Social media marketing is an exciting field partly because it never sits still. There are always new platforms, new digital listening tools, new audiences and new technologies on the horizon. A good digital marketing expert has to stay on their toes, and know which platforms deliver the best results. But that’s a tricky question. How do you know which platform is right for your business? Should you maintain a presence across all social platforms, or focus your efforts on one or two?
We sat down with Social Media Professor Crystal King from HubSpot Academy to get the latest strategy advice for small businesses.
Crystal King is a Social Media Professor for HubSpot Academy with a focus on social media strategy.
Social media post-COVID
Social media trends come and go, and what was popular or profitable six months ago might no longer be relevant. The good news is that, since the pandemic, consumers have been using their phones and the internet more than ever before. This has jump-started several social platforms, particularly those based on video content. “There were a staggering 1.5 billion users that installed TikTok on their phones in the last two years,” King says. “The pandemic also fueled a big rise in the usage of Instagram Reels and IGTV. This was great news for business, because TikTok still skews young, and Instagram is more established, particularly in the areas of B2B.”
Is Facebook still necessary?
Yes and no. King says that Facebook Groups are still one of the most popular community building tools, but Facebook has been losing ground to video platforms like TikTok and Instagram in recent years. The demographics are definitely starting to shift. “Individuals have been leaving Facebook for a while now, due to ongoing distrust and disagreement over how Facebook handles things like privacy, security breaches, and political situations,” she says. “This exodus, while it should be alarming to Facebook, has forced businesses to rethink the effectiveness of advertising across Facebook and Instagram. There just isn’t the same sort of reach anymore.” In short: there might be better ways to spend your marketing budget. Facebook is no longer a no-brainer.
Picking the right platform
How do you know which platform to invest in? Ideally you want to be where you customers are. If they’re not using Facebook, it makes no sense to keep investing in the platform, especially if other sites, like Twitch (which showed 80% growth in the last two years) are booming. But first things first, you need to know your customers. “The most important thing businesses can do to maximize their spend is to really understand who their buyer is,” King says. “If you learn that your biggest demographic is 18-30 year-olds, you may find more success with TikTok, Instagram, or even Snapchat. But if you have a more affluent business audience, then Twitter or LinkedIn is likely a better bet.” To start mapping your customer profiles, try creating buyer personas or sending out a user survey.
Different platforms for different industries
The social media landscape has fragmented, with different platforms being used for discreet functions. This is great for businesses, as it means you can probably invest in two or three platforms and see good results, rather than spreading yourself too thin. So which platforms work best for which industries? King says that retail businesses will still find a lot of traction on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Twitch and TikTok. For B2B companies, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook Groups should still be your go-to. “But don’t rule out the viral possibilities that come with a platform like TikTok, even for B2B,” King adds. “You can find every topic imaginable on the platform now. Seriously, do a search for solar energy, real estate, or #medicalTikTok, for example.”
Customising your content
The golden rule of social media is: don’t just spam the same content everywhere. It’s a tempting strategy, as it cuts down on content creation time and resources, but ultimately what works for TikTok is unlikely to work for LinkedIn or YouTube. Each platform needs a dedicated social strategy, with custom content designed to maximize engagement and ROI. This might take some trial and error, but it’s worth the extra effort. “The HubSpot social team has very different strategies for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn,” King says. “For example, Twitter is more conversational. Instagram is full of visual marketing wisdom. And YouTube has mini-tutorials on a variety of topics. Auditing our social channels regularly enables us to understand which platforms may need higher prioritization.”
How many platforms should you be on?
This will vary for every business, based on industry, product, buyer profiles and marketing budget. Ideally you want to be wherever your customers are, but this isn’t always possible for small businesses. In that case, King recommends starting with one channel and building an audience. When that’s humming along, consider expanding your network with another platform. To figure out where to start, do some research into consumer behaviour and customer profiles. That’s what HubSpot did. “YouTube is a great example,” says King. “Once we found that we received a lot of great lead traffic there, the company invested in the resources needed to build a team and hire content creators specifically for that channel. We’ve seen continuous success on the platform as a result.”
Need to brush up on your social skills? Check out RMIT Online’s Digital Marketing shortcourses.