How to Choose the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business

Jessica Greene
Jessica Greene / July 11, 2019

When you want to start promoting your business, products, or content on social media, it's important to carefully consider which social media platforms to use. Quickly deciding to go with whatever apps you use personally—or trying to promote your business on every platform—can lead to wasted spend and effort that produces mediocre results.

It's better to approach the decision strategically to ensure that you're choosing the best social media apps for your business. In this piece, we're going to first cover the questions you need to ask before choosing the best social media platforms for your business. Then, we'll present some information about seven popular platforms to help you identify the right ones—and get started with social media marketing.

How to Choose the Best Social Media for Your Business

To make an informed decision on where you should focus your social media marketing efforts, there are a number of things to consider. Start by answering the following six questions, then use the information in the Best Social Media Platforms for Business section below to select the best platform for your business.

1. What social media apps does your audience use?

percentage of people using each social media app
Share of U.S. Adults Using Social Media, Including Facebook, Is Mostly Unchanged Since 2018. Source: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

It's important to focus your social media efforts on the channels your target audience spends time on.

For example, if you're selling a product for people aged 65+, you likely won't want to bother with social media apps like Twitter or Reddit because very few people in that age group use those platforms. Instead, you'll want to focus on the apps they do use—primarily Facebook and YouTube.

You can use the demographic data in the overview section below to choose the best-fit apps for your target audience, or you can ask your existing customers what social media apps they use most often. Use a poll app to gather this data from visitors to your website, an existing social media profile, or an email newsletter.

2. Is the app designed for the content you create?

YouTube homepage
YouTube is 100% focused on video content.

Instagram and Pinterest are focused on image content. YouTube is focused on video content. If you mostly produce text-based content and use stock images, these platforms aren't right for you.

Unless you plan to add designers or videographers to your payroll to create these assets for your social media efforts—or plan to learn how to do these things yourself—you'll be better served to concentrate on text-focused sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit.

On the other hand, if your business produces lots of image or video content (real estate, travel, etc.), you'll probably have more luck publishing on the more visual social media apps.

3. Where are your competitors focusing their attention?

Zapier's social media profiles

If your competitors are having success with a specific social media app, you may also do well there. Conversely, if your competitors are neglecting a specific app, there may be an opportunity for you to capitalize on that neglected market.

Most companies display links to their social media profiles on their websites, so it should be easy to collect data on where your competitors are focusing their social media efforts. It's also good to actually visit their social media profiles and make sure they're maintained; a rarely used social media profile shouldn't be considered an active effort.

4. What is the likely organic reach of each platform?

Zapier Twitter posts in Google search results

For the most part, succeeding on social media requires that you have followers or subscribers, with a few exceptions:

  • YouTube videos, Reddit posts, Twitter Tweets, LinkedIn Articles, and Pinterest Pins are indexed by Google, meaning people can discover that content through a general Google search.

  • Profile pages/channels are indexed by Google for all of the social media apps we're looking at in this article, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Reddit.

However, individual posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are not indexed by Google, so the only way to get those posts in front of an audience is to either publish it for your network or get others to share it to their networks.

Additionally, the algorithms these platforms use can have a major impact on whether or not your posts are seen, even by people who follow you. For example, Facebook made a change to its algorithm in early 2018 to prioritize posts from friends and family, and as a result, organic reach on the platform severely declined for many brands.

5. What advertising opportunities does each platform offer?

Facebook ads manager

Low organic reach isn't necessarily a barrier if you're willing to spend money on ads. Each social media app offers advertising opportunities, though some are more detailed than others.

For example, apps like Facebook and LinkedIn have deep datasets that let you target ads to a very specific audience. Popular YouTube channels often offer sponsorship opportunities.

We'll look at the advertising opportunities for each social media app in the next section.

6. How much time can you allocate to social media consistently?

One mistake that many businesses make when they're getting started with social media marketing is trying to create a profile on every social media app. The problem: Keeping multiple social media accounts updated is a lot of work, and unmaintained profiles can reflect poorly on your business.

The better approach is to focus on one or two platforms—no more than you realistically have time to keep updated. This will give you more time and attention to really grow your audiences on those channels and actually engage with the people who follow and interact with your business.

However, if you do choose to create profiles on multiple social media apps, you can use some of these Zaps (automated workflows by Zapier) to automatically post updates to different channels. For example, if you use a WordPress site, these Zaps will automatically post updates to your social media accounts when you publish new content:

Or if you want to create a single social media post and have it automatically published to your other social media accounts, use these Zaps:

And if you plan to do a lot of posting on multiple accounts, a social media management tool may help. These tools let you create lots of social media posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish at specific times on all major social media platforms.

