Let’s start with the basics. Even if you already have a social media account or two, chances are you started those because someone told you to, not because it seemed like the smart thing to do for your business.

There are a lot of social media platforms out there, and each one offers its own unique way of interacting. The trick is choosing the platforms that will do the best job of connecting you with the customers you want to reach.

Below is a quick rundown of each of the major social media platforms and what they each offer that distinguishes them from the rest. As you look through the chart think about:

  • Who are your customers?
  • How old are they, and which platforms are they most likely using?
  • What kinds of posts are the most likely to respond to?
  • Which platform makes the most sense for what your business does?
  • If you sell a product online, Pinterest ® might be a great way to generate interest and make sales. If you have a service-based business, Facebook® and Twitter® are great ways to start conversations about what you do which can lead to new customers. Answering these questions in the context of our chart will help you determine which social media platforms you want to focus on.

About Facebook

What it does?

Facebook is a place to interact with “friends.” It’s where people go to share ideas, get insights and catch up with the world and each other. Who uses it? Just about everyone. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of people online use Facebook, and that’s split fairly evenly between men and women, age groups and demographics.*

Who uses it?

Just about everyone. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of people online use Facebook, and that’s split fairly evenly between men and women, age groups and demographics.*

Facebook is great for?

Creating an ongoing relationship with customers that lets them get to know you on a more personal level, thus creating brand loyal facebook is not great for? Making actual sales.

About Twitter

What it does?

Like Facebook, Twitter is about starting a conversation, but unlike Facebook, Twitter restricts user posts to 140 characters. That limited format means that users interact very differently with Twitter, scrolling quickly through posts and looking for something to interact with immediately. Twitter is less about building relationships and more about getting reactions.

Who uses it?

Fewer people are on Twitter than Facebook, and those people are mostly under 50.*

Twitter is great for?

Immediacy. When you post on Twitter you get a response right away. Twitter’s world is different from Facebook’s because on Twitter most people follow non-acquaintances and news media channels. The types of content that work here are timely, newsworthy topics that people want to be the first to know. You can announce a special starting in the next five minutes and get people taking advantage of it as soon as it posts. You can ask a question you want an answer to and you’ll get an answer as soon as you ask. It’s also good for selling, especially flash sales with a finite timeframe.

Twitter is not great for?

Any message you want to have a long-term effect, or messages you need to make sure you’ve communicated to your whole customer base.

What it does? Where Facebook is about conversation, Instagram is about images – showing what’s happening and interesting perspectives with photos. Like Facebook, Instagram is a good way to build relationships, but instead of relationships based in conversation, you can think of Instagram relationships as storyboards of your life or business.

Who uses it? Young people – the same ones who live on their smartphones.

Instagram is great for? Like Pinterest, Instagram is great for businesses with a visual leaning, but unlike Pinterest, it works well for businesses that don’t have that as well. If you have a perspective that you can share visually, Instagram can work for you. Instagram helps you get beyond your immediate circle of followers. When you post (with hashtags), Instagram lets anyone see your images. That means people interested in your line of business can find you and follow you, and all you need to do is keep putting up pictures.

One more thing… Instagram is also great for selling products. Like Pinterest, lots of people browse Instagram as a way of shopping.

Instagram is not great for? Non-visual messaging. If you want to share articles or other ideas that require a lot of writing to express, Instagram isn’t the best. Most people scrolling through Instagram aren’t there to read. So if your photo relies on the words beneath it, it will probably be ignored.