social media stickers on saucer next to coffee cup

How Many Social Media Platforms Do You Really Need to Be On?

Ronda Bowen / Social Media

I do not know about you, but to me, it seems as though a new social platform pops up every day – if we include smaller social platforms. Even when it comes to naming the big platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat – many get left out. Quora, StumbleUpon, Digg, Tumblr, Reddit, Xing, are also large social media platforms in their own right.

Frankly, it all gets a bit overwhelming.

I mean, how many social media platforms should a business be on? How many platforms are enough? Am I losing out because I’m not on Reddit or Tumblr? I’ve kind of neglected my Digg profile to the point where I can’t remember the last time I posted on it – is that hurting me? I think I’m on at least a dozen more that I haven’t given a whole lot of thought about in a good while. Is that hurting me?

These are all questions businesses may be asking, and they all boil down to one main concern: How many social media platforms do you really need?

closeup of mobile phone with social media app icons

The quick and dirty answer

You need to be on the social media platforms that your target market is using, but not so many that you’re overwhelmed by maintaining them. As many before me have said, it’s much better to be great at one or two platforms than it is to be spread thin across a few dozen platforms.

Jeff Bullas writes, “…it is more a matter of the resources that you have available, both in time and money to engage in Social Media effectively.” He then mentions both his friend who only uses LinkedIn and big businesses who use between 7 and 11 platforms.

Neither of these provides a clear direction. After all, if you’re on Facebook and Google+, but all your target customers are on Twitter and LinkedIn, even if you’re doing everything right on the platforms you are on, you’re missing out on the platforms you should be on to get the most out of the time you spend on social media marketing.

Which type of social media is best for your company?

Jeff Bullas points out something useful in his post on social media platforms – he defines seven different types of social media platforms:

  • Blogging
  • Social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+)
  • Micro blogging (Twitter, Tumblr, etc.)
  • Social bookmarking (Digg, Technorati, Pinterest)
  • Discussion forums
  • Email marketing
  • Video marketing (YouTube)

I’d also like to add visual marketing (Instagram) and ephemeral marketing (Snapchat) to these categories.

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Why is this useful? It helps to think about social media by types. When they’re outlined in this way, we’d all agree that if you’re running a business, you definitely need a blog and some form of email marketing – even if at the outset it’s just a subscription to what you post on the blog.

Figure out where your target market hangs out

Once you have your target market figured out, you’ll want to figure out where they hang out. Do they use Facebook or LinkedIn more? If you’re looking for B2B customers, you’ll definitely want to be on LinkedIn. Rich Brooks’ How to Research and Locate Your Audience Using Social Media stresses that the first step is to come up with an ideal customer persona.

Brooks also suggests coming up with a survey for your existing customers. Ask them what social media sites they use regularly, what blogs they read, and whether they listen to podcasts. Is Facebook or Google+ better? Do they prefer Twitter or Tumblr? Do they use Reddit? Are they on specialized industry-only social media platforms?

Be visible on all the social networks where your customers are spending their time. Focus your energy on the places where your customers are spending the most time.Click To Tweet

Figure out which platforms are a good match for your business

Also think about your products or services. Is there a reason why video or ephemeral marketing would work for your company? Would there be enough content for Instagram? Is it useful for you to use social bookmarking beyond Pinterest?

You’ll want to rely on some social media statistics to figure out where you should be. For instance, in Which Social Media Platforms Are Right For Your Business? by Jia Wertz, she cites that 60% of Snapchat users are under 24 and that 42% of women online use Pinterest. If you are marketing to those under 24, you should be on Snapchat and take the time to learn the best practices for the platform. If you are marketing to women, you should learn how Pinterest will help you.

Quora is where consultants should at least maintain a presence. Answering questions on this platform can help demonstrate your expertise. Plus, you can share your answers on other platforms.

Yes, but are there platforms everyone should be on?

According to Big Mouth Marketing, everyone should have at least a presence on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. I would add Twitter to that list. I think most, if not all, businesses can benefit from maintaining a presence on the platform – even if they’re just doing the minimum of tweeting out their posts and retweeting a few posts each day.

What about other social media platforms?

Instagram, I think, can be a great marketing tool for companies with physical products. For companies offering services, if there’s a visual component to the services (i.e. fitness coaching, merchandising, etc.), then it also makes sense to be on the platform. Financial services may be more of a mismatch for the platform.

Pinterest is becoming more important for companies to be on. I’m not convinced it’s a great platform for everyone. If you’re going to have your company on Pinterest, it may be best to work out a strategy ahead of time. For example, if you’re a nonprofit, what kinds of posts will you share? Think about the kinds of boards your target audience will find useful and create them. Be sure to stay on-target and on brand.

YouTube is another platform that has a lot of traction, but might not be useful for everyone.  As Kissmetrics describes it, “YouTube has the distinguished position of being the second largest search engine in the world.”  Not every brand will have a use for making YouTube videos, but those who do, ought to make use of the platform.

The Kissmetrics post mentions Reddit, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon as platforms to consider, and they also suggest that you find at least one niche site in your industry to find a targeted audience. For example, book publishers would be remiss to not have their authors present on Goodreads. Nonprofits should appear on Care2.