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Does your business need a Twitter account? Is Snapchat the right social media app to expand your brand? Should you just jump on board every popular social network to maximize your reach? With so many social media channels to choose from, deciding which ones deserve your attention can be difficult.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to be on every social network. In fact, that approach can do more harm than good if you spread yourself too thin. Even large brands with dedicated social media teams will roll out on new social channels with a more limited or targeted presence as they learn the ins and outs of effectively marketing on it.

For most businesses, the best approach is to handpick social media channels that make the most sense for the brand, rather than try to expend an equal amount of effort everywhere. Your decision should be based on several different factors including your target audience, industry and social media marketing strategy.

If you’ve ever asked yourself if you’re missing opportunities in your social media presence, keep reading. We’re going to break down how to choose the right social media channels for your business, and how to manage all your accounts like a pro.

Where Is Your Audience?

The first thing you should investigate is what social networks your audience uses. It doesn’t make much sense to be active on a network if the people you’re targeting don’t use it. Define your target audience, and match it against these social media demographics.

This will give you a great starting point. For instance, if you’re primarily targeting women over 50 years old, Instagram probably isn’t the best option. Research suggests you’re better off with Facebook or Pinterest.

In addition to these statistics, explore how competitors and influential voices in your topic area are using the social networks where you’re interested. Look at the content being published, and who the top content creators are. If content related to your industry seems to resonate well, it’s a good sign.

Depending on how deep you want to dig, social media monitoring or listening can give you different insights into how the topics you’ll be posting about are already being discussed on various social media networks.

This approach is great for social networks with very diverse users like Reddit. You can run a search for keywords related to your industry and see if there’s an active audience for it.

Don’t choose social networks based on what’s newest. Look for the channels that are popular among your audience.

What’s Your Industry?

Not every social media channel will work well for your industry. For instance, visually driven industries like fashion, cosmetology and dining gravitate toward Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. These networks rely more on visuals than text, so they’re a great fit. However, industries like software and tech have seen a lot of success with Twitter because they can curate content and pull users into their site.

The simplest way to determine what social networks cater to your industry is to look at your competitors’ social media activity. Ask these two basic questions for each social media profile they have:

  1. Are they active?
  2. Do they get engagement?

The first question is important because companies don’t tend to be too active on a social media channel that’s not giving them results. Whether it’s driving traffic to their site or generating leads, there’s a reason they’re more active on one channel over another.

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Social media engagement is crucial because it shows there’s an active audience. When we talk about engagement, it’s not about the size of the brand’s account. How many likes, shares and comments do their posts have? Having hundreds of thousands of followers doesn’t mean much if they’re not active.

Which Social Media Channels Already Bring Traffic?

Sometimes the answer to which social media channel you should use is right in front of you.

If you’re in a position where you’ve been giving multiple social networks a try, but want to narrow your focus and boost your content strategy on one or two, this tip is for you. Look at how many visits your site currently gets from social media. You can find this in Google Analytics under Acquisition & Social & Network Referrals.

If you’re already getting traffic from certain social networks, start focusing your efforts there. Look at your social media analytics to find your best performing posts, then create a strategy for growth.

Think Outside the Core Social Media Channels

Increasingly, there are more and more sites where users are finding some of the core functions of social media, even if you may not think of them as traditional social channels. YouTube has become a huge search engine in its own right, and users are highly active in video comments. Reddit, as mentioned earlier, is a great place to conduct online listening research and tap into active niche communities.

Your review management strategy can be another key source of audience insight and most likely will dovetail very effectively with your social strategy. Similar to social, if you have a business that depends highly on reviews from sites like Trip Advisor, your team is probably already tracking and replying to users. On the audience side, reviews give you everything you need to learn more about your core, vocal audience’s wants interests–just like you can glean from ‘traditional’ social media.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cater to multiple industries. People aren’t joining for the sole purpose of getting news about your industry. Some people use Instagram to follow celebrities, others use it to stay in touch with friends. But with niche sites, the users are there because they’re interested in your industry. If you’re looking for new opportunities on social media channels, these are ideal platforms to tap into.

How to Choose the Right Social Media Network for your Content

Most brands completely neglect this step when choosing social media channels. Before you make your decision, think about how you want to use social media. Specifically, what type of content do you plan on publishing on social media?

Content that performs well on Instagram doesn’t always translate well on Twitter. Here’s a brief breakdown of what type of content works best on the major social networks:

  • Curation: If you plan on curating content and sharing a lot of links, consider Twitter and Facebook. These platforms thrive off of people sharing articles. They even include thumbnails, snippets and other features to highlight blog posts and articles even more. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is also a great choice.
  • Company news: Where you should post about company news has a lot to do with your niche. LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter are great for content-heavy posts like thought leadership, webinars and events. On the other hand, Instagram Stories and posts are a great way to tease product launches and visually highlight limited releases.
  • Videos: You have a lot of options if your social media strategy is video driven. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram all offer robust features for Videos. New formats on all these platforms will keep your content strategy fresh, such as live video streams or IGTV.
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  • Pictures: Visuals rule social media, and that doesn’t only mean videos. Social Media Examiner found 71% of online marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing. If you want to share photos or even custom graphics like infographics, look at Instagram or Pinterest to lead your strategy.
  • Branding: A lot of companies use social media for branding purposes. While the way you deploy this will vary with your content strategy, great visuals and photos are often a huge part. Instagram and Snapchat are great for branding because users are highly engaged. On top of that, both of these mobile-first apps focus heavily on content, and less on advertising.
  • Lead generation: For lead generation, LinkedIn is the clear winner for B2B social media. However, if you’re serving customers, it’s hard to argue against Pinterest or Instagram. A Shopify study found 93% of those on Pinterest use the platform to plan purchases, and 96% use it to gather product information.

As you probably guessed, the best approach is a combination of different social media channels. Not only will you have more reach, but it adds variety to the content you’re giving your audience.

Managing Multiple Social Media Channels

Juggling three or four different social media profiles for your business isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s more to it than finding an article and sharing it across every social media channel. In order to be successful, you need to provide a unique experience on each platform.

The first step is getting a social media management tool. This will put all of your accounts in a central dashboard so you don’t have to log into five different apps.

Next, develop a strategy for each platform you want to use. Your strategy should include:

  • Your posting frequency and schedule
  • The type of content you plan on publishing
  • Your goals and objectives
  • An actionable growth plan

From there, put your strategy into practice, measure your efforts and track the results.

You have to engage on every platform, so organization is key. The moment you start to neglect your audience, you’ll lose their attention. This is one of the biggest challenges businesses have with social media marketing. They’ll stop replying to Twitter mentions or Instagram comments if they don’t think you’ll see or respond to these interactions. When that happens, your followers feel less connected and will move on.

This is why your social media management tool will become your best friend. With Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox, you can read and reply to all of your messages across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss out on important conversations or opportunities.

Which Social Media Channel Is Right for You?

It’s perfectly acceptable to start slow. Pick your top two or three channels to focus on based on the tips we gave above. You could even start with one. As you start to have success, expanding to other channels will become easier because you’ll already have a loyal following.

How did you decide which social media channels to focus on for your business? Leave a comment and let us know.

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