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As a company seeking more customers and sales, you realize the importance of your outreach on the Internet, and with social media evolving as the center of online marketing efforts, you know you have to be there.

Maybe you already have a social media presence, but it’s not quite where you want it to be. Or maybe you have none at all (in which case, you’re behind!)

With so many options out there – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, Vine and Snapchat what platform should you use? What is right for your company? How can you maximize the return on your marketing dollar?

In this article, I’ll take you through what’s important in making that decision and the nuances of interacting with your audience on each platform.

First, it’s important to understand building and maintaining a presence on social media is expensive and time-consuming. Gaining followers and subscribers doesn’t come easy – there’s no magic switch to flip which suddenly results in thousands of genuine followers.

Like anything worthwhile, it takes time. For this reason, it’s crucial to focus your limited resources on the most relevant social media platforms from the start.

Where is Your Audience?

The most important factor in determining the platforms you should adopt is your target market. What platforms are they using most? That’s where you need to be.

Each social media platform has its own identity. This identity is formed by the user demographic and what that demographic is interested in.

Luckily there are only a handful of relevant social networks for any given business, so you don’t have to spend too much time searching for the right one. If you know what kind of audience each social network typically caters to, you can zero in on your ideal customer’s social network preference.

A recent Business Insider report gives a glimpse into the user base of each of the big social networks. Our graphic below highlights some of the key differences between the user bases of the major social networks. Which of these user groups is critical for your business to communicate with?

compare social media platforms

We excluded YouTube because despite being the world’s second largest search engine, it serves as more of a content distribution mechanism and advertising platform than true social media community.

The nuances of different platforms

Now that we’ve discussed why choosing the right social platforms is important and you have an idea of what each of the big platforms is like, we can move on to how you should communicate on them.

You wouldn’t act with your co-workers the way you act with your friends, would you? Of course not. There are environments to consider, the occasion and the vibe of the place – it’s the same with social media.

Some businesses make the mistake of using all social media platforms as equal distribution channels without tailoring content for each platform. If possible, it is valuable to create unique content for each platform. However, this can be time consuming and is often not realistic, in which case modifying your overall message to better fit each platform is the next best option. Why? Doing so will increase brand engagement and facilitate authentic customer interaction.

As Gary Vaynerchuk, a well known social media expert writes in his book  Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, “Today, getting people to hear your story on social media, and then act on it, requires using a platform’s native language, paying attention to context, understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique, and adapting your content to match.”

For instance, harnessing trending topics on twitter with the use of #hashtags exposes your message and brand to large numbers of audience who will be checking in moment to moment. Whereas photos (especially ones designed to draw attention) do well on Facebook.

It is important to first decide what platforms you want to use before putting the time, effort and financial resources to make it a reality. And after you make that decision, to approach each platform uniquely to get the most out of it. Feel free to contact us for a friendly chat to discuss your situation. We’re more than happy to help.