Image credit: Margaret Reiser
We live in a digital world where human connection can come from the touch of a button. Children today grow up glued to smart phones and tablet computers, connected online 24/7. New apps and social platforms are created seemingly overnight, fading in and out of social popularity as quickly as they come. The ever-changing digital landscape often makes it difficult for companies and organizations to connect with the public. So, what social media platforms should you be using to reach your target audience?
The social media giant has come a long way from its beginnings in the early 2000s. Continually evolving, Facebook has survived a multitude of controversies to expand from a simple online social platform used to connect with friends and family across the globe to one of the largest collections of consumer data, thanks to its plethora of features. The platform has transitioned from a simple messaging app to a digital photo album, video conferencing tool, news source, online marketplace, dating app and more.
According to Facebook, the platform’s apps reach over 3 billion people each month. Facebook continues to be one of the most widely used social media sites in the U.S., especially for older demographics between the ages 50 to 64. Almost three-quarters of Facebook users visit the platform daily, with just over half visiting several times a day.
Facebook pages are meant for businesses, community organizations, political candidates, teams, groups, and clubs. These range anywhere from small-town knitting clubs to global industry leaders. Anyone looking to reach an audience of adults 18+ should have a Facebook page where they are actively sharing content with followers. These pages make it easier to keep your audience updated, help people find more information about your organization or business, and get in touch with you. Not to mention, it is a free way to increase brand awareness. It certainly helps that almost all types of content work well on this social platform.
Instagram, owned by Facebook, relies on visually appealing content making it popular with advertisers and users alike. Around 1 billion people use Instagram monthly, with 500 million utilizing the newer feature, “Instagram Stories,” each day. Users are often between the ages of 18 and 29, and the platform remains popular with teens, even more so than Snapchat.
Instagram is ideal for groups or businesses able to share regular photo and video content aimed at a younger demographic. Advertisers marketing towards Gen Z tend to flock toward Instagram, as almost one-third of teen users prefer to learn of new products and promotions while utilizing the site. While you will often find influencers on this platform, its usage is not universal. Where Facebook is informative and connecting, Instagram aims to engage and entertain users with the purpose of growing awareness. Outside of personal profiles, the platform tends to work best for local businesses looking to sell a product and communities that aim to highlight local attractions.
Twitter content often has a short shelf life, making it difficult to create a following. Most who visit the platform are often passive observers, choosing to scroll endlessly through their feed while posting maybe twice a month. The 10% of platform users who are most active in producing content are responsible for 80% of all content on Twitter. On average, users are often younger, between the ages of 18 and 40, Democratic and highly educated, and the most active users are often women.
Twitter is more political than other social media sites and is often used as a news source by many Americans. Trending hashtags keep track of what is popular, embodying social movements and public opinion. Political conversations are common, and U.S. political leaders tend to have an increased reach in both audience and followers even though political ads are banned on the platform. Twitter tends to work best for community influencers – such as politicians, celebrities, journalists, athletes, activists, etc. – and local school districts that push out regular, engaging content. The platform is made up of over 145 million daily, active users from all walks of life who are more likely to be politically engaged and supportive of education initiatives. It is important that users who wish to gain a following and stand out from the crowd post frequently and are responsive to world, or local, events.
Like Instagram, Pinterest relies on visually appealing content. Posts (in this case “pins”) are often DIY and aspirational, directing users to websites and blogs. The platform is often used for viewing photos, discovering or shopping for products and providing space for users to categorize their ideas for future meals, events, homes, travel, etc. Pinterest remains most popular with female adults, the majority of which are between the ages 18 to 40 and often mothers.
Unlike Instagram, Pinterest does not foster conversations easily. While content is meant to be shared by followers, there is little to no actual interaction between users. The platform is more of a storytelling tool, curating ideas and content through themed boards. If the main goal of your social media account is to traffic followers to your website, then Pinterest is ideal; however, keep in mind that the platform’s audience is almost all women.
Snapchat is a photo and video sharing mobile messaging app that allows users to edit and send content that disappears once viewed. It is commonly used by those 24 years and younger, maintaining popularity among young teens.
While Snapchat is ideal for advertisers looking to market to teens, the platform is not conducive for businesses or organizations. Snapchat lacks the opportunity to customize profiles outside of the username and connected Bitmoji. While the app’s story feature would be ideal to highlight behind the scenes work, Instagram’s recent implementation of stories is far more popular, connecting with company profiles and providing a greater reach. Images and videos found in Instagram stories can be shared by followers, a feature that is unavailable on Snapchat. Individual user accounts work best with this app, such as for celebrities and influencers.
TikTok is the newest of social media platforms to gain popularity. Created in 2016, TikTok is a short-form mobile video social networking app. The platform shares user generated videos, around 15 seconds in length. Content ranges in topics with the purpose of micro-entertainment. Similar to the late Vine, content is often comedic and includes viral challenges, lip-syncing, memes, workouts, cute animal content and more. The app is unique in its ability to share video content outside of the platform with non-users.
TikTok has 800 million active users each month, surpassing Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. While platform usage is growing among adults, users are often between the ages of 16 to 34 and utilize the app multiple times a day. Just over half of users upload their own original content, while 68% prefer to watch content produced by others.
TikTok seems to work well for larger brands and corporations that can regularly produce and share short-form videos. Content is often comedic and engaging with users in order to attract this new audience base. While the app works well for larger companies and brands, it is unlikely that similar success will transfer to smaller groups and businesses that lack such encompassing awareness.
LinkedIn has been around about as long as Facebook but carved out its own niche audience. The social media platform is business-oriented, aimed towards professional networking, job searching and sharing the best practices of a variety of industries.
Professionals use LinkedIn to connect with coworkers, future employers, and future clients. Using LinkedIn, a business can share and report personalized news and best practices to their network, initiate professional relationships, and investigate organizations and individuals. Your LinkedIn page can showcase your employees, the range of skill on your team, provide background information, available positions for hire and more. Individual users often benefit from broadening their professional networks on the platform and can – over time – become increasingly visible to professionals and organizations with similar interests.
LinkedIn is an opportunity for network growth, new professional relationships and a better understanding of industries all around the globe. With 675 million monthly users, 30 million company profiles and a reach that extends to more than half of college-educated U.S. adults, LinkedIn is a necessary platform for any business.
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