Creating a social media strategy for you or your client comprises many parts, including which social media channels to use. After all, you want to get the best possible return for your posts.
So how do you decide which channels are best-suited?
Do you go for the largest and most well-established favourites like Facebook? Or do you opt for an up-and-coming network that has less competition?
In this article, you’ll discover which social media channels exist and which types of content tend to perform best on each channel.
Plus, we have a bonus quick guide to help you decide which channels are best suited to your needs.
Which social media channels are best for your business?
Quality always trumps quantity. It’s better to choose two or three channels and post high-quality, engaging content consistently rather than spreading yourself over more channels and posting low-quality content. Focusing on a couple of networks allows time to interact and engage in conversations, which ultimately leads to more conversions and customers.
Whittney Hines – Marketing Manager at BMH Digital Agency – advises her team to be more concerned about the quality of the posts they create for their clients. She also asks clients to verify the content reflects their organisation and encourages them to interact and post additional content.
But how do you decide which social media channels are best for your own or your client’s business?
Here are the things you need to consider:
What are your social media goals?
Before you decide which social media channels to use or what types of content to produce, it’s essential to know your social media goals.
If you don’t have goals and objectives, you can’t measure performance.
Ask yourself: "What do I want to achieve on social media?"
- If you want to increase brand awareness, then consider using well-established platforms like Facebook rather than up-and-coming networks like TikTok.
- If you want to generate more leads, then consider using LinkedIn as it’s renowned for B2B marketing.
- If you want to sell a product, then consider a visual channel like Instagram or Pinterest that both offer product tags and prices with links to your e-commerce store.
What social media channels are your target audience using?
The next step is to evaluate what channels your target audience use.
For instance, if you or your client's audience spends most of their time on LinkedIn, then it would be a waste of time using Snapchat.
If you’re already using social media, then check your existing data to see what’s working. For example, you could check the Facebook Page Insights to see who is viewing and interacting with your content:
Pro Tip: Use additional social media analytics tools like Sendible to measure more insights.
For example, in the US:
- Pinterest is more popular with women (41%) than with men (15%).
- 90% of LinkedIn users also use Facebook.
Make time to short-list the best channels for your target audience based on data.
What social media channels are your competitors using?
Another useful step is to check which social media channels your competitors are using. Looking at your competition will also give you an idea of the typical content in your industry or niche.
Questions to ask:
- What channels are your competitors using?
- What channels are delivering the most engagement?
- What type of content on each channel drives the most engagement?
You can use social media monitoring tools to set up alerts and notifications that track your competitor’s online activity.
What resources are available?
We already highlighted that quality is more important than quantity. At this stage, it’s essential to consider how many social media channels you need to achieve your goals.
For instance, if you only use one channel, you might not be able to increase brand awareness.
It’s also important to consider your budget and skills.
- How many channels can I manage within my budget?
- Do I have the right skill set to create the content for these channels?
- If you have a small budget, then you may only be able to target one channel to start with. Trying to cover more channels would probably result in low-quality content and interaction.
- If you have limited resources, you may not have the skills required to create the right type of content. For example, if you decide to use Pinterest, you’ll need a graphic designer to produce stunning images.
So weigh-up what you can and can’t do with your resources.
Which social media channels exist and which type of content performs best on each platform?
When it comes to social media, you’re spoiled for choice with the number of channels to choose from:
The most popular social networks are ranked by the number of monthly active users (MAUs). These networks usually have the highest engagement, too.
For instance, Facebook – the first network to hit 1 billion MAUs – gets high engagement. Whereas Pinterest – the quickest to hit 10 million MUVs (monthly unique visitors) – has less engagement.
Most of the social networks have a global appeal. But others – like Qzone and WeChat in China – are country-specific.
Each channel has its pros and cons, including the type of content that performs best. So let’s take a look at each one in turn.
Facebook is the most popular social network, with over 2 billion people using it every month.
From a business perspective, there are over 80 million SMBs (small-and medium-sized businesses) using Facebook Pages and over 6 million using the advertising platform, according to Facebook’s 2018 second quarter earnings call.
From a social media marketing perspective, Facebook is the most important channel for both B2C (68%) and B2B (48%) marketers.
Most types of content work well on Facebook, including traditional text, images, and videos, as well as Live Videos and Stories. The key is to produce quality content that encourages interaction from users.
Pro Tip: Data from Tubular Insights showed that the top-performing videos were either in square or vertical format because they take up more of the screen ‘real-estate’ compared to the widescreen format:
Hot on the tail of Facebook is Instagram. Over the past few years, the network has overtaken established channels like Twitter and LinkedIn, and now has over 1 billion users. It’s also the second most important social network for marketers.
Instagram is a mobile visual app, so it’s important to post high-quality photos and videos that showcase your or your client’s brand in the best possible way. But don’t forget to use hashtags in your captions, as these also generate interest and engagement.
Without doubt, Instagram Stories are the most popular type of content on the channel, so make sure you capitalise on that trend:
LinkedIn has evolved from a resume and job search platform to a social network for professionals. Although recruiters still post job openings, individuals and companies can share updates through posts and articles. And LinkedIn now has native video posts and Live video broadcasts.
Pro Tip: If you’re posting video content, make sure you include on-screen captions as many users watch in silent mode in the office.
LinkedIn is a popular platform for B2B marketers because the audience comprises business professionals from a diverse range of industries, many of whom hold a decision-making role.
HubSpot found that LinkedIn was almost 3 times more effective for generating leads than both Twitter and Facebook:
Content on Twitter is slightly different. Unlike other channels, Twitter limits each tweet to 280 characters, so your message has to be on-point.
