The digital and social platforms that are available to small businesses are extensive, each with its own elements and nuances that offer businesses certain benefits that are specific to each platform. While this gives businesses the opportunity to take advantage of new technology and ways of marketing, it also creates some confusion and chaos for those who venture on to these platforms looking for new ways of reaching their target audience. This level of confusion often results in one of two things; either the business decides to stay away from social platforms, or the business decides to have a presence on every single platform available. After all, if others are using it, why shouldn’t I?
In general, being active on every available platform is not advisable. The repercussions of this are not as great for bigger businesses with more resources than for smaller businesses with owners who often wear multiple hats and have limited time. Social platforms are created with certain users in mind and they cater specifically for their own target markets. As a result, not all businesses are able to achieve the same results on all platforms - what works for one does not necessarily work for the other.
With this in mind, when considering the limited time that you have available as a small business owner, wouldn’t it be better to know that you are spending your time and energy on platforms that offer the kind of results that you are looking for? But, with so many options available, how do you decide which platforms to focus on? In this post, we talk about the two important questions you need to consider before making your decision. Let’s begin!
Less is more... but not too little.
You will notice that I used the plural 'platforms'. This is because businesses often need to be present on more than one platform to really get the results that they are looking for. A big reason for this lies with the concept of the Digital Rule of 7 (which states that you need to expose your customer to your brand at least seven times before they will interact with your brand) and the fact that many social media platforms are linked. The Digital Rule of 7 is not limited to social media and also, does not really require you to reach the magic number seven; you simply need to strive for brand exposure because the more your audience sees your brand, the more likely they will be to engage with your content.
So, now that we know that certain platforms are linked (consider Facebook and Instagram for example, where paid advertising on Facebook is also displayed on Instagram at no extra cost if you have a linked Instagram account), and we know that you can create more exposure by having a presence on more than one platform (the Digital Rule of 7), how do we know which platforms to be active on? By asking yourself these two questions.
Question 1: Where is my audience?
As obvious and straightforward as this may seem, I have seen quite a number of businesses setting up pages on platforms that are not even remotely relevant to what the business has to offer. Quite often, I have found the root cause of this to be a lack of understanding of their target market. In order for any business to be successful in its marketing activities, it first needs to understand who its marketing message is aimed at, and this can only happen when the business has a complete picture of what its ideal customer looks like. Part of this picture includes the platforms that this ideal customer is active on. Now, audience segmentation and defining your target market is a topic that deserves its own discussion, but at minimum, you should include information such as gender, age, race, religion, education, income level, family status, and geographic location as part of your segmentation process. Once you understand this basic information about your audience, the platforms that they are active on should become more clear to you.
A further step in understanding where your audience is is to determine which platforms your competitors have a presence on. If your competitors are active on a certain platform and are able to generate high levels of engagement, then the platform is worth considering. When using your competitors' activities as a guide, it is vitally important that you:
consider the level of engagement that they are able to generate. They might be active on the platform but if they aren't getting a response when sharing content, it might be that your target audience is not actually active on that platform.
mainly consider competitors that have the same resources as you do. For example, the engagement that your competitor is generating on the platform could be a result of paid advertising with a budget that far exceeds what you can spend. If you need that kind of budget to generate engagement, there are other more niche platforms and options that can offer better results with less of an investment.
Question 2: What are my skills and resources?
The reason why this question is only considered after determining which platforms your target audience is active on is that, in general, the answer to question one will highlight at least two or three platforms or channels that you can make use of. Your decision as to which of these platforms you will be making use of will essentially be determined by your ability to create content that is effective on the platforms that you have identified. Facebook, as a basic example, caters for long-form content as well as imagery and video, YouTube is a primarily visual platform which means that if you feel more comfortable with blogs than videos, Facebook would be a better option.
Your answer to question two should strive to bring your target audience and the content that you can create together. It can happen, however, that your target audience is active on a platform that requires you to step outside of your comfort zone and create content that you might not be used to, but that is a topic for another conversation.
When faced with the decision of whether to make use of a certain platform, you need to have a clear image of what your target audience looks like and which platforms they are already active on. This information, combined with the activities of your competitors will give you a better sense of which platforms your business should focus on. Once you have identified these platforms, you need to consider what your skills and resources will allow when it comes to creating effective content for these platforms.
For businesses that already have a presence on several platforms, it is always advisable to do a regular audit to see how well the platform is serving the business. As the saying goes, 'time is money' and this is even more so for small businesses. So, if the platform is not achieving the results you were hoping for or helping your business achieve its goals, it might be time to reconsider your activities on the platform and even your presence on the platform entirely.