Social media marketing is a booming opportunity for businesses and individuals of all varieties to spread the message about their products and services. In this paper, I will break down the different social media platforms, their target demographics, their primary purpose, what each platform is best used for and the possible downsides to each platform.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is quickly becoming the go-to means of marketing for many brands and companies. “Find me on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” are common taglines in many forms of advertisement. Local independently owned businesses as well as huge multi-million-dollar corporations are jumping on the bandwagon of all things digital. In this paper, I will break down six of the primary social media platforms, their target demographics, their primary purpose, what each platform is best used for, and the possible downsides to each platform.
Facebook, Inc. is the most popular a social media platform and is primarily used to build relationships. There are over 2.27 billion active monthly users, and it is particularly popular with females ages 25-54. (ThePixel, 2018) Facebook began as a college-based networking platform out of Harvard University in 2004, but opened to all users over the age of 13 in 2006. (Facebook, 2019) Since then, Facebook has expanded its reach beyond individual profiles to business pages as well as groups focused on any topic you can think of. Users can “like” places, people and companies, discuss local events, or just share cat pictures. As it stands in the market presently, Facebook is great for building brand loyalty. (ThePixel, 2018) A page’s popularity, and therefore visibility, is based on how many “likes” and “shares” its posts and profile receive. As a business, you can pay to boost posts to nearly any target demographic, including age, gender, location, and similar “likes”. This is a form of hyper-targeting, which means you can display posts based on public profile information, as well as data that users submit but may have hidden from others. (Shih, 2011) The downside of Facebook as a platform for social media marketing is that it has a limited reach due to the activeness of users as well as the process of initiating engagement. (ThePixel, 2018)
Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social networking service that is has been owned by Facebook since 2012. Initially launching in 2010 exclusively on iOS, Instagram spread first to Android devices, then finally to a website interface in 2012. With 800 million monthly active users, Instagram jumped to second most popular platform last year. (Stelzner, 2018) With popularity peaking among users ages 18-29, this platform gets high marks in user-friendliness due to the popularity of the use of hashtags and its photo and video filters. (Stout, 2018) A variety of users, such as retailers, artists, restaurants, entertainers, and individuals in the beauty industry, turn to Instagram for its lead generation abilities. (ThePixel, 2018) A business can directly engage with their customer when they are followed, commented on or liked. An entertainer can launch a live video that notifies all their followers when they are online and can directly engage in conversation with their fans, typically via “shout outs”. Instagram has also introduced “stories” that disappear after 24 hours to compete with Snapchat and Facebook. (Consttine, 2016) While Instagram is great for sharing photos and live streams, it lacks in delivering a written message to its users. (ThePixel, 2018)
Twitter is an American online news outlet, used for posting news and articles, and also the third most popular social networking site, primarily used for general conversations. (Stelzner, 2018) There are approximately 330 million active monthly users, and it is particularly popular among individuals ages 18-29. (ThePixel, 2018) Twitter began in 2006 with a 140-character limit on “Tweets”, but that number doubled for the majority of users to 280 characters in 2017. (Rosen, 2017) Twitter continues to grow in popularity, with fast food chains and political figures making their short statements heard on the regular. Users engage others by Tweets, Retweets, and @mentions, broadcasting their message primarily to followers of their profile. If a Tweet goes “viral”, it could receive many Retweets by thousands of people, with celebrities and/or news outlets helping propagate the viral posts. An individual or business’s profile is more popular with more followers, with a few celebrities topping out at over 100 million followers. (Floating Head Studios, 2019) A user’s popularity also correlates to how often they Tweet, but that number varies widely between users. Twitter appears to be best for maintaining a public relationship, however the character count limitations may restrict marketing your message. (ThePixel, 2018)
LinkedIn is a business and employment-oriented service that is mainly used for professional networking. Since it was founded in 2002, this platform has recently gained some traction in younger markets as its grown to 200 million active monthly users. (Stout, 2018) The majority of users are males ages 30-49. (ThePixel, 2018) Some social media experts are advising high school seniors to create profiles to include with college admissions paperwork. (Singer, 2016) In addition to job seekers, companies can make their own profiles on the website as well, allowing them to post job openings and sift through potential employees. With its primary focus aiming for business to business relationships rather than business to consumer, the platform is limited due to the users connected network, as well as use of the premium service it encourages users to sign up for. (ThePixel, 2018) Although LinkedIn is the oldest of the social networks, it has struggled to grow due to the professional nature of the network. (Stout, 2018) LinkedIn has steep competition with Facebook, as the competitor’s numbers for business to business marketing expand, likely thanks to implementation of business pages and job postings. (Stelzner, 2018)
YouTube, LLC is an American video-sharing company and subsidiary of Google, LLC. This platform allows users to upload as well as comment on, rate, and share videos. With 1.5 billion active monthly users, YouTube is currently rated as the second most visited website in the world. (Alexa Internet, Inc., 2019) One of the primary search terms on the website is for “how to” videos and the resulting content is expansive. (ThePixel, 2018) Many corporations have had success with video marketing campaigns using this platform and individuals can find a “vlog”, or video blog, on almost any topic with the click of a button. The unique feature of YouTube is that any user can gain income from ad revenue on their videos, as well as qualify for more income opportunities under their partner program. (Edmondson, 2018) Unfortunately, the downside of YouTube is that it is resource intensive, not only by means of the data involved to stream content, but also for companies to produce quality content. (ThePixel, 2018)
Pinterest, Inc. is a web and mobile application company that operates a software system that enables you to discover information on the internet. It is technically a visual discovery tool, using mainly images to collect and store links and ideas. It is arranged in almost a scrapbook-like fashion, using boards that users create, label, and add found information to. The CEO of Pinterest, Ben Silbermann, claims Pinterest is not an image-based social network, but rather a “catalog of ideas” that inspires users to “go out and do that thing.” (Nusca, 2015) The website make-up is simple; you can create pins, categorize pins in boards, utilize an interface for exploring, and follow others. With 200 million active monthly users, the majority of which being women ages 18-35, it is growing as a marketing tool among individuals and businesses alike. However, the demographic is very specific and it essentially is a virtual “scrapbook”, leading some marketers to steer clear of the unique approaches necessary to tackle this platform. (ThePixel, 2018)
The various social media marketing avenues vary widely in their target audience and the way they communicate to an individual platform’s users. When marketing your business or product, take the style of posting and demographics of each service into careful consideration. Trends indicate that the following factors are the most important when it comes to social media marketing. Visuals are essential; a post with a photo or video will outperform a post without one. Live video is the next big thing; many platforms have introduced live feeds and the ones that haven’t are falling behind. Instagram is on the rise, overtaking both Twitter and LinkedIn this past year. Finally, Facebook is the most important platform for marketers, having become the largest social network in the world. (Stelzner, 2018) The easiest way to break down the difference between the platforms is with a donut analogy. Facebook is where to go to “like” donuts. Twitter is where to state, “I’m eating a #donut”. Pinterest is where you save a donut recipe. Instagram is where you take a photo of your donut. LinkedIn is where you advertise your skill of donut eating. (ThePixel, 2018)
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