Social Media Discernment: How to Choose the Right Platforms for Your Business

Social media can seem like a hungry beast, one that demands more care and feeding with each passing  day.

First you had to figure out how to add time in your daily marketing schedule to devote to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

But just when you felt like you’d gotten the hang of hashtags and retweeting and growing your fan base, along comes the next shiny thing in social media, like Pinterest or Tumblr or Google+, and you hadn’t even figured out your LinkedIn strategy yet.

What’s a small organization to do?

That’s where the idea of social media discernment comes in. Discernment simply means evaluating the options and making specific choices. Just as in other marketing programs, not all channels or platforms are equally appropriate for your organization. It’s OK to pick and choose. Here’s how:

Know your goals

We say this every time we talk about social media strategy. Why are you using social media? What is the expected outcome? Each platform has different strengths and weaknesses; match the platform to the goal.

Know your audience

A second crucial factor to use when determining which social media platforms are best for you is to know what audience you’re trying to reach. Pinterest, for example, heavily skews female. LinkedIn’s audience is predominantly college educated. Choose the platform your audience uses.

Look at your numbers

Past performance can also predict future success. If you need to make room in your schedule for a new platform, review your site analytics and evaluate the performance of the existing ones. If Twitter drives traffic but those visitors don’t convert, cut back 1 day a week and try Google+ on that day instead (or whichever new platform you’ve identified using steps 1 and 2 above).

Speaking of site analytics, you’ll want to keep a regular eye on them. Platform value can change over time. Are the existing accounts still performing? To what degree are the new ones succeeding or failing?

Based on the data, you can change the mix of your daily social media efforts.

Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to spend the same amount of time everywhere. Again, based on performance data, you can weight some activities more heavily than others.

[Photo credit: Sean MacEntee, Flickr Creative Commons]

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