social media marketing

By Rieva Lesonsky

The world of social media is changing all the time, so no matter how well you think you’re doing in that area, don’t start getting complacent. New forecasts from eMarketer project which social networks will be the most popular business marketing tools in 2017. Here’s what’s hot (and not-so-hot):

  • Instagram will overtake Twitter as a marketing channel. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of businesses will use Instagram for marketing, up from 53 percent currently.
  • Twitter will hold steady, with 66.2 percent of marketers using it in 2017 compared to 66.1 percent this year.
  • Facebook has already reached saturation, with 85.3 percent of marketers currently using it and 85.8 percent projected to use it next year.
  • YouTube, too, has pretty much plateaued: 48.2 percent of businesses will market with YouTube next year, up from 45.6 percent this year.

How does your small business compare?

With any social network, the most important thing to remember is to go where your customers are. Just because Instagram is growing rapidly doesn’t mean it’s the right platform for your business. For instance, if you sell enterprise software to major corporations, chances are your buyers aren’t checking out your latest ’grams. On the other hand, if you’re in the fashion, cosmetics or food business, Instagram is where it’s at.

To pinpoint the most appropriate social media platforms, begin by searching out statistics on the demographic makeup of each social network’s user base. Further refine your data by conducting surveys of your customers. Which social networks do they spend most of their time on? Do any of the networks actually influence their shopping behavior?

Monitor your social media analytics to see if they track with what your customers are saying. What kind of interactions are your posts, tweets and photos getting? Beyond user engagement, are they driving customers to your website or to your location? While a big part of social media is building your brand, you also want your efforts to drive some actual sales.

If you find that your customers are active on multiple social media channels, don’t despair. Social media management apps can make it easy to juggle all your business’ social accounts in one place, saving you time and effort. You can also simplify your social marketing by repurposing content in multiple places. For instance, share a photo from your Instagram account on Facebook with slightly different text. Embed a video from your YouTube channel on your Facebook page. Pull out an interesting fact from one of your blog posts and tweet it. Use the same hashtags for all of it so everything helps to build your presence.

Each social media channel has its own advertising options, too. In general, social advertising allows you to target prospects very narrowly, by demographics, interests, location and more. Because social media advertising is very affordable, it’s well worth doing some test runs to see what type of results you get.

Finally, keep up-to-date on what’s new in the world of social media. New social platforms and tools are popping up all the time, and you never know which ones will take off as marketing channels. For example, social messaging platform Snapchat grew its user base by more than 27 percent this year, and is projected to have more users than Twitter by the end of the year (58.6 million vs. 56.8 million), according to a separate eMarketer report. The majority of users are between age 18 and 24, but those under 12 are also a growing segment–so if your small business targets the tween, teenri and college crowd, you may want to take a look at Snapchat.