Has Your Social Presence Ballooned? How To Select Social Media Platforms Based On Strategic Fit.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the hype of social media. As marketers, we love shiny new objects. When something new comes along we feel we and our brands must jump in or get left behind. FOMO is real.

We also tend to not want to let go of things of the past. If we’re not careful we end up with a budget and resources stretched thin between new platforms and old ones as the list of social icons on our websites and our profiles grows. Slowly some or much of our social media may be missing the mark.

Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

Being An Early Adopter Has Its Benefits.

Jumping into a new social platform can have benefits such as growing an early following before the platform becomes too crowded and becoming known as an expert. That can pay off professionally for personal branding or for company brands such as The Chicago Bulls who were one of the first pro teams on TikTok. But social platforms can also rise quickly like Meerkat and Clubhouse only to go out just as fast.

It’s important to note that the Bulls were early adopters of TikTok, but they didn’t jump in with their previous message, content, and audience. They first took time to make a strategic decision to invest in a new target audience with content relevant to that audience and the platform. Instead of a Bulls brand account aimed at current fans, it was team mascot Benny The Bull’s TikTok to draw younger new fans.

Win On Paper Before Going To Battle.

Marketing icon Philip Kotler says, “You should never go to battle before you’ve won the war on paper.” First, know or remind yourself of your strategy. What are your main goals? Who is your main target market? What are the key insights you know about them? What main action do you want them to do? What is your main message or idea?

Armed with your marketing objectives, target audience, key consumer insights, and brand message/idea select the optimal social channels to implement your social media strategy. Think of each social channel as a well-placed source to launch or continue a social media plan in the right direction.

Research key social platforms collecting descriptions of the central characteristics (size, content, users, and ad options). Also, consider organizing them in categories such as social networks, blogs, microblogs, media sharing, social bookmarking/knowledge, ratings and reviews to determine the channels of your social strategy.

To gain full appreciation join the platforms as a user and become a firsthand witness to the unique social experience. Think of each as a current or potential brand community and ask some key questions.

For each social media platform ask:

  • What benefit do users get from being part of the current brand community?
  • What are the benefits of joining a new brand community on this platform?
  • How’s the brand community on this platform unique from other platforms?

Right Message, Right People, Right Environment.

Keep marketing objectives, target audience, consumer insights and main message/idea in mind. Look for the ideal channels to deliver brand messages and engage the target audience to convey the right message to the right people in the right environment.

Avoid wasted effort chasing every new social platform or assuming the biggest is the best. Add new channels that make sense for the content and consumer while leaving behind social platforms that may not be serving a strategic purpose. A social media audit is a great tool to help with this pruning.

Consider these questions for each platform:

  • How active is our target audience on this platform?
  • How will we communicate our message big idea on this platform?
  • What do we want them to do on this platform?

Remember that a social platform is not the right choice simply because it has the most users. Social media has matured. Most people today have multiple social media accounts and different groups of people are active at various levels on different platforms for different reasons.

It also depends on what you are trying to accomplish—your marketing objectives. Is the social platform’s environment right for the brand, message and cal to action?

Select Social Platforms Based On Content Fit.

When considering social media platforms, think about the kinds of content that will work best and the platforms ideal for that type of content. Those who are familiar with industry standard creative briefs will recognize the usefulness of considering the three questions below.

Determine your content message by asking:

  • What does the target audience currently think?
  • What would we like the target audience to think?
  • What will move them from one to the other? (big idea/main message)

The big idea and main message are what you need to get in front of your target audience. That may require specific types of content to shift their thinking.

If you’re an apparel company and your audience believes your brand is out of style, you won’t convince them with Tweets about quality materials. High quality images of your new styles on Instagram and collaborations with fashion influencers on TikTok would be a better fit. Yet a Twitter post sharing stats and facts could be good for a nonprofit cause.

Too many social icons clogging up your profile or website?

Social media bloat can tighten your resources and get in the way of achieving your goals. If you’re not talking to the right people on the right platforms with the right content and message, you won’t be efficient or effective. Is it time to review your strategy and let the air out of some social platforms?

Social Media Is Maturing: Has Your Strategy?

I remember the days when we called digital media “new media.” My undergrad studies and half of my career were focused on traditional mass media. Our ad campaigns for marketing clients consisted of TV, print, radio, out-of-home, and traditional PR. New media was websites and banner ads.

Then more interactive social media came along and we began to experiment with social for clients. Social media was also called “emerging media” in a class I had in grad school. Strategy was all about getting more followers to brand pages for this new “free media.” ‘Like us on Facebook,” was the message and the goal was to increase brand page followers.

