A young man leans against a desk and looks at the electronic tablet in his hands with a smile. The desk and the shelves behind the man are lined with plants and flowers in vases and pots.
Your business doesn't need to show up on every social media platform, just on the ones that your customers use and interact with most frequently. — Getty Images/AsiaVision

Developing dozens or even hundreds of social media posts monthly is time-intensive. Yet, if you don't share content and respond to users regularly, your posts won't frequently appear in your followers' feeds. The solution is to focus your efforts on one to three social media channels. But how do you choose the best social platforms for your business?

Your decision should align with your business and marketing goals while meeting your customers' needs and expectations. Also, consider the number of resources each channel requires and pick a mix of networks that, as a whole, suits your organization. Here's how to decide which social media channels to invest your time in.

Take a data-based approach

Use a text document or spreadsheet and list the major channels you're considering. These will likely include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube. However, Buffer also recommends Snapchat, Telegram, Reddit, and Quora. Use your document to record statistics about each platform and format the list so you can easily compare each data point.

Add the following information for each social media platform:

  • The number of daily active users (DAUs).
  • Direct competitors using the channel.
  • Indirect competitors on the forum.
  • Industry information.
  • Benchmarks for digital marketing metrics.
  • Audience insights.
  • Monthly estimate of time and resources.

Align channel goals to business outcomes

Many small businesses set company-wide goals for boosting sales and revenue. Social media objectives like lead generation and social selling should align with overarching business goals. According to the 2021 Sprout Social Index, the top objectives for social media "are increasing brand awareness (58%) and increasing community engagement (41%)."

Your social media goals may include:

  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Drive foot traffic to your physical store.
  • Generate leads.
  • Monetize social channels.
  • Boost website traffic.
  • Improve community engagement levels.
  • Sell on social media platforms.

Once you determine your goals, think about the platforms most suitable for them. For example, you can't showcase your product catalog as easily on Twitter compared to Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook. Yet, you can add affiliate links to Facebook posts, whereas Instagram doesn't support links in your posts.

[Read more: How to Monetize Your YouTube Channel]

Content creation, social media management, and customer engagement could quickly become part-time jobs.

Understand where your audience shops and engages with brands

Audience types and engagement rates vary by platform and industry. Get the most out of your efforts by learning about customer preferences. For instance, younger fans may stay active on TikTok but miss promotions from your Facebook account. Likewise, your clients may use Facebook to interact with friends but head to Pinterest to get inspiration for their next project.

Here's how to narrow down your options:

  • Collect user data: View Google Analytics to see current channels that drive website traffic. Consider surveying current email subscribers or adding an in-store survey about your customers' favorite platforms.
  • Research the competition: Track how your rivals use social channels and record this information on your spreadsheet. Your competitive analysis should include post frequency and engagement levels per social media network.
  • Review industry-specific information: Check out recent reports about social media usage related to your industry. For instance, consult GWI's sports playbook to learn where "fans go for sports-related content" or NetBase Quid's food and beverage report for restaurant insights.

Factor in your available time and resources

According to CoSchedule's review of 14 studies, businesses should post at least once per day on a social media channel. That's a minimum of 28 to 31 posts per channel monthly. However, CoSchedule recommends 15 actions per day on Twitter and 11 on Pinterest, including retweets or repins of other users' content. Content creation, social media management, and customer engagement could quickly become part-time jobs.

So, how long will it take you for each channel? Aventi Group provides an excellent breakdown of a five-hour B2C plan for Twitter and LinkedIn, including tips for using a dashboard to monitor daily interactions.

Think about time expenditures for the following tasks and how they differ per platform:

  • Check your content calendar and scheduled posts daily.
  • Plan your monthly social media content calendar.
  • Write posts or captions for your channels.
  • Edit copy and verify links.
  • Find or create social media graphics and videos.
  • Add relevant hashtags.
  • Daily social listening and engagement.
  • Review reports and analytics.

[Read more: How to Repurpose Your Marketing Content to Save Time and Money While Driving Revenue]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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