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How to choose the right social media platform for your business

You don't have time to be on every social media site. The good news? You don't need to be. Learn how to choose the right social media platform for your business.

TL;DR

Which social media platforms should you use?

All in all, there’s no one-size-fits-all social media strategy. It’s all about finding what works best for you - including which platforms are the right fit.

Here are three questions to help you choose the best social media sites for your business:

  1. What are my social media goals? Different platforms have different strengths. It’s crucial to find one to help you reach your goals, whether you want to grow your email list or connect with your customers.
  2. Who is my target audience? Not every demographic uses every platform. Figure out who your ideal customer is, so you can meet them where they already spend time online.
  3. What kind of content will I create? Some platforms are video-heavy, while others are a more even mix of graphics, video, and text. Remember that you don’t have to start from scratch - there are plenty of ways to repurpose existing content for social.

With those questions in mind, you’re ready to choose among seven of the most popular social media platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • TikTok

Happy posting!

It seems like new social media sites are constantly popping up. And if you’re a small business owner, social media is just one of many things on your to-do list. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be on every platform under the sun.

Here’s the good news: You can use social media to grow your business without spreading yourself thin.

In fact, it’s more effective to build a robust social media presence and post regularly on just a few channels, rather than infrequently posting across as many social media accounts as possible.

But first, you have to decide which platforms you will use.

That’s why we created this guide to choosing the right social media platform for your business. We’ll walk through seven of the most popular social media platforms, so you can decide which ones make the most sense for your brand, audience, and goals.

We know your time is valuable, so let’s get right to it.

3 questions to ask before picking a social media platform

1. What are my social media marketing goals?

Before choosing a social media platform, you need to identify your social media goals.

Different platforms can help you meet different business goals. Think about how social media can play a role in your overall marketing strategy.

Do you want to:

Let’s say you want to connect with your customers and build a sense of community. After all, 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them — and out of all possible communication channels, they rank social media as the best opportunity for brands to do just that.

It makes sense to choose a platform that lets you have real-time conversations with your followers, like Twitter.

One example of this is Michelle Garrett, who engages her followers in weekly Twitter chats. Michelle is a PR and freelance writing expert whose chats cover common freelancer obstacles and questions.

She uses the same hashtag — #FreelanceChat — for each week’s tweets but focuses on a different sub-topic every week.

Through her weekly chats, Michelle has built a community of freelancers who participate in the conversations and support one another. She also showcases her expertise as a writer and freelancer and provides a ton of value to her audience.

Setting social media goals will also help you figure out what combination of organic and paid tactics to use in your social media strategy.

Organic social gives you a better chance to build relationships and interact with your customers, as Michelle does with Twitter chats. It puts the “social” in “social media”.

On the other hand, paid social helps you get your brand, website, or products in front of more people in less time.

For example, if your goal is lead generation, a paid social media ad can help you build your email list fast. You can run a Facebook ad that links to a lead magnet, like this one from HubSpot:

Learn more in this guide to organic vs. paid social media marketing.

Your goals play a big part in choosing the right platform — but this next question might be even more critical.

2. Who is my target audience?

You don’t need to be active on every social media platform, but you do need to show up where your audience already spends their time online.

Each social media channel has a unique user base, and we’ll dive into the demographics of each platform later on. For now, it’s time to define your ideal customer, so you can find the platform that matches them.

For example, if you create content for Gen Z, it helps to know that they spend over 10 hours per week on TikTok but fewer than two hours on Twitter.

On the other hand, if your products target baby boomers, Facebook is a better choice — 68% of baby boomers use Facebook.

If you don’t have a customer base yet, think about who you’re creating your content or products for. What does your ideal audience look like a year from now, once everything is up and running?

Standard demographic info about your audience includes:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Race and ethnicity

  • Location

  • Employment status

  • Income

For an even more well-rounded view of your customers, dig into psychographics, too. Psychographics are qualitative data about your audience’s activities, interests, and opinions.

Psychographic questions include:

  • What are their interests and hobbies?

  • How do they get their information?

  • What are their biggest challenges and goals?

Once you’re clear on demographics and psychographics, you’ll have a better understanding of your target audience.

For more tips on learning more about your audience — including how to collect this valuable info — check out this guide to conducting customer research.

There’s one more question to answer before we jump into the details on each platform.

3. What kind of content will I create?

It might seem counterintuitive to plan out your social media content before you know where you’ll be posting it.