The Best Social Media Platforms for Business

After you've answered the questions above, it's time to dig into the data and features of the top social media platforms for businesses. By reviewing the app overviews below, you should be able to select the platforms that cater best to your business goals and audience preferences.


Facebook

Zapier Facebook page

With well over two billion monthly active users and growing, Facebook is the most popular social media site on this list. It's a social networking site that lets users connect with family and friends, join interest groups, and follow commercial pages for businesses and businesspeople.

When people log in to Facebook, they see a news feed that lists updates from their connections and groups, as well as the pages they follow. Users can also choose to share posts from the pages they follow to their own networks, expanding the reach of your post on the platform.

Facebook works well for all types of content. You can post text-only updates, images, videos, links, live streams, and Stories—short video clips that disappear after 24 hours.

Facebook Demographics

Facebook is popular among all demographics. Of particular note is the high number of people aged 65+ who use the platform (46%); in fact, Facebook is the most popular social media site for that age group. And while YouTube attracts more visitors in the 18-29 age group, more than three-fourths (79%) of people aged 18-29 use Facebook.

Facebook demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet, Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

Facebook Advertising Opportunities

Ads created in Facebook can be set to run on Facebook only or on Facebook and the other social media apps the company owns: Instagram and Messenger. You can also run a variety of different ad types, including videos, Stories, carousels, lead ads, and click-to-call ads, among others.

Facebook Pro Tip

One of Facebook's most valuable features is its advanced targeting for ads run on the platform. Facebook stores massive amounts of data about its users—their ages, locations, jobs, interests, etc.—so you can run ads that only display to very specific groups of people that meet the criteria you've established for your ideal customer.

For example, a local Italian restaurant could set its ads to display only to people in the city where it's located who are interested in Italian cuisine.

Automate Your Facebook Tasks

Zapier makes it easy to automate different aspects of your social media marketing efforts on Facebook. Use the Zaps below to do things like automatically publish your email newsletters to your Facebook page or add your new Facebook Lead Ads prospects to your email marketing tool.

YouTube

YouTube homepage
YouTube is 100% focused on video content.

YouTube is the second most popular social media app on this list, boasting two billion monthly active users. It's a video-sharing platform comprised of two types of users—video creators and video watchers—though many of its users both create and watch videos on the platform.

Taking advantage of YouTube as a social media platform starts with creating a channel—a home for all of your business's video content. Once you have a channel, you can start to attract subscribers.

But views of your YouTube videos aren't exclusively dependent on subscribers. YouTube videos can also appear as search results in Google and YouTube searches, they may get promoted on the YouTube homepage, and they can also be embedded into your website to add context to landing pages or accompany text-heavy blog content.

YouTube Demographics

YouTube is essentially popular among everyone. While slightly more men watch the channel than women, more than two-thirds of both women and men report spending time on YouTube. And while the largest percentage of users is in the 18-29 age group, people of all age groups report spending time on YouTube, including more than one-third of online seniors.

YouTube demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

YouTube Advertising Opportunities

YouTube offers a variety of ad types. You can create skippable commercials, non-skippable commercials, search ads, and bumper ads—very short ads of six seconds or less.

Additionally, many popular YouTubers sell brand sponsorships. When creators sponsor a brand, they usually discuss the brand/product/service as part of their original videos. If you find a channel that caters well to your target audience, sponsoring one of that creator's videos is a great way to get your message in front of the right viewers.

YouTube Pro Tip

While YouTube videos can appear in both Google and YouTube search results, the two sites each have different algorithms that they use to rank results. If you're hoping to get your videos discovered on YouTube via its search engine, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the best practices of YouTube SEO.

Automate Your YouTube Tasks

Use the Zaps below to do things like automatically post your published YouTube videos to other social media sites or upload videos in Dropbox or Google Drive to YouTube.

Instagram

Instagram Airbnb photos

Instagram is the third-most popular social media app among U.S. adults, with one billion monthly users. It's a photo-sharing app that's more like Twitter than Facebook: While it's possible to set your profile to private and accept or decline follow requests, most people use it to share photos publicly to anyone who follows them.

People can follow individual businesses to see their new posts in their timelines, discover new profiles to follow on Instagram's Explore page, or browse through photos by hashtags—words and phrases preceded by a pound sign (e.g., #travel). Including hashtags in your posts is a great way to grow your visibility on Instagram. Free tools like TagBlender and HashTagsForLikes can help you find relevant hashtags to include in your posts.

In addition to photos, you can stream live videos on Instagram via Instagram Live, upload longer video content via Instagram TV, or build Instagram Stories—short, interactive video clips or slideshows that appear at the top of the feed and disappear after 24 hours.

Instagram Demographics

Instagram tends to appeal to more women than men, more people aged 18-49 than people 50+, and more people living in urban and suburban areas than in rural areas. With that said, men do use Instagram, as do people over 50 and people living in rural areas—just in smaller percentages than their counterparts.

