As a smart freelancer or small business owner, you’re well aware of the necessity to have an established online presence. Usually, this means your website and several social platforms. It feels like there is an infinite amount of social media platforms to choose from nowadays. So, which one should you choose? Which platform is right for your business?
Although some may be similar, each platform is unique in the demographics they cater to. If you’re a social media beginner just getting a foot in the door, I generally recommend my clients focus on two main social media platforms to start. One of these channels will be your main content distributor, while the other is mostly for direct engagement with your audience. For example, a creator may use YouTube as their primary distribution platform when creating videos of interest to their target audience. Then, they might consider using a platform like Instagram or Twitter to complement their YouTube content and to communicate more directly with their audience.
So, which platform is best for you? Let’s discuss.
With over 1.7 billion active users each month, Facebook is virtually the largest social network in the world. Though there were other platforms prior to Facebook (MySpace, for example), Facebook was really the one to put location-independent connectedness on a pedestal and normalize having a social media profile.
Let’s go over some of the potential positive sides of Facebook and whether it’d be a valuable tool to add into your marketing arsenal.
- Largest social network in the world
- Posts that are shared have the potential to reach thousands of users
- Facebook Pages offer enhanced discoverability for your business
- Facebook is easy to set up
- Facebook advertising is the easiest, cheapest form of advertising with the greatest ROI
As you can see, Facebook has a lot going for it. However, Facebook is also beginning to show its age a bit. Here are some of the potential downsides of using Facebook as a primary platform for your business.
- Organic reach is nearly completely dead
- 40% of users don’t Like (follow) any brand pages, so organic reach for businesses is limited even further
- You need likes and shares for the algorithm to even spread your posts to your own Friends
The organic reach on Facebook, or lack thereof, has suffered greatly at the hands of advertisers. As you know, most social platforms, including Facebook, have an advertiser-centric business model. While this helps keep these social channels free for its users, it also means that the more advertisers there are, the more competition there is to appear on other people’s feeds.
When deciding between promoting posts from their users, or promoting posts from paid advertisers, I think Facebook’s choice is clear. There’s one feed and only so much space on people’s phones, so competition is fierce. The only way to truly go viral organically on Facebook nowadays is with the help of shares and other types of engagement for your audience.
Before you make a decision on Facebook, let’s go over their primary user demographics and other relevant statistics.
- 73% of users are 30–49 years old. These users are primarily male, but not by a huge margin.
- As stated previously, Facebook has 1.7 billion active users per month, making it the most popular platform for people over 50 years of age
- On average, 10% of your Friends/Page Likes will see your post if they don’t receive additional engagement
If your business’ target audience fits within Facebook’s primary demographic, it might be useful to consider Facebook as a primary platform. I’d recommend building a Facebook Page, rather than focusing on further developing your personal profile.
Facebook advertising, on the other hand, has value independent of Facebook as an engagement platform. Regardless of the demographic of your target audience, Facebook advertising will yield a tremendous ROI if conducted properly.
Since 2006, Twitter has dominated the social media space as the go-to platform for direct interaction with your audience and sharing your thoughts in a quick, to-the-point format.
Unlike some other platforms, Twitter is also a powerful search engine and can help you discover trending topics of conversation.
Let’s go over some of the positive sides Twitter has to offer.
- Direct communication with your audience
- Search engine to explore trending topics
- Useful for finding content to share
- Useful for networking with other people in your niche/industry
- Tweets indexed by Google (searchable)
- Twitter chats
The direct communication aspect of Twitter is absolutely its biggest strength. It also has tremendous value within its search engine capabilities as this can help you find trending topics and further engage with people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Twitter isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, however. Here are some of the downsides Twitter can bring by being a primary platform for your business.
- Limit of 160 characters per post
- Content lifecycle is short so your posts can quickly get buried
- Confusing to some audiences, particularly older audiences
- Organic reach is very low, similar to Facebook
Twitter suffers from the same organic reach pitfalls as Facebook. Catering to advertisers decreases the reach of their primary user and makes it less likely for even your followers to see your content. Therefor, you’ll need the help of Retweets from your followers to help spread your content.
Now it’s time to go over some relevant statistics from Twitter.
- Nearly 25% of all users are some type of journalist (or bloggers)
- 18% more engagement when Tweets include a photo
- 320 million users per month
- 40% of users have not ever sent a Tweet
- 38% of U.S. Twitter users are between the ages of 18 and 29
- 26% of users are 30–49 years old.
- 77% of Americans who earn $75,000 or more use
- 66 percent of Twitter users worldwide are male
If your target audience fits within these demographics, it might make sense to implement Twitter into your social media strategy. When using Twitter, I typically recommend to my clients that they use it as their “secondary” platform helping support their “primary” platform. For example, if a client wants to use YouTube as their primary platform/distribution outlet, then Twitter can supplement by allowing for more direct communication with the audience.
Instagram started out as a photo sharing platform meant primarily for photographers and designers. As you’ve likely noticed, it’s evolved greatly since then.
Nowadays you can still find plenty of beautiful photo and image posts, but there is now a much greater variety of content. Now you can utilize short videos, IGTV, Reels, Stories, and more to share various aspects of your business. You can even share value-based info carousels, which are actually performing quite well in 2021.
Here are some of the things Instagram has going for it as a platform.
- Visual platform great for designers. Visual content is more attractive and likely to be engaged with
- Easy to find your niche
- Hashtags can drastically increase your reach
- Direct Messaging system is great for forming new connections
In general, Instagram posts receive more engagement than posts on other platforms due to the visual aspect of the platform. You can share the same thoughts you’d share on other platforms, but use visual components to make your post more appealing.
