How to choose the right social network

choosesocialnetworkWhen marketing your organization, you could, theoretically, spend all your time on social media websites. But the return on your time invested starts to level out. That’s your point of optimization. It’s different for every company, and it can vary for different people in a given company.

A big part of finding your point of optimization is deciding what social media website to spend the majority of your time on. When making that decision, you have to balance three things:

  1. The audience on each website compared to your target market.
  2. The capabilities of both the social media websites, and your capabilities as an organization.
  3. Your comfort level on the website.

Let’s take a look at each of these.


audienceWhen looking at your audience, the first thing you have to do is define your own target market. This is an important task in and of itself, and should be used throughout your marketing and sales processes.

If you’ve not defined your target market before, you’ll want to list out attributes your ideal customer would have. If you have trouble picturing an ideal customer, list out some attributes of your current favorite customer, and see what they seem to have in common.

Next, you’ll want to look at each of the social media websites and see what the audience is on each of them. Here’s a quick overview of a few of them. When looking at the number of users or accounts, keep in mind that not all of them are necessarily active. Also, those were the latest numbers I could find as I wrote the article.

  • 1 Billion Users
  • Audience is made up of a wide cross-section of society. It’s primarily used for personal use, although there’s some business use as well.
  • 500 Million Accounts
  • Audience is made up of a wide cross-section of society. It’s used for both personal and business use. Some professionals use it as an educational resource, following thought-leaders in their industry.
Google Plusgoogle
  • 500 Million Accounts
  • Audience is made up of largely of tech-savvy people.
  • 200 Million Accounts
  • Audience is mostly professionals. Frequently used by job-seekers, HR departments and placement agencies.
  • 800 Million Unique Users per month
  • Audience is made up of a wide cross-section of society. It’s used for both personal and business use. It’s used both for informational/educational purposes, as well as entertainment purposes.
  • 11 Million Users
  • Audience is typically 25 – 34 year old, college-educated females with children. 59% of Pinterest users have purchased an item shared (pinned) on the social network, versus 33% on Facebook.


capabilitiesNext, you need to take into account both your capabilities and those of the social media websites. If your business isn’t visual at all, Pinterest may not make much sense for you. And if you don’t have the expertise (and can’t afford it) to produce professional looking videos, YouTube may not be a good fit for you.

Let’s look at the same list of social media websites, and see some of the capabilities they have. Of course, that will relate to what skills and capabilities you and your organization will need to have.


facebookHas a variety of features you can make use of, including fairly targeted paid advertising.

  • Photo uploading
  • Video uploading
  • Link sharing
  • Private messages
  • Public messages
  • Polls
  • Live chat
  • Event sharing
  • Groups (online forums)
  • Organization presence through Pages

twitterFrequently used by people on the go, on their smart phones. Conversations through public messages have been compared to public instant messaging.

  • Photo uploading
  • Video linking
  • Link sharing
  • Private messages
  • Public messages
  • Organization presence through an account
Google Plus

googleIntegrates fairly well with other Google offerings. Activity on Google+ does impact where your organization shows up in their search engine results.

  • Photo uploading
  • Video uploading
  • Link sharing
  • Private messages
  • Public messages
  • Live chat
  • Event sharing
  • Organization presence through Pages

linkedinTypically used for professional networking.

  • Photo uploading
  • Video sharing
  • Link sharing
  • Private messages
  • Public messages
  • Endorsements (for people’s skills and organization’s products and/or services)
  • Recommendations
  • Groups (online forums)
  • Organization presence through Pages

youtubeOwned by Google, and integrates somewhat with other Google offerings.

  • Video uploading (primary purpose of site)
  • Public commenting on videos
  • Embedding of videos on other websites
  • Sharing of videos on other social media websites
  • Organization presence through Channels

pinterestPrimarily for the sharing of images. That includes photos and illustrations. They can link to a webpage they came from, or just be uploaded directly to Pinterest.

  • Photo uploading
  • Video sharing (thumbnail of video)
  • Link sharing (through images used in links)
  • Organization presence through Business Accounts

Note: This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the features. All of the social media sites tweak their features on a routine basis.

Comfort Level

comfortFinally, you’ll want to look at what you’re accustomed to using, or what you could see yourself easily using. You have to take into account the social network you’re most comfortable with.

