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  • Diana Pressey

The Parklife Guide to Social Media Platforms for SMBs: Part 1

There’s truly no denying the power of social media marketing in 2020. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have millions and even billions of users. Between ads and regular posting, the amount of people you can reach on these platforms is unprecedented for the low cost.

But before you take advantage of these marketing platforms, you must understand them fully. You should be familiar with how they work, who uses them, and the best types of content to share on each. It’s easy to dive into the deep end without knowing what you’re getting into. Maybe you already have. If you don’t educate yourself fully, it’s easy to waste plenty of time and money on social media marketing without it actually paying off -- the worst possible outcome.

There’s a lot to learn about social media. Let this guide serve as an introduction to the most popular platforms, how they work, and what they have to offer. And if you consider yourself a social media expert, remember that even pros can use a refresher every once in a while. All demographic information is sourced from this 2019 Pew report.

1. YouTube

By far the most popular platform, 73% of adults report using YouTube to watch and share video content.

Who’s on it: Most people, though it’s slightly more popular among men and multicultural groups. 90% of 18-24 year-olds use YouTube, 7 in 10 adults ages 50-64 report using it, and 38% of adults ages 65 and older do. Higher income people are more likely to use YouTube than lower income, and it’s more popular in urban areas than rural.

What you should know: In case you don’t already, YouTube is a video-only platform that allows users to upload original content and subscribe to one another. Many don’t classify it as social media, as it involves less direct interaction than content sharing, but users can comment and react to videos just as they do on other platforms. Users who garner enough views can monetize their videos, either promoting the product themselves verbally within the video, or with ads playing at the beginning, middle, and/or end of each video. That means that you have a few options for using YouTube as a marketing tool. You can post your own videos that promote your brand explicitly or more subtly (the latter can be a great way to build a presence and gain subscribers), or you can pay for ads as mentioned previously.

2. Facebook

One of the most populated of all social media platforms, Facebook boasts an impressive 2.7 billion users (and counting!).

Who’s on it: 69% of adults use Facebook, with women dominating, and it's generally used by 75-80% of all age brackets, though its popularity among teenagers is extremely low compared to platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. You’re more likely to find the oldest generation on Facebook than on YouTube.

What you should know: Facebook changed its algorithm a couple years ago to de-prioritize business content. In other words, most of the posts users see on their feed are from family, friends, and any groups or pages they may interact with regularly. It’s true of any social media platform, but especially this one: user engagement is key to your post being seen, so posts that invite interaction and cater to your audience’s preferences will be helpful. Multimedia content tends to do particularly well on Facebook -- think video, photos, infographics, and GIFs. Like YouTube and pretty much all of the other options on this list, Facebook allows you to post organic content and sponsored content while monitoring results of ad campaigns through its Insights tool.

3. Instagram

Instagram is on the rise, especially among young people. With its endless scrolling function and optimized user experience, it’s no wonder that this mobile app is doing so well.

Who’s on it: 37% of U.S. adults, including 75% of 18-24 year-olds. The percentage goes down as the age brackets increase -- only 8% of users over the age of 65 are on Instagram. More 30-49 year-olds report using Instagram than report using Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, however. Hispanic and black adults are more likely to use Instagram than white adults, and the percentage of adults who use Instagram in cities is nearly double the percentage of those who use it in rural areas.

What you should know: Instagram is a largely visual app, featuring photos, videos, stories viewable for only 24 hours (unless archived), and, most recently, Instagram TV. Many use it to express themselves personally or artistically, but like YouTube, Instagram is home to many influencers who carefully curate their pages and have hundreds of thousands to millions of followers. You can try direct messaging these influencers through the platform, but keep in mind that the more followers they have, the less likely they are to see your message (unless they follow you). Brands often make deals with these influencers to promote their products, but they also create their own pages. It can be tough to stand out on Instagram, which prioritizes content on user feeds based on how much engagement it has, which means that your content should be carefully thought out. A consistent aesthetic or theme tying posts and stories together can be essential to capturing people’s attention when they glance at your profile. Halo Top is a great example of a popular Instagram brand -- though, obviously, it’s a little more difficult if the product or service you sell isn’t as visually appealing as ice cream.

4. Pinterest

Known for its popularity among moms and women in general, Pinterest is unique, allowing users to pin and organize content they enjoy in boards. It’s easy to assume that Pinterest is used solely for recipes, design, and tattoos, but it can actually be a unique opportunity for marketers to reach segmented audiences.

Who’s on it: American women do indeed use Pinterest more than men -- in fact, they’re 3 times more likely to. It's also more popular among white adults, but it's used somewhat equally across rural and urban areas. Those with a college education are also more likely to use it than those with a high school degree or less.

What you should know: Due to its lower amount of users, Pinterest isn’t normally the first place marketers go to reach audiences. But this could be a mistake. Pinterest has 200 million users, 87% of whom reported purchasing a product or service that they saw on the app. While outlets like Facebook and Instagram might be more beneficial for reaching wider audiences, Pinterest is an excellent platform for targeting more specific audiences who might be more likely to visit your brand’s website. When people pin content on Pinterest, it's likely to get repinned and continue to engage audiences, driving more traffic to your site. Many bloggers find the platform to be one of the most effective for circulating their content. Highly strategic and well thought out content designed for specific purposes is essential on Pinterest.

Stay tuned for the second installment of this series, which will dive deep into the following marginally less popular, but still worthwhile, social media platforms: LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, and Reddit.

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