But as a busy creator, your time is a finite resource, and you shouldn’t have to spend it making something you don’t enjoy or have the resources to make.

For example, if you don’t already create videos as part of your content or products — and don’t want or have time to start — YouTube and TikTok might not be the right choice.

Staying true to yourself and your brand voice is essential to connecting with your customers on social media.

86% of consumers have said that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support — but 57% said that fewer than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic.

That said, keep in mind that you don’t have to create all of your social media content from scratch. There are many ways to repurpose your content for social posts (and save a ton of time doing so).

Let’s say you created an infographic for a blog post a while back. Cropped infographics make great social media content.

Infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content. To crop your infographic, tools like Canva offer templates for every social media channel under the sun.

Videos perform even better than graphics, with a 38% higher engagement rate on Twitter than image posts.

Instead of creating brand new videos for your social platforms, you can repurpose video content by creating shorter, “snackable” video clips or gifs to share on your social media pages. Keep them short and sweet: 68% of viewers will watch a video to the end if it’s 60 seconds or less.

Whichever platforms you choose, here are a few resources on creating content your followers will love:

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The best social media platforms for your business

Facebook

Facebook is one of the biggest and most powerful social media platforms in the world.

That said, the platform’s algorithm makes it difficult to have your organic posts show up in newsfeeds, so it’s a better fit for paid social ads than for organic posts.

The good news is that Facebook advertising can be incredibly effective, even if you’re working with a small budget. A staggering 94% of social media marketers use paid Facebook ads, making it the most commonly used social media platform among marketers worldwide.

What makes Facebook ads so popular with marketers?

For one, Facebook offers powerful audience targeting tools to help you get your ads in front of the right people. And users aren’t opposed to using the platform to discover new brands and products.

78% of American consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 say they’ve discovered products on Facebook.

Facebook ads also tend to have a lower cost and higher ROI than many other paid ad networks — and users are more likely to click on an ad on Facebook than on any other platform. The average Facebook user clicks on 12 ads per month.

Overall, it’s best to focus on Facebook ads and use other platforms for the bulk of your organic social presence.

To set yourself up for Facebook ad success, check out these articles:

Instagram

Instagram is the second-largest social media network after Facebook, its parent company.

If your products or brand have a strong visual component — like photography classes or a travel blog — Instagram is a great channel for organic and paid social content.

Even though Instagram has fewer posts than Twitter and Facebook, it has a higher engagement rate. That makes it a great platform for building an organic presence and running paid ads.

Here’s why: When a user sees your ad on Instagram, they can click through to your profile and see all of your posts. You want your feed to be full of engaging, visually appealing content that represents you and your brand.

The platform makes it easy to turn those gorgeous organic posts into ads.

According to Instagram, “The easiest way to run ads is by promoting posts you’ve shared on Instagram. Just select the post you want to promote, and then track how many people are seeing and interacting with your promoted post by tapping.”

You can also create Instagram ads through Facebook’s Ad Manager, which means you can access Facebook’s hyper-precise targeting tools. Your ads can be in the form of in-feed posts, Instagram Stories, or Instagram Reels.

Beyond traditional ads, Instagram is a key player in influencer marketing, with over 500,000 active influencers on the platform. Instagram’s Branded Content feature helps brands connect with influencers for sponsored content partnerships and ad campaigns.

If Instagram seems like the right choice for your brand, check out these tips for Instagram for small businesses.

Twitter

As we mentioned earlier, Twitter is one of the best organic social channels for creators and entrepreneurs. Over 500 million tweets are sent every day, offering endless opportunities for connection and conversion.

A big perk of building an organic presence on Twitter is word of mouth.

Consider Corey Haines, former Head of Growth at Baremetrics and current online course creator. Corey has built an organic following on Twitter that makes him the go-to guy for all things product growth and marketing.

Twitter can also be an excellent platform to build excitement for a new product, as web designer and entrepreneur John D Saunders did in this tweet.

John’s video let his audience know what to expect from the course, and he got solid engagement with 33 retweets and over 200 likes.

Engaging with his audience has helped John earn $200,000 on Podia since his online course launched. If you’re selling digital products or online courses like Corey and John, check out Podia’s all-in-one platform. Try it for free with a 14-day trial.

On the paid side, Twitter offers four ad types that are simpler than other platforms’ formats, plus demographic targeting tools to help you reach more people than your organic tweets alone.