But it’s not only a text-based platform. You’ll see GIFs widely used along with images and videos to capture user attention in the fast-paced News Feed.
Twitter is ideal for sharing thoughts, asking questions, and promoting events and web content:
🔊In ONE hour Join 100+ digital marketing pros for another awesome #SEMrushchat!— SEMrush (@semrush) May 22, 2019
Today we discuss how to use #SocialMedia to grow your business with @aiaddysonzhang 🔥
Who are going to join us?#semrushchat #SMM #SMMtips pic.twitter.com/b4OcLm5ml2
Over 250 million people use Pinterest each month for inspiration – whether that’s a new hobby or a new look. And 78% of those say content from brands is useful.
- 1.5 million businesses now use the visual marketing channel to promote their products and services with Pins.
Each Pin includes an image, infographic, or video, and a link back to the source, which makes it a great channel to drive traffic to your website.
Pins also stick around longer. Whereas Tweets have a lifespan of 15-20 minutes, a Pin can last up to 4 months.
The best-performing pins are typically tall vertical images (2:3 aspect ratio) rather than the landscape (16:9) or square formats you find on other channels:
YouTube is the second most popular social media channel and the second largest search engine after Google. If you’re going to use video content in your social media strategy, it makes sense to take advantage of this platform and master YouTube SEO, too.
People of all ages (especially the 18-34 range) enjoy watching videos online. Every day people watch over a billion hours of video, with over 70% using their mobile devices.
YouTube videos vary in length, but you’ll find more in-depth videos on the channel, compared to shorter videos on other networks like Instagram and Facebook.
Snapchat is a social media app that focuses on sharing photos and short videos – known as snaps. Posts have a limited lifespan, and users aren’t privy to any information on the number of views they receive.
Snapchat is, at its core, a messaging app and therefore it’s far more intimate than other channels like Twitter or Facebook.
Marketers and brands use Snapchat to create more personal connections with their customers. It’s ideal for sharing unique, behind-the-scenes glimpses into the life of your brand, products, or services.
Snapchat was the first network to launch the Stories feature, although it’s since been usurped by Instagram and Facebook.
TikTok – also known as Douyin in China – is a social media app for creating and sharing short videos. You can create short music videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds:
Pro Tip: TikTok was highlighted as the emerging platform at Social Day 2019, a conference for social media marketers.
WhatsApp started as a messaging app for family and friends. But now the platform is geared towards businesses, too.
The WhatsApp Business app is ideal for small businesses to interact with customers easily by using tools to automate, sort, and quickly respond to messages:
And for medium and large businesses, there’s the WhatsApp Business API.
Facebook Messenger is a mobile messaging app. Originally it was known as Facebook Chat, but has been a standalone app since 2011.
Messenger allows users to connect with businesses to find deals, make reservations, get customer support, and more.
For example, e-commerce platform Shopify connects to Messenger so customers can buy your products directly in a chat, track their orders in real time, and receive support:
There are also plenty of Facebook Messenger marketing experiments you can try to get you started on the platform.
WeChat has grown from a mobile messaging app into a multi-purpose “super app”. Users can now use the app to pay bills, order goods and services, transfer money to other users, and pay in stores that accept WeChat Pay.
It’s used extensively in China (where Facebook, Twitter, and Google are banned), Bhutan, and other parts of Asia. So if you have clients who conduct business in that region, it could prove really useful.
Businesses can create official accounts within WeChat - almost like mini-apps. Users then subscribe to the accounts and get promotions messaged directly to them or click to go to the shopping page.
QQ and Qzone
QQ and Qzone are owned by the same company as WeChat, but are designed for younger users (aged 21 years or below).
Mandy Tsoi, Founder at angrymoo, says: “QQ and Qzone’s user experience design is more playful and have features like animated avatars, stickers, academic-related information, virtual decoration and so on.”
Qzone is a Facebook-style desktop platform that allows users to write blogs, keep diaries, send photos, listen to music, and watch videos.
QQ is a mobile messaging app (text, voice, and video) with over 1 billion registered users across 80+ countries.
Mandy adds: “Since QQ is more popular among students and young users who might not have substantial purchasing power, it’s a more suitable marketing channel for businesses that target students, such as tutoring companies, or those that sell fast moving consumer goods.”
Sina Weibo is one of the biggest social media channels in China. It’s classed as a micro-blogging site, and is often referred to as the ‘Chinese Twitter’ as it shares similar features including a 140-character text limit. Over the years, it’s transformed to include features similar to Instagram and YouTube.
Research shows users of Sina Weibo publish more posts, and tend to disclose more personal information about themselves than Twitter users.
Reddit – aka “the front page of the internet” – is a social news platform where registered users can submit content including links, text posts, and images. You post content in relevant subreddits (subdirectories) where other members vote it up or down.
Reddit is often referred to as the anonymous social media network because users can adopt any identity.
Quora is a platform for asking and answering questions. Plus you can create a blog and write posts.
When you find a question to answer, Helvijs Smoteks recommends you “keep it valuable, easy to read, and entertaining,” so you get more upvotes and drive more referral traffic.
Medium is an online publishing platform created by the co-founder of Twitter, Ev Williams.
“Medium is kind of like Twitter, just with long-form content.”
You can either publish original content on Medium or republish your blog articles on the platform for additional exposure.
There’s also the option to link your Medium profile with Twitter and Facebook so you can automatically connect with your social media followers who are on Medium.
Over to you
Now you have all the data on the best performing social media channels, plus a series of questions to help pinpoint your selection.
As promised, here’s a checklist you can download and use if you have clients, to help choose the best social media channels for their businesses.
Now it’s time for you to start experimenting.