regardless of message — is arguably the key component of that.

Keep an eye out for our next TS;MC insights on the D Custom blog, and see what we’re talking about on our own Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

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