For more Twitter tips, check out this guide to Twitter for small businesses and this article on how to write the perfect Twitter thread.

YouTube

YouTube is a unique platform for social media marketing. Often, building a following is a major goal, rather than simply a way to promote your brand.

As a video-sharing platform, YouTube shines the most during educational content, such as how-to videos and product demos. In addition to uploading pre-recorded videos, you can stream live videos and host webinars.

The platform helps over half of Americans learn new things, while nearly 20% say that YouTube is very important when it comes to deciding whether to buy a product.

There are more than 37 million YouTube channels. So no matter who your audience is, chances are, there’s something for them on the platform.

Even though YouTube’s biggest demographic is Gen Z and younger, they’re far from the site’s only users. GenX and baby boomers are YouTube’s fastest-growing demographic. One study found that one in three baby boomers use YouTube to learn about a new product.

YouTube is also the second-largest search engine in the world, so consistently publishing high-quality content on YouTube can do wonders for your SEO presence.

On the paid social side, YouTube offers six types of ads. (Learn all about them in our YouTube ads guide.)

While YouTube takes more time and effort than some of the other platforms on this list, it’s one of the best if you plan to create educational or entertaining video content. Here are some resources to help you get started:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is mainly used for networking, job searching, and business-to-business (B2B) marketing. If you sell coaching or consulting services, it’s an excellent way to reach other business owners — both organically and through paid social.

According to LinkedIn itself, it’s the top-rated social network for lead generation, making it a great source for B2B companies looking to find targeted audiences for their campaigns.

If you want to reach even more professionals on LinkedIn, the platform offers four paid advertising formats:

  1. Sponsored Content in the LinkedIn feed.

  2. Message Ads/Sponsored Messaging through InMail.

  3. Text Ads via self-service pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

  4. Dynamic Ads automatically personalized for the viewer.

Pinterest

Like Instagram, Pinterest is a visual channel, making it an excellent choice for businesses like wellness coaches and lifestyle bloggers.

The site is also a top-notch place to promote your digital products. For example, marketing pro Vanessa Ryan uses Pinterest to share her beautiful email marketing resources and Canva templates with her 7k+ monthly viewers.

That visual appeal also makes Pinterest one of the most shopping-centric social media apps. 80% of weekly Pinterest users discover new brands and products on the platform, and a staggering 98% of users have tried new things they find on Pinterest.

Features like Product Pins and Shopping Lists make product discovery (and purchasing) a breeze for users.

All of the above make Pinterest a great organic channel for creators with aesthetically pleasing brands and products. For more Pinterest tips and tricks, take a look at our Pinterest marketing strategies and this guide to Pinterest ads.

TikTok

TikTok may be a relative newcomer, but its growth over the past two years means businesses can’t afford to ignore it — especially if your target customer is part of Gen Z.

Last year, TikTok surpassed Instagram as US teenagers’ preferred social platform. But it’s also gaining popularity with Millennials, Gen X, and even baby boomers. Users over 30 make up over 50% of the app’s user base.

First and foremost, TikTok is a video-sharing app. In addition to a “Following” feed, where users can see new videos from accounts they follow, the “For You” page shows users videos they might like based on TikTok’s recommendation system.

TikTok is also a big platform for product discovery. 74% of users say that TikTok inspired them to find out more about a product or brand, while 66% of users say that TikTok helped them decide what to buy. The hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has over seven billion views.

If you want to reach those ready-to-shop users, there are three ways to market on TikTok:

  1. Organic posts

  2. Paid campaigns

  3. Creator partnerships

Organic posts and paid campaigns work similarly to most other social media sites. That third type of marketing — creator partnerships — is where TikTok really stands out.

Rather than handling influencer outreach on your own, TikTok’s Creator Marketplace helps you find successful content creators and influencers you can partner with to promote your brand or products.

Once you find a creator who fits your brand and budget, you can manage your campaigns and view results from that same dashboard.

For more tips to get started, TikTok’s Small Business Resource Center offers valuable info on trends, marketing tools, case studies, and more to make the most of the platform.

One note before we wrap up:

Being a creator means forging your own path and figuring out what works best for your audience, your brand, and yourself.

Finding the right platforms and creating the right content may take some trial and error. Hang in there. Soon, you’ll be well on your way to growing your business and connecting with your audience on social media — wherever that might be.

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.