Social media is an effective method for reaching people all over the globe, with an average user spending 2 hours and 29 minutes on social media each day (Olafson & Tran, 2021). Social media use is also on the rise. From 2019 to 2020, active social media users increased 6% in the Americas (We Are Social, 2020). Just on Instagram alone, every month one billion people across the world log on and 110 million (11%) of those users live in the United States (We Are Social, 2020).
Social media can move a consumer from brand awareness to conversion because of exposure and experiences. It is obvious that social media cannot be ignored, but how should a marketer decide which channel or channels are best to use? There are a lot to choose from, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit – just to name a few! The decision takes consideration and should be based on multiple factors.
Techsoup (2017) suggests choosing channels based on organizational capacity, resources, and goals. As explained in the graphic below, social media channels have alternate benefits, compliment different goals, support different types of content, and have additional considerations such as capacity and cost (Techsoup, 2017). A marketer should not over-commit to social media by signing up for every channel that exists. Capacity and resources must be taken into consideration, such as available staff time to maintain the account, advertising budget, etc. As Buzan (2020a) points out, a social media marketing plan would not be complete without also considering content and audience.
The platform that is chosen by a business should compliment the content that will be produced (Buzan, 2020a). For example, if an author wants to promote her new book with a series of 20-minute writing tutorials, YouTube might be the right fit. Not only is YouTube great for tutorials, but also for original shows, vlogging, music videos, demonstrations, and live streaming features (Quesenberry, 2018). According to the We Are Social (2020) report, YouTube has 2 billion logged in users each month, and the share of the global population aged 13 and over that log in each month is 33%. That is a lot of people that marketers can potentially be reaching with their content.
When creating content, specifications, like video and image size, must be followed so that the content can be uploaded to the social media channel or channels. Importantly, Buzan (2020a) states that “the new model for content creation and marketing on social media has shifted from just pushing content for the sake of promoting yourself to become more personalized, interactive, and focused on storytelling rather than self-promotion.”
Content matters just as much as conversation. Social media is a place where consumers and marketers jointly enter a conversation that may or may not necessarily be about a product or service (Buzan, 2020a). Social media allows consumers to feel heard; and is meant to be a discussion between like-minded participants that results in referrals, recommendations, and brand loyalty (Buzan, 2020a). Social media listening is the process of continuous and immediate discovery of conversations with the purpose of learning, engaging, helping, and collaborating (Buzan, 2020b).
Marketers must always consider the target audience when thinking about where and how to reach consumers, and social media is no different. The more targeting that can be done, the more a business can make messages most relevant and use their limited resources wisely (Buzan, 2020a). Some social media channels are more effective for reaching certain demographics of consumers. For example, 1/3 of Instagram’s users are ages 25 to 34 and is the most-used social media platform among U.S. teenagers (Olafson & Tran, 2021).
The varying social media channels attract different types of users, including differing age brackets and gender. Using data from We Are Social (2020), below is a comparison of the potential reach and age/gender demographics of six popular social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Number of people that can be reached with advertisements: 1.95 billion.
- Share of global population aged 13+ that marketers can reach with Facebook ads: 32%.
- Percentage of Facebook ad audience that is female: 44%.
- Percentage of Facebook ad audience that is female: 56%.
- Age range of Facebook ad audience: 13-17: 4.6%, 18-24: 24%, 25-34: 32%, 35-44: 17.1%, 45-54: 10.4%, 55-64: 6.1%, and 65+: 4.4%.
- Number of people that can be reach with advertisements: 928.5 million.
- Share of global population aged 13+ that marketers can reach with Instagram ads: 15%
- Percentage of Instagram ad audience that is female: 50.9%.
- Percentage of Instagram ad audience that is male: 49.1%.
- Age range of Instagram ad audience: 13-17: 6.1% 18-24: 30%, 25-34: 35%, 18-24: 30%, 35-44: 16.5%, 45-54: 7.8%, 55-64: 3.2%, and 65+: 1.9%.
- Number of people that can be reached with advertisements: 663.3 million.