While Instagram is great, they also suffer from many of the same problems the other platforms we’ve discussed have.
- No clickable links in captions. This means you’ll have to work harder using Call to Actions (CTAs) to direct the audience to click on the link you have in your bio. Thankfully, after 10K followers you will have access to Instagram’s “Swipe Up” feature on their Stories.
- Like Twitter, content has a short life cycle and can quickly get lost in the sea of content
- The algorithm caters more to ads and thus organic reach is decreased
Since Instagram has been around for a while, their appeal to advertisers have only increased. Facebook owns Instagram and so when an advertiser uses their ad platform, they can have the option to advertise on Instagram as well. Unfortunately all of this means your organic reach on Instagram won’t be great. However, the use of hashtags helps to balance this out a bit though it isn’t a complete wash.
Now let’s see exactly who uses Instagram on a daily basis.
- 57% of users are between 18–29
- Nearly dead-even split between male and female
- 400 million users per month
- 58x more engagement than Facebook
You can think of Instagram’s primary demo as virtually the opposite of Facebook’s. It’s more popular among younger crowds, though it dips its toes in older markets as well.
Like Facebook though, Instagram’s primary gender demo is split nearly right down the middle. This means that out of their 400 million monthly users, about half are male and vice versa.
Due to the nature of hashtags and visual content as a whole, you can also expect much more engagement on Instagram than on Facebook. Instagram’s “Discover” page also helps with this as you can work to get featured on that page, exposing your content to thousands, or even millions, more users.
I’ve saved the best for last.
“Woah woah WOAH there. TikTok is the best?” I hear you. Let me explain why TikTok is perhaps the greatest opportunity of our time. Not just within the social media realm, either, but as any business or brand that needs attention to drive sales or awareness.
Here are just some of the upsides to using TikTok.
- Fast-face video content is trending in society
- Unprecedented organic reach like never before seen
- Discoverability via hashtags and sounds
- Viral formula can be followed and replicated. Watch Time + Followers Gained = Virality Potential
- Business tools expanding
- Aging up quickly
TikTok’s organic reach is pure magic. Let me put it to you this way. I started using TikTok in November of 2020. Within the first month I earned over 30K followers and now in April of 2021 I have over 200K. Now let me ask you, what other platform can do this… like, ever?
TikTok’s outstanding organic reach is due to a few reasons. First, TikTok is still a young platform and advertisers haven’t completely taken over… yet. This decreases competition for screen time.
Also, as of now there are much less actual creators than there are passive users. In other words, there are much more consumers than producers, so the amount of content that is cycled throughout the algorithm has a greater chance of being seen by multiple people. This is just simple supply and demand and applies to any market.
The third reason for the enhanced organic reach is the nature of TikTok’s algorithm. After just about an hour of using the app, the TikTok algorithm learns all about you and what you like based off of your actions from previous content. For example, if the first thing you do when you see a dance video is swipe it away, TikTok takes note of this and won’t show you as many of them. On the other hand, if you see a science video and watch it all the way through, follow the creator, and/or engage in the comments then TikTok will consider this type of content of high interest to you and will show you more of it. TikTok won’t just show you content from creators you follow, but they’ll instead expose you to a more broad array of content that is of the type TikTok thinks you’ll enjoy.
Of course, TikTok isn’t perfect though. Let’s go over some of the negatives.
- No SEO
- Very limited characters for captions and comments
- Original content will receive less reach. It’s better to recreate niche-specific trends that TikTok knows it already has an audience for.
- No links in captions or comments, like Instagram
The nature of TikTok’s algorithm makes it so that SEO is nearly non-existent. When uploading content you don’t add any additional info besides a short caption and some hashtags. While hashtags help with discoverability, keywords in captions are often not recognized by the search function TikTok does have. Videos are really only discovered via hashtags, sounds, and content type as determined by the algorithm.
Now let’s go over some statistics.
- 80 million users, growing quickly
- 60% between ages of 16–24
- 60% female
- 26% between 25–44
Something important to note is TikTok is aging up rapidly, the amount of content is catching up with the amount of passive users, and advertisers are starting to see the potential of advertising on TikTok. For these reasons, I highly recommend getting in on the ground floor while organic reach is still high. This way, you can grow your following before it becomes as difficult to grow as platforms like Facebook.
As you can see, each platform caters to their own specific audiences, gender, life stage, age, etc. I didn’t include platforms like LinkedIn or YouTube because they have very specific purposes and are generally universally recognized. YouTube, for example, caters to all demographics and is specifically for video content. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is primarily for industry professionals and cater to various ages and genders.
Out of all of the platforms we discussed, I truly believe TikTok has the most potential no matter your target audience. The organic reach potential of TikTok is like no platform ever before, and the audiences who use TikTok are aging up rapidly. This is the only platform in which you can post one video with no followers, and get thousands or even millions of views and followers virtually overnight.
TikTok is no longer just for kids and young adults, either. It’s a good idea to get in on the ground floor and grow your audience before TikTok surrenders to advertisers and its organic reach dips as a result.
As a freelancer or business owner you’ve already got plenty on your plate. Why add managing your social media accounts to your list of responsibilities?
At HarkSocial, I’ll take care of all of your social media needs. From digital marketing to organic growth, I’ve got you covered. If you’d like to learn more about my services, you can click here for more details or here to get in touch directly with me.
Thanks for your interest in this article and I’m looking forward to hearing from you!