iStock_000027079188_Small

Social media is where your customers are, but you already knew that. What you may not know is that not all social media platforms are equal. Each site has its own user demographic, and while some do overlap, there are probably certain sites that are just not appropriate for your brand. Social media marketing requires an investment of both time and money, so choose wisely. This guide can help.

The key to any marketing effort is to first know your customer. Social media is no different. Once you know who your customer is, you can target your marketing efforts to one or two outlets for a concentrated, focused strategy. Study the user demographics of various sites and see where your brand fits. This overview will help you get started.

Facebook – This is the ultimate mega social media site. It started with teen and college age users but has evolved to be a site for everyone from kids to parents to grandparents. The nature of this site, though, does not make it a very good platform for sales. However, it is a great way for companies to connect with their customers and engage them by answering questions and responding to complaints. It allows the business to become personal.

YouTube – This massive video sharing site attracts a very diverse audience. There is something for just about everyone on it, so it has a wide appeal. Users post videos they have created or have permission to share. Others can view the video, share it through multiple social media platforms, and comment (the user does have the option to turn off comments). The great thing about this platform is that it is not necessarily confined to visually based businesses. Companies can create how-to videos, customer reviews, and commentaries, then link back to their company website.

Twitter – Facebook has some serious competition with this site. Users post “tweets,” 140 character messages that can include photos, video, and links. It is a very “in the moment” platform that is becoming a popular customer engagement tool for businesses. Users can retweet things they like and even link their messages to other users’ messages by using hashtags, thus forming conversations. It also has a diverse audience that was once comprised of late teens and twenty-somethings, but now is attracting users who are more mature and professional.

Pinterest – This highly visual site has a predominately female following (although men are slowly finding their way there). If your business has a strong imagery focus like travel, landscaping, wedding planning, real estate, or interior decorating, then this may be a good fit. Users create boards where they “pin” photos and videos which can then be “repinned” and commented on by other users. Each user has their own profile, so it offers visibility for the individual or brand that is behind it.

LinkedIn – If your audience is comprised of professionals or you market to other businesses, then this site is probably a good fit. It is a powerful networking site that has been around for quite a while. You can find some fantastic features for building and growing your brand as well as networking and engaging customers. Users can create a detailed profile page, connect with other professionals, participate in discussion groups, and share content on their wall – but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Social media isn’t going away anytime soon. If anything, it will expand even more. New sites are cropping up all the time, including sites geared toward mobile devices. This puts businesses in a much more competitive arena, but at the same time, the transparency raises the bar on customer service. If you really want to connect with your customers, you have to go where they are – and they are on social media.