Not every brand is right for the major social networks, and not every one of those networks is right for a specific brand.
When a brand gets started with social media marketing, the initial thought process is something along the lines of: “I need to be everywhere, all the time, no matter what.” Considering the massive presence that some of the most successful brands have had on major social networks, this is a natural rationalization. But to really find success when it comes to social media marketing, you need to understand two things above all else. The first thing is crucial not only to where you want to have a presence, but to the success of your program as a whole: you need to set your goals. Your goals will be a defining characteristic of virtually every decision you make, and the process that led to that decision. Second, you are going to want to have a fairly strong understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of every one of the major social networks. For this discussion, the networks that make up that group are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+.
One common benefit is obvious: they are popular. You want your brand to have a presence on networks where people are talking. Considering the mass of users these networks have garnered, you are more than likely (in most cases) to find members of your target audience on these platforms. That said, depending on your brand’s message and the social persona you create for your brand, it might not be all that beneficial to have a presence on every one.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the greatest strengths and weaknesses of these five major social networks. Of course, there are others (dozens if not hundreds, depending on what you consider a social network) on which you might want to have a presence. The likelihood is, however, that these five will be among your pool for consideration, hence our decision to look closely at them.
As the largest of the bunch (with an audience size well over 1.2 billion users) this is almost a guarantee to be added to the “Yes” column. The page layouts are simple and effective. Other networks can be easily integrated. And there exists a world of possibilities when it comes to apps and plugins as well as a huge mobile audience. Everyone is familiar with the “Pros” list when it comes to Facebook. But what about the “Cons”? What is it that brands should be wary of when venturing to use Facebook to grow their social presence?
First of all, if you don’t want to make an investment, don’t waste your time with Facebook. The network has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of doing brands any favors when it comes to organic growth. Recently, it was made public that Facebook intends to decrease the organic reach of Pages – reach without any ad dollars spent – to roughly 1%. What’s more, certain tactics that have been used to game the system for some time (such as the “Like” vs. “Share” posts) will soon be penalized. So for brands thinking that it will be easy (or, for some foolish reason, free) to grow their brands on Facebook, they will not find the network particularly beneficial after just a short while.
Twitter has made a lot of strides when it comes to the benefits for brands. The introduction of Twitter Cards has made interactive content much more readily available and inspires increased engagement with target users. Twitter also recently announced over a dozen new ad features, which will certainly be beneficial to brands. Then there is their most recent announcement about real-time communications (like Facebook chat). Twitter is going above and beyond when it comes to providing new ways for brands to use the platform. But what might hinder your desire to use the network?
Well, for starters, everyone is thinking the same way you do: I can just share my brand’s message a thousand times a day and get people to click through to my page! While it’s true that this is an option, no one will see what you have to say. And as more brands go with this approach, fewer users care to follow brands at all. The most difficult part about Twitter is the content strategy. 140 characters can be used extremely well or very poorly. It all depends on how you plan on getting your message out. What is going to entice the audience you wish to target? And when it comes to targeting, the same problems exist on Twitter as they do on Facebook: you’re going to have to be willing to spend money. A lot of those benefits listed in the paragraph above are really only apparent if you’re using Twitter’s ad platform (which is an excellent one). So if you won’t invest, you won’t succeed.
Obviously, if you plan on sharing videos, you don’t have a choice but to share them to YouTube. You might prefer Vimeo or some other video sharing platform, but the reality is that these other platforms aren’t owned by Google. (One of the benefits of owning the Internet.) Sharing videos (that are properly optimized) on YouTube can mean increased search rankings, and linking your other networks, website and Google profile to your YouTube channel can mean some incredible benefits to those rankings. And all of that can happen very fast.
The drawbacks to YouTube are in the numbers. The longer your video, the less likely it is that people will watch it. The more boring your video (i.e. all corporate videos) the less likely people are to watch it, and the more likely they are to make snide comments. With so many hundreds of lifetimes of content available on YouTube, you need to really pull your audience in right away. Anything more than eight seconds, you’ve lost them. YouTube also cannot stand alone. Without the help of your other channels and your website, it is unlikely that your YouTube audience will grow. Again, with so much content available, people simply are not going to find your videos organically. At least, that is the case for most brands. Lastly, video sharing networks in general are not for every brand. Videos are (or can be) expensive and time consuming. And much like a blog or website, you’ll need to continue producing new content in order to find your channel on top. If you don’t feel like this is something your brand can do, don’t create a blank YouTube channel; that’s a worse option.
The professional network that every eager entrepreneur or seasoned veteran is using has some pretty obvious benefits. For starters, it’s full of professionals, many of whom have common interests. For individuals, it provides an excellent platform on which to build out your professional network, and for brands, it means garnering support and exposure within your industry or from potential investors. The latter item in that last point is especially true for B2B brands looking to make a splash and reach decision makers.
There are two problems, however, with LinkedIn. First, their ad platform is a little archaic. Targeting capabilities are excellent, but people have become accustomed to ignoring right column ads, and that’s where the majority of your ad dollars will go. Second, LinkedIn hasn’t quite yet figured out how to create value for Company Pages. Sure, they’re great to feature your brand and some of your services, but there is nothing to really pull people in. To their credit, LinkedIn is now in the process of revamping Company Pages (they just removed the poor-performing Products & Services tab) and have been working to make it a content publishing platform. That said, while the network is an excellent resource in which individuals can share content and expand their network, it still has not found that “it” factor for the brand itself.
Google+ is an invaluable (yes, as in has so much value, you can’t even assign it a number) tool when it comes to increasing your exposure. Why? Much like YouTube, it is a Google product so it has to be used and it has to be used well. It also has a huge customer base outside of the United States, so brands with an international presence can leverage the platform to reach a global audience. The Communities feature on Google+ also offers users a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, and allows brands to share relevant content to an already engaged audience.
The biggest problem with Google+ is that everyone knows they need to use it, but a lot of people are having trouble figuring out how to use it. As such, much of what you see on Google+, particularly in Communities, is self-promotional. Only the truly devoted Community Managers keep their networks clean from spam. But it still makes its way in there. There is also a lack of strong analytics with Google+ Pages. Of course, Google Analytics is designed to be integrated with the network, but unlike Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube, another Google-owned property, Google+ doesn’t provide much more than superficial data. So if Analytics are important to you – as they are to most people – you might find yourself a little disappointed with Google+.
Every major network has its positives and its negatives. And depending on your brand and what it is you want to accomplish by leveraging social media, your choices are going to be different. But it’s important to remember that a successful program does not mean a presence on every single network. A Pinterest board (and yes, Pinterest was a consideration to be added to this list, but frankly, the article was running a little long) with a handful of images that is infrequently updated has less value to a brand than no Pinterest presence whatsoever (in many cases).
So to sum up, consider your goals, the strengths and weaknesses of each of these networks and what the best course of action is in order to achieve those goals in the shortest timeframe possible.
What network is your most beneficial for achieving your goals on social media? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!