Social was still “new” and “emerging” when I began teaching social media marketing in 2011. Twelve years later it has changed quite a bit. I look a little older since that first social media course, and so does social media. I don’t know if social media is having a midlife crisis, but it is slowing down. The days of double-digit increases are behind it as new user growth has stalled.

Slowed growth of social media called for different strategies. Photo by Song Kaiyue: https://www.pexels.com/photo/slow-signage-2029478/

Facebook user growth averaged 15% from 2013 to 2017 but slowed to 8% from 2018 to 2021. In 2021 growth was just 4%. Except for the 2020 Pandemic lockdown, Twitter’s user growth has been under 10% in the past 8 years with 7 being under 5% and negative growth projected for this year. After years of hiring sprees, the world’s biggest tech companies have laid off 150,000 workers in recent months.

What Does This Mean For Social Media Strategy?

This doesn’t mean you ditch your current reliable social strategy to run out and buy a midlife crisis convertible. But you may need to reconsider your social media vehicles. Because a social platform made sense 10 or 5 years ago doesn’t mean it’s the best choice today. You may also need to expand your fleet of platforms.

Facebook is still the biggest, but your target audience may be spending more time elsewhere. More people are active on more platforms but have not increased their overall time with social media. Many thought Snapchat would lose a lot of users to Instagram when it added Snapchat-like features. Instagram did grow but Snapchat users remained consistent.

People didn’t leave one platform for the other, they divided their time between each. With social media maturity, people are adding new social platforms, but keeping their existing ones. Today, the average person uses 7 social platforms each month. TikTok is the lasted social media star, but people still take the other platforms out for drives.

Social Media Is Following The Product Life Cycle.

These signs indicate social media has reached the maturity stage of its product life cycle. In marketing, the product life cycle describes the four steps a product or service goes through once introduced to a market from introduction to growth, maturity, and decline. Marketing strategies change with the stage you’re in. When a product or service, like social media, reaches the maturity stage, growth slows, competition increases, and strategies must evolve.

The graph below shows how social strategy began with experimental budgets building early adopter brand followers. As social grew audiences became more mainstream, requiring social ads for crowded newsfeeds, engagement with user generated content, and measurement of ROI for sales. Now budgets are significant with expected returns. Strategies are complicated with multiple social platform use, social ads, UGC, influencer marketing, and social selling.

Social media has reached a maturity stage that requires different strategies and tactics. When planning social media strategy consider which stage your brand is in.

From 2012 to 2017 daily time spent using social media grew by 9% each year. In the last five years that growth stopped with an average increase of less than 1% a year. We’ve spent the same 2 ½ hours a day with social media since 2018. As people added social media platforms, they didn’t spend more time on social media.

This maturing puts more pressure on individual platforms to compete for existing users instead of new adopters of social media. It also increases competition between brands to reach that audience with less ad inventory leading to increased costs. Social media marketing use has stayed at 92% in the last three years, but social media ad spending rose 38% to $67.4 billion representing 24% of all online ad spending.

Mature Social Media Means Asking Different Questions.

For social media strategy the question to ask is no longer “What social media platform is my target audience on?” but “What social media platforms are my target audience most active in?” Monthly active users (MAUs) matter, but more context comes in considering other data such as daily active users (DAUs). The table below shows a comparison of top social media platforms globally, in the U.S., by generation, and frequency of use.

Depending on the data you emphasize top social platforms change. Facebook is top for global monthly active users, share of social platform visits in the U.S., and for Gen X (age 43-58). Yet for monthly active use by Gen Z (age 11-26), YouTube rises to the top for both monthly active users and daily active use.

Globally, social platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat show up on the top 6 list, but in the U.S. Twitter and Pinterest get more use. For Gen X, LinkedIn is on the list, but Snapchat and TikTok are not. Pinterest makes the top 6 list for Gen Z monthly active users, but Twitter is higher for daily active use.

The complications of the maturity stage are less daunting when you realize a more focused strategy means you don’t need to reach everyone on all social media platforms. Strategies must be more nuanced to be effective and efficient. Search for the target audience’s daily driver social apps.

Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp, may work in some global markets, but Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter would be better in the U.S. Until you consider age. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram may be right for a Gen X target audience, but YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok may be a better choice for Gen Z. Social media strategy must be unique to the brand’s markets, objectives, and target audiences.

How have you noticed social media strategy changing in the last decade? If you need a tune up for your strategy a good place to start is conducting a social media audit. I explain how and include a template in my article “Social Media Not Meeting Expectations? Perform a Social Media Audit.”