- Share of the global population aged 18+ that marketers can reach with LinkedIn ads: 12%.
- Percentage of LinkedIn ad audience that is female: 43%.
- Percentage of LinkedIn ad audience that is male: 57%.
- Age range of LinkedIn ad audience: 18-24: 19.1%, 25-34: 61%, 35-54: 16.7%, and 55+: 3.3%.
- Number of people that can be reached with advertisements: 381.5 million.
- Share of the global population aged 13+ that marketers can reach with Snapchat ads: 6.3%.
- Percentage of Snapchat ad audience that is female: 61%.
- Percentage of Snapchat ad audience that is male: 38%.
- Age range of Snapchat ad audience:13-17: 18.7%, 18-20: 21.2%, 21-24: 17.8%, 25-34: 22.6%, and 35+: 17.9%.
- Number of people that can be reached with advertisements: 339.6 million.
- Share of the global population aged 13+ that marketers can reach with Twitter ads: 5.6%.
- Percentage of Twitter ad audience that is female: 38%.
- Percentage of Twitter ad audience that is male: 62%.
- Age range of Twitter ad audience: 13-17: 9.6%, 18-24: 24%, 25-34: 29%, 35-49: 23%, and 50+: 15%.
- Number of people that can be reached with advertisements: 169 million.
- Share of global population aged 13+ that marketers can reach with Pinterest ads: 2.8%.
- Percentage of Pinterest ad audience that is female: 72%.
- Percentage of Pinterest ad audience that is male: 20%.
- Age range of Pinterest ad audience: 18-24: 14.8%, 25-34: 41%, 35-44: 22.7%, 45-49: 5.5%, 50-54: 4%, 55-64: 9%, and 65+: 2.8%.
Marketers must first research a social media channel to determine which is best for reaching the target audience. Based on the information above, Snapchat would best complement a social media marketing plan with the target audience of women and girls aged 34 or younger. Which social media channel listed above would one use to reach men aged 25-34?
Additionally, many social media channels offer psychographic traits to further segment the audiences seeing paid ads. Facebook advertising has the option of targeting potential customers based on traits related to interests, values, personality, and hobbies (Tietbohl, 2021). Facebook also allows for advertising that targets specific zip codes and neighborhoods, thus providing a marketing method for local businesses trying to attract new customers.
There may also be other lifestyle factors to consider before choosing the right social media channel. For example, if a marketer is trying to fundraise for a progressive nonprofit, LinkedIn may be the place to do so. Smith & Anderson (2018) found that 44% of LinkedIn users earn more than $75,000 per year (which is above the national median) and that 50% of LinkedIn users are college graduates.
In conclusion, choosing the right channels depends on everything from capacity and resources to demographics and interests. Even without utilizing paid advertising, social media accounts with strong content and a two-way dialogue are more likely to succeed in elevating a brand.
Buzan, K. (2020a). Week 1 Lesson: Introduction to Social Media [Online]. Retrieved from https://ecampus.wvu.edu/
Buzan, K. (2020b). Week 4 Lesson: Understanding Social Media Channels [Online]. Retrieved from https://ecampus.wvu.edu/
Olafson, K. & Tran, T. (2021, January 27). 100+ Social Media Demographics that Matter to Marketers in 2021. Retrieved from: https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-demographics/
Smith, A. & Anderson, M. (2018, March 1). Social Media Use in 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/
Techsoup. A Nonprofit Social Media Starter Kit. (2017). Retrieved from: http://www.techsoup.com
Tietbohl, M. (2021). Week 4 Lesson: Social Media Analytics & Advertising Channels [Online]. Retrieved from https://ecampus.wvu.edu/webapps/blackboard/execute/displayLearningUnit?course_id=_155927_1&content_id=_7582545_1&framesetWrapped=true
Quesenberry, K. (2018, May 23). 2018 Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category. Retrieved from: https://www.postcontrolmarketing.com/2018-social-media-update-top-social-media-channels-category/
We Are Social. (n.d.). Digital Report 2020. Retrieved from: https://wearesocial.com/digital-2020