Instagram demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

Instagram Advertising Opportunities

One interesting thing about Instagram ads is that you can run ads on the platform even if you don't have an Instagram account—as long as you have a Facebook Page.

As far as ad options on Instagram, you can create Story, photo, video, carousel, and collection ads, as well as target specific audiences using Facebook's deep targeting options. And if you do have an Instagram account, you can even have Instagram create a custom audience for you based on similarities to your existing followers.

Instagram Pro Tip

If you have an online store, you can actually promote and sell products in Instagram posts. If you qualify, you can sign up for Instagram Shopping. Instagram Shopping lets you tag products in your posts, show their prices, and link directly those products on your website, making it easier for people to purchase items they see in their Instagram feeds.

Automate Your Instagram Tasks

Use the Zaps below to do things like automatically back up your Instagram posts to Google Drive or Dropbox or share your Instagram posts to other social media apps.

Pinterest

Pinterest home decor collections

The fourth most popular social media app in the U.S. is Pinterest, another photo-sharing app. And while at a glance Pinterest and Instagram look very similar, there are some key differences between the two platforms.

First, for the most part, you can't include clickable links on your Instagram posts. There are a couple of exceptions: if you have more than 10,000 followers, you can add a link to your Instagram Stories. Instagram Shopping posts can also include links. But for the most part, you get one clickable link to your site on your Instagram profile page.

Pinterest Pins, on the other hand, always link back to a website, so if you're trying to drive traffic to your website, Pinterest may be a better bet.

Additionally, while Instagram tends to be focused on individual photos, Pinterest is much more about photo/content curation. People curate all kinds of things on Pinterest. For example, you can find Boards (curated Pins) for highly visual things like weddings, home decorations, and crafts, as well as boards with curated marketing and business content.

Pinterest Demographics

One thing to note about Pinterest is that its audience skews far more female than male: 42% of U.S. women use the platform, as opposed to only 15% of U.S. men. Beyond that, people of all age groups tend to use the platform in fairly equal numbers—including 15% of people 65+—and similar percentages of people living in urban, suburban, and rural areas use Pinterest.

Pinterest demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

Pinterest Advertising Opportunities

Advertising options in Pinterest are fairly basic and straightforward: You pick a published Pin to promote and choose who you want to promote it to. You can choose to narrow down who sees your ad by things like keywords, interests, and demographics, or you can show it to people who've interacted with your Pins or purchased something from your site previously.

Pinterest Pro Tip

Use Rich Pins to display more data about the content you're sharing on Pinterest. For example, Rich Product Pins let you display product prices on your Pins, and Rich Recipe Pins let you add details like ingredients, cooking times, and serving sizes.

Automate Your Pinterest Tasks

Use the Zaps below to do things like pin new blog posts or eCommerce products to Pinterest automatically after adding them to your website.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn followable hashtag list

The fifth most popular social media platform in the U.S. is LinkedIn—a professional networking app. While people certainly network and talk about business on all of the platforms on this list, LinkedIn is the only social media app designed specifically for professionals and businesses to connect with each other.

LinkedIn is interesting because it offers a blend of features from multiple social media apps. People can connect with other professionals they know and follow those connections to see their updates in news feeds, similar to Facebook. But people can also create public posts and add hashtags—like Twitter—to reach a greater audience. Then there are LinkedIn Groups that are similar to Reddit's subreddits and even LinkedIn Articles that feel a bit like Medium.

Because of its focus on business and professional content, LinkedIn is a great social media app for B2B businesses. But it also works well for B2C businesses that target job seekers since a good portion of LinkedIn's audience is composed of people who are looking for work or interested in making a career change.

LinkedIn Demographics

More than half of U.S. adults who have graduated from college use LinkedIn, but only 9% of people who haven't attended college frequent LinkedIn. Additionally, people of all age groups use LinkedIn, including people who've hit retirement age, though usage of the platform is less prevalent for the 65+ age group.

LinkedIn demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

LinkedIn Advertising Opportunities

Like all of the social media apps on this list, LinkedIn's ad offerings include ads that appear in news feeds and sidebars while people are using the platform, but it also offers a unique ad type: Sponsored InMail. Sponsored InMail ads let you send direct messages to specific people on the platform. This is a great option for cold outreach or businesses using account-based marketing.

LinkedIn Pro Tip

While most social app algorithms prioritize recent content, LinkedIn's news feed will often surface posts that are as much as a month old because it values relevancy over recency. However, that also means that if your content is highly relevant and engaging (e.g., videos tend to perform well on LinkedIn), there's a chance that your post can display in people's news feeds for significantly longer than it would on other networks.

Automate Your LinkedIn Tasks

Use the Zaps below to do things like automatically send responses from LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms to your CRM or share your new job postings on LinkedIn.

Twitter

Zapier's Twitter home page

With 321 million monthly users, Twitter is the sixth most popular platform on this list. Used by 22% of U.S. adults, it's the seventh most popular social media app in the U.S. overall, falling just behind Snapchat, which is used by 24% of U.S. adults.

While it's possible to set your profile to private, most people don't, so you can follow most people and brands on the platform to see their updates in your feed. But unlike Instagram, Twitter supports multiple types of media: text, images, videos, GIFs, and links to whatever you want to link to.

Most posts on Twitter include text alongside other types of media. However, text in Twitter posts is limited to 280 characters, so the key here is to keep it brief. However, some people get around this limitation by creating Tweet threads: two or more (sometimes dozens) of Tweets strung together by replies to connect those Tweets together in one narrative.

Twitter Demographics

Twitter is equally popular among men and women, but it tends to be used more by people aged 18-49 than those aged 50+. Additionally, Twitter is slightly more popular among people with some college education or college degrees, and it's used slightly more by people in urban and suburban areas than people in rural areas.

Twitter demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

Twitter Advertising Opportunities

Ads on Twitter can display in users' feeds or as pre-roll ads on videos. You start each ad campaign with a goal—get more engagements (likes, retweets, comments), grow your followers, encourage app installs, and more. You can also target your ads to certain groups of people by location, interests, or even by the accounts they follow.

Twitter Pro Tip

The best way to grow your number of followers on Twitter is to provide value and contribute to the discussion. If all you ever do is post links to your new content, products, or promotions, people will likely be less interested in following you. Consider curating interesting content from your industry and sharing your thoughts on Twitter occasionally without directly promoting anything to boost your visibility on the platform and grow your audience.

Automate Your Twitter Tasks

Use the Zaps below to do things like automatically send messages to your new Twitter followers or post your Tweets on multiple Twitter accounts.

Reddit

Reddit homepage

While Pew Research data shows that only 11% of U.S. adults use Reddit, it's the fifth most popular website in the U.S. (according to Alexa data), behind only Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon.

The likely reason: Like on YouTube, anyone can read everything on Reddit without ever creating a Reddit account. You only need to sign up if you want to post something on the site. Plus, all of Reddit's posts are indexed by Google, so they often show up in search results, particularly for long, highly specific search queries.

Reddit is a massive community composed of more than a million subreddits—topic-specific forums where people can post questions, content, and links and respond to things other Redditors have posted. There are subreddits for what seems like absolutely everything—from mass-appeal topics like r/Science to highly niche ones like r/BackYardChickens.

Reddit Demographics

Nearly twice as many men use Reddit as women, and the app is much more popular among those under age 50 than those over age 50. However, it's important to note that this data only accounts for people who actively use the platform. It doesn't account for people who find Reddit results in search and may never consider that what they're viewing is on Reddit.

Reddit demographics
Source: Social Media Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

Reddit Advertising Opportunities

While advertising on Reddit used to mean paying for a banner ad, the platform has opened up recently to offer businesses more variety in advertising opportunities. Businesses can now promote their Reddit posts on the platform to get their content in front of more people who belong to the subreddits that their targeted audiences are likely to follow and frequent.

Reddit Pro Tip

When using Reddit for your business, it's important to note that for the most part, Reddit users very much dislike marketing.

Many subreddits require users to have a certain amount of karma—a measure of how much value you've contributed to the site's communities—before they'll let you post on the subreddit, and downvotes reduce your karma. So it's important to avoid being overly promotional when using Reddit and make sure what you do post is interesting and valuable to the community.

Automate Your Reddit Tasks

Zapier makes it easy to keep track of what people are saying about your business on Reddit. Use the following Zaps to get notifications of Reddit posts that meet specific criteria in Slack, in a spreadsheet, via email, and more.

Consider Your Audience and Goals to Choose the Right Social Media Platforms

When evaluating social media platforms for your business, the first question you should answer is, "Does my target audience spend time using this app?" If your audience doesn't use the app, you'll waste time and money promoting your content, products, and business on that channel.

The second question to answer is, "Will this app help me reach my goals?" If your goal is to drive more traffic to your site without having to spend any money doing so, then you're probably best off using an app like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Reddit. If you don't mind spending money on ads, Facebook will help you reach the broadest audience.

If your goal is to increase visibility and awareness of your business and products, Instagram and/or YouTube might be right for you.

After narrowing down your choices by audience and goal criteria, the final question you need to ask is, "Do I have the time and resources to create content consistently for this channel?"

If the answer to this question is yes—and you're sure your target audience spends time on the platform you selected—your social media marketing efforts can absolutely help you hit your business goals.

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