The Scoop on Social Media Platforms
Welcome to the wild, wild world of social media, where algorithms change faster than you can say "like, share, and subscribe." As an agency that provides a bevy of social media services from strategy and content curation to reporting and influencer relations, our clients often ask, "Should I be on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace (just kidding—that one's been gone for a while), or all of the above?" It's like choosing a flavor at an ice cream parlor with an infinite number of choices, and you can't sample them all!
Just like the heart-wrenching decision between cookies n’ cream and mint chocolate chip, selecting the right social media platforms for your business can be equally perplexing. But, much like my feelings about butter pecan, it’s okay to skip a scoop if it’s not meant for you. Chances are likely that your audience isn’t on every social media platform. So, instead of struggling to finish that pint, be selective and do your taste testing—I mean, your research.
Here are the steps we take when deciding which platforms to recommend for our clients:
Who is your target audience?
This is important to define for any marketing plan, but when it comes to social, the reason it’s so vital is because not every audience is on every platform. If you have multiple primary audiences, one might be a TikTok vibe while the other is jamming away on LinkedIn. This would ultimately mean that you could be creating different versions of your content based on platform and topic. It could also mean that some content only lives on a singular platform. Know where your audience is most active and create content that resonates with them.
2. Which platform are they on?
As alluded to above, you have to know where your audience lives in order to reach them. Similar to how you wouldn’t put a movie trailer for an R-rated movie before the upcoming Trolls flick, you don’t want to put your content in a world where it might not be effective.
Here’s an overview of the top audiences on the major social platforms. (Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of audiences. Just because they aren’t listed here doesn’t necessarily mean a specific demographic can’t be reached on these respective platforms.)
- Facebook: Men between the ages of 25 and 34 years old make up Facebook’s largest audience.
- Instagram: The majority of Instagram’s audiences are Millennial or Gen Z users; 31.5% are between the ages of 25 and 34 while 30.1% are between the ages of 18 and 24.
- TikTok: It’s interesting to really dive into TikTok’s analytics. While it may have a rep for being the teenager’s choice, 31% of its audience fall into the 25 to 34 year old age range. Females between the ages of 18 and 24 make up 24% of the global audience, and male users of the same age range make up 18%.
- X (formerly Twitter): With recent changes to its leadership, this platform has had many audience shifts over the last year. As of 2023, 56.4% of users are males between the ages of 25 and 34.
- LinkedIn: As of January 2023, 60% of LinkedIn users were aged 25-34 and more likely to be male than female. Bonus stat: Because this is the platform where business literally gets done, about a third of LinkedIn users have a bachelor’s degree.
- YouTube: This channel probably has the widest core audience, yet may be one of the best bets for reaching families as a whole. A recent poll said teenagers in the U.S. watch more videos on YouTube than Netflix, 85% of children ages 2-12 say they watch YouTube, and 84% of their parents agree that YouTube makes learning more fun for their children.
3. What do you want to accomplish?
Another thing to keep in mind is what you’re hoping to achieve with your social presence. Are you looking to recruit new employees? Hit LinkedIn. Are you trying to attract new visitors to your destination? Share some hidden gems on TikTok or Instagram.
Understanding what each platform is most often used for is important to your strategy as well. TikTok is on track to overpower Google as a search engine for younger users while many of Facebook’s users are looking to connect peer to peer.
4. Are people actually looking for what you’re putting out there?
Trends all have to start somewhere. But, chances are that when you are first developing your social strategy, you probably want to go where there’s already someone or something like you.
A good tactic to pursue when researching is to do a generic scan of hashtags on the platform you’re considering. For example, if you’re a sushi restaurant, you can search “#Sushi” or “#SushiRestaruant” on Instagram and see that there are over 300,000 posts with that same hashtag. Of course, you will want to get more granular with your captions and hashtags once you actually post, but at least you can confirm that people are using Instagram to talk about this type of restaurant.
As an agency, our recommendations are not only rooted in data and constant evaluation, but also in what makes the most sense for the budget (time and money) allocated. It is much more effective to focus efforts where we believe we can best succeed and have higher quality products than to spread ourselves too thin. We recently took that approach with Santa Maria Valley: After years of managing multiple social platforms, we decided to put more focus on the ones that have yielded the highest engagements and impact. By doing this, we’ve been able to create better content that better connects with our audiences. This led to us hitting one of our annual KPIs after just six months into the new strategic plan! That’s worthy of an extra scoop on our sundae for sure!
The purpose here isn’t to tell you you can’t do something or that you shouldn’t; rather, it’s to help guide you on a path of working with the odds in your favor.
In fact, there are some rather unexpected heroes of social media out there, such as the TikTok account for Planet Money—NPR’s finance podcast and Wendy’s—who notably roasts people on X. If after reading this you still want to try a new-to-you platform like TikTok, Twitch, or X, go for it!