Even if Pinterest could theoretically provide the most value to your business, are you personally comfortable with it? Maybe you find it much easier to use Facebook’s photo albums. If so, Pinterest may not be worth the headache, despite the fact that it looks like a better fit for your business.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a really good fit, if you’re not at all comfortable using it. Of course, if you have a staff, you can poll them to see which social networks they’re most comfortable with.

Balancing Act

Once you’ve looked at all three areas, you’ll then need to balance everything to determine which social media website you should be spending the most time on. Doing so will let you find your own point of optimization, and make the most of your time online.


    • Great question. Unfortunately, it could be any number of things. A few to consider:

      1. You may need to continue to grow your audience on Facebook to maintain the same amount of traffic.

      2. Another option is to work on the headlines your your links. I recommend as a great starting place.

      3. Don’t rely on just one social network. Use tools like Hootsuite to put your updates on other sites like Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  1. Good info Tim. I like to connect with my audience on an emotional level…when possible. Is there a social media vehicle that lends itself better for that, and are there others where this type of connection in less appropriate?

    • Great question, Nic. The only warning I would give is that LinkedIn does not lend itself as well to making an emotional connection. Although many might assume that LinkedIn is a natural fit for anyone in the B2B world, your company culture really factors into the whole comfort level as well.

  2. Great blog Tim. Very informative and easy to read. I like the “Audience” topic. That is a huge issue. On my Facebook and Twitter I am constantly trying to find a better audience daily with everything I post. I have some Followers and “Likes” on FB that are active with almost every post, then some who have never contributed or interacted at all except for clicking “Like” or “Follow”. I would much rather have 100 “Likes” or Followers that are active a lot than have 1000+ and only hear from a select few.

    • Thanks, Addison. You’re absolutely right on the importance of the right audience rather than a large audience. Not sure if it would make sense for you or not, but we doing a class next week on How To Build Your Social Media Audience. We’re going to talk about pros and cons of several methods of building your audience.

  3. Tim, this is a handy reference to give companies a place to start planning a social media strategy!… I’ve been wondering if Instagram could be increasing in importance? Right now, a lot of kids use it because they are too young for Facebook — wonder how that might affect Instagram’s influence in the future…


    • Instagram is definitely something you should be keeping your eye on, Kristen. I did learn long ago that I’m terrible at predicting the future when it comes to which social media platform will catch on. But I suspect Pinterest will outpace Instagram as far as business usage goes on photo-based social media.

  4. Great article Tim, and spot on when it comes to the time requirement of marketing via social media. The majority of my current clients are active on LinkedIn, so my involvement on Twitter, and other online marketing is directed at prospective clients and also to be a resource for those looking for answers. As a large number of folks are active on two or more different platforms, should I duplicate my content on each platform, or provide different ( unique) content on each platform which is more “audience specific” ?

    • Good question, Roger. What I’ve seen work well for many people is to pick a primary platform and be a lot more active there, but duplicate some basic content across all platforms as it makes sense to do so. Not sure if that would work for your specific situation or not.

  5. Really enjoyed this article, especially the 3 ways to evaluate the various sites: Audience, Capabilities, Comfort Level. My audience are professional business people who have High-Stakes Issues. Do you think LinkedIn is the only “serious” forum I should invest time in? Also, what are the pros/cons of Google+? Thanks for the insights.

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like on the Audience aspect, LinkedIn will definitely rank the highest for you. Just make sure you balance it with the Capabilities and Comfort Level.

      Google+ is great if you’re marketing primarily towards a tech-savvy audience, and/or if one of your priorities is search engine optimization. In addition to the normal social media aspects to Google+, it does have an impact on where your associated website shows up in Google’s search results.

  6. Very solid post Tim. It is full of a lot of specific, helpful information that should allow businesses to determine which social network is the best fit.

    Curious: What is the target audience for the presentation that is related to this blog post?

    • Thanks, Shawn. It’s going to be a full day workshop on building your online marketing plan. So it will be targeted to small or medium businesses or nonprofits that are worried they’re wasting time marketing online without a plan.

      Although this initial blog entry focuses on social media, the workshop will include other online marketing tools, including blogs, podcasts, video, etc.

  7. Great advice on balancing your social profiles. Far too many businesses hop on the social media bandwagon, build Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest profiles and spend a few solid months promoting content and then forget about their accounts. Playing around with different networks to see which ones work best for your business can help you plan your social content in advance so that you don’t neglect your social followers.

  8. Great post and good insight into what social medium to use. Have you thought about making a info graphic about that (see? I learn things too)? Probably more of a chart of something the more I think about it, so that you can see all of that